With the conclusion of the Opening Ceremonies, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have officially begun - did you see the amazing save by Indian luger Shiva Keshavan? As with the last Olympics, there are apps springing up left and right that offer smartphone users the ability to keep up with the events in Russia - regardless of whether you're near a television. Depending on what country you live in, some providers - like NBC in the U.S., CBC in Canada, and the BBC in the U.K. - will provide full live event streaming (none of that time delay nonsense).
Since we attract a mostly American audience, the NBC app takes our top pick for watching the Olympics on the go. It's free, but if you want to watch more than thirty minutes of content, you'll need to be a paying cable customer and pass over your cable account details.
As we mentioned in the intro, it's definitely not the only option available. If you're in Canada or the U.K., both countries have apps available to residents that let you stream just about any event you want, live, all without having to pay a dime to some cable television conglomerate.
If you're in the U.S., but don't subscribe, you might try picking up a VPN service for the next month. For just $5, a service like TunnelBear would let you get around the geographic content locks that licensing agreements enforce. Another bonus? Better platform support. While NBC's app is only officially available for the iPhone and Android devices, the CBC adds Windows Phone support (no BlackBerry, though, much to the chagrin of Canadian nationalists), and the BBC adds support for BlackBerry 10 smartphones.
Not for the first time, there's an official app to the Olympic Games, courtesy of the Sochi 2014 organizers. The best news? It's available for the main four smartphone platforms - iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry - so you don't have any excuse for not following along.
Unlike the network apps from the first entry, the Sochi 2014 Guide can be accessed from any country, as long as you've got an internet connection - which is definitely in the international spirit fostered by the Olympic Games.
This app is a major help for those users lucky enough to get to see the Sochi 2014 Games in person - you can check the event schedules in local time as well as purchase the tickets you might need (assuming there any left, of course).
But even if you're not in Russia, you can use the Sochi 2014 Guide to see pictures of the environment, retrace the steps taken by the Olympic Torch relay, and follow news about the Olympics.
Another in the Sochi 2014 official apps series, the Sochi 2014 Results app, perhaps obviously, keeps you up to date on the results for individual Olympic events.
One great aspect of the official apps is that not only are the 23rd Olympic Winter Games reported, but so are the results of the 11th Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, happening just a few weeks after the Olympics.
The results app lets you drill down based on your interest - you can concentrate on individual events, individual countries, or individual atheletes, and track the medal rankings of each. You can also customize the app based on exactly which topics are of most interest, so that you don't have to browse through the results of, say, the curling events, if you're only interested in skiing and luge.
The next couple of apps were produced for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the governing body for the Winter and Summer Games. The Olympic Athletes' Hub connects users to the extraordinary men and women who are competing in the Sochi 2014 Games. Each Olympian has a profile within the app, and each profile lists verified accounts for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
IOC's Hub app aggregates all the updates for an Olympian on their profile, or you can follow or subscribe to the individual social media sites and get a pretty great behind-the-scenes look at the Games,
The Hub lets you search by specific athlete, country team, sport, or game - you can compare all the individual competitors for a sport, for a country, or just keep up-to-date on the representatives of your home country. Like some of the Sochi apps above, the Hub application lets you create custom feeds and mixes; that's a helpful facet considering you might otherwise be overwhelmed by the thousands of Olympians competing in Russia.
You can also compete yourself on the Hub's Leaderboard by participating in the app's various features. As you move up to the ranks you can unlock 'exclusive tips' from various Olympians, get badges you can put on your own profile, as well as other 'special prizes.'
A special section keeps track of the trending Olympic topics, so if a major event or upset takes place, you can quickly find more info.
For some people, winning isn't everything...it's the only thing that matters, and every Olympic Games, the media makes a big deal about which country is "in the lead" in the medal count.
This time around, the IOC created its own app to help users figure out how well each country does in individual events.
Available for the two major smartphone platforms, you'll be able to get alerts for which your favorite team, country, or athlete finds themselves on the winners' pedestal.
Will Russia find themselves with a home team advantage? The Sochi 2014 Medal Alert app will let you figure it out.
There are some other options that didn't quite make the cut - mostly because they're only available for a single platform or don't offer the same degree of usability.
1. Google Now - Google's answer to Siri has made strides over the last few months, and we wouldn't be surprised to see Google pump it chock full of relevant Olympic statistics. Search for your country's medal counts through the Google Now service, and Google's recently added Sochi Knowledge Graph data will keep you up to speed on the games you want to know about.
2. Sochi 2014 WOW (Wireless Olympic Works) - Sponsored by Samsung, this Android-only app gives you access to many of the same details that the other apps do. You'll find schedules and scores, but this app's real draw is the background information it provides. Can't figure out the rules of an individual game? You might find the answer here.
3. 2014 Team USA Road to Sochi - Available for both iPhone and Android, this app from the U.S. Olympic Committee lets fans of the American Olympic teams keep track of what their favorite athletes are doing. It offers exclusive editorial content, Team USA photos and videos, and the ability to show your support by purchasing Team USA Olympic Gear.
Got a favorite Olympics app you're using to keep track of the Sochi 2014 Games? Let us know in the comments!
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