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Follow the 2012 Olympic games on your iOS or Android phone

The 2012 Olympics are finally getting underway in London and -- if you have the right set of apps -- you won't miss a thing.


There are few events quite as exciting as the Olympics. With athletes from all over the world competing for their respective countries, it's easy to get excited as you root for your country to win. Obviously, I'll be rooting for my American compatriots, but seeing the drama of each event, no matter who the winner is, can be appreciated by anyone.

This year, the apps for tracking Olympic events are better than ever before, but still not quite perfect. Since NBC is covering the Olympics, it's the only app in this collection that will have live streams of events. Early reports around the Web on the first day of events (Thursday) were that the live streams are not up to snuff. Let's hope they work it out as the Olympics continue.

This week's apps are all about experiencing the 2012 Olympics on iPhone and Android phones. The first is iPhone-only and lets you see the Olympics as they happen in high-resolution images. The second is NBC's contribution, which is (currently) not perfect for live streams, but has great highlight videos. The third is the official app of the London 2012 Olympics, where you can track every medal, every athlete, and more.

Reuters olympics London 2012
The Reuters app has a big colorful picture stream with more info when you touch a photo. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Reuters Olympics London 2012 (iPhone only; free) lets you experience the Olympics with big high-res professional photos. The app has a unique touch-screen interface, showing a timeline of all the events with beautiful photos. At the very top you get the latest photos from events, and as you scroll down, you can see photos all the way to preliminary events and qualifiers.

Touching a photo brings up more information and a separate interface. Using buttons across the bottom you can look at photo captions; browse headlines pertaining to the event or athlete you're looking at; share comments with others who own the app; and get more information about the photographer who took the photo.

Back on the main screen, you can also touch a button in the upper left to view the Olympic schedule and results so far, a medal table, and current Olympic records. You also can set up notifications for results of specific events and choose your country so it will notify you when your country's athletes are successful. You also have the ability to view only photos from specific events, by touching a Photo Filter button in the upper right of the main screen, then touching the icon that corresponds to your favorite events.

Reuters Olympics London 2012 doesn't have any video streams or clips, but it offers the best photographic experience in this collection. As a free app, I highly recommend iPhone users grab it to track the 2012 Olympic games.

NBC Olympics Live Extra
Go to the sports tab to choose your favorite events so you can get to them quickly. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

NBC Olympics Live Extra (iPhone | Android; free) is the official app for streaming video from the network covering the games here in North America. Early reports are that the video quality is lacking for live streaming, especially on 3G connections and Android phones in general, but the app is still useful for a number of other reasons. I'm hoping NBC will figure out the video problems so we can all check out events wherever we are.

The interface includes buttons across the top for the home screen with the latest videos, video clips broken up by individual sports, a schedule of events, and a Favorites section where you can tap a heart-shaped icon next to events to keep track of what interests you most. It's important to note here that I found that the best way to mark your favorites is to tap the Sports tab, then scroll down through each event, touching the heart icons for the ones you want to follow. These will all show up under the Favorites tab for easy access.

At this time, the best use for NBC Olympics Live Extra is to view highlights of events that already occurred. The video quality is fairly good and it's a great way to catch up on what you have missed. Hopefully NBC will improve the live-streaming component as the games go on, but the app still has enough to offer to make it worthy of your download.

London 2012 Official Results App
Browse through colorful menus to find out when your favorite Olympic events are happening. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

The London 2012 Official Results App (iPhone | Android; free) is exactly as the name implies, and it's great for keeping up with what's going on and when your favorite Olympic events occur.

The interface is a little busy, but if you play around with it for a bit, it gets easier to navigate. You get two buttons on top for switching between what's happening Live and a Calendar where you can see which events occur on which days. The Live section shows a scrolling blog with photos and news items for each event happening at the moment. On the Calender you can swipe horizontally at the top to browse through days or you can find your favorite events by scrolling vertically on the bottom, then touch an event to see the when it will happen. You also have buttons across the bottom to browse by schedule, sporting event, medal counts, athlete bios, and a My Games section where you can track your favorite events. In this last section you'll be prompted to select your country, set your location to view the schedule in local time (GBR is the default), and set up push notifications for your country's events and daily event roundups.

Though the interface is fairly complex, the London Official Results App has all the info you need for just about anything surrounding the 2012 Olympic Games. You'll even get a few video clips for highlights (but nothing on the level of the previous app in the collection). If you're looking for an Olympic app with exhaustive information about the games, this is the app to have, if you can get past the confusing interface.