Streaming video continues to be largely MIA on the iPhone, but streaming audio? Ho, boy--it's an embarrassment of riches. Pandora, Slacker, Rhapsody. NPR News, Public Radio Player. The only thing missing? A killer sports app.
It's missing no more. ESPN Radio streams ESPN shows, podcasts, and even live college football games from stations around the country.
This is sports radio done right. When you first run the fast-loading app, you're immediately tuned into one of 15 stations. Along the bottom: that instantly familiar ESPN ticker, a dead ringer for what you see on the tube. It feeds you headlines and scores for one sport after another.
You can tap a headline to read the accompanying story in full-screen mode, all the while staying in the app and continuing to listen to your station.
Tap the little "plus" on the side of the screen to access the app's control panel, which serves up SportsCenter (the latest news, updated every 20 minutes); PodCenter (more than 35 streaming ESPN podcasts); Stations (a list of the available stations); and Text Station (send a free text message right to the station you're listening to).
Few streaming-audio apps can run in the background, but ESPN Radio offers a clever workaround: tap the Background button to continue listening to your station in Mobile Safari--which will keep playing even if you exit and go to other apps.
The only thing I didn't see anywhere is live play-by-play broadcasts for college football games--but maybe that's because today is Monday.
ESPN Radio doesn't provide on-demand scores, schedules, news, and the like--but, hey, that's what Sportacular is for. The app is absolutely terrific, particularly for those who don't have ESPN Radio stations in their towns, and well worth the $2.99 price of admission.