A fortnight ago, following the Bahrain Grand Prix, I reviewed the free F1 timing app by Formula1.com. This week I am going to bring you my review on the official Soft Pauer 2010 Timing App, as I now have it on my iPhone, and it was my companion for last weekendâ€™s Australian Grand Prix. It has had some very good reviews in the App Store, and has a current average rating of 4 stars. So whatâ€™s my verdict? And how does it compare to my previous review?
Like I said in my review of the Formula1.com app, it cannot be compared to the Soft Pauer app unless you have used both, and now that I have, I can do just that. My simple verdict is that the Soft Pauer app offers a new dimension to Formula One, and it definitely enhances the experience for the fans.
The appâ€™s data screen allows the fans to see what the F1 engineers see, from the driverâ€™s position and car number, to his lap time, gap to the leader, individual sector times and pitstops. During qualifying the timesheets are automatically updated as a new driver goes fastest, and it is easy to keep tabs on who is where on the track, or who is in the pitlane. Lap and sector times are colour-coded to indicate whether the driver has put in his personal best (green), gone fastest (purple), has not improved his previous best time (white), or has no current information (yellow). Unlike the Formula1.com app, which highlights the sector time with a coloured dot indicating how the driver is doing, the Soft Pauer app highlights the exact sector time.
But where this app excels is in the Track Positioning feature. The 3D map provides live track positioning for each and every driver and the zoom feature also allows you to follow your favourite driver around the track. If you navigate around your selected driver you can see what is going on in front of and behind him. This zoom feature is the perfect way to follow the battle between two drivers, and as there was plenty of that on Sunday, there was plenty of action to see within the app.
Justin Dutton, graphic designer for Soft Pauer, said that they have been encouraged knowing how the fans have taken to the app. He said: â€œTrack positioning was the key element we thought the fans would really take to, being able to view the whole circuit and focus on any driver, watching the race unfold around them. We have had great feedback from fans and professionals alike who use the app. Knowing fans have taken to it, and professionals use the app for information to relay to the fans has been very encouraging.â€
5Live commentator, Anthony Davidson, is one professional who uses the app to relay information while commentating throughout the weekend, and even the drivers have used it to review their race and what was going on around them to help get feedback on their performance.
So, what are the other features of the app? Well Iâ€™ve just said that the drivers can watch the race back, as this app comes with a very handy replay feature, and it is particularly useful for fans if you are watching a repeat of the race because it was too early to get up and watch live. Also, Todd said in his update of the Formula1.com app that transmission of the race in America is delayed, and I am pleased to report back that this is something Soft Pauer is currently working to update so that ten minutes into the race you can rewind back to the beginning. This is something users have been asking for and means they will simply be able to go into the setup menu and select the time they wish the race to start: for example, for those watching via Speed TV where the race is delayed by ten minutes, when coverage starts, they will be able to set the app back to the start time, and follow the live timing as if the race has only just begun, just a matter of minutes behind. Thanks to the BBCâ€™s coverage of F1, and the fact I always watch the race live, I canâ€™t say Iâ€™m worried about this feature, however I have to say being able to delay the live timing in this way would be an asset to this app. Sky+ viewers would find this useful if they were planning to delay watching the race by say, half an hour. You donâ€™t have to wait for the race to finish and the session to be made available to download, it would already be stored and ready to go when you want it.
For those of you concerned about the price, here is something that may sway you to make the purchase. The app took around six months to design, and even after it was launched, itâ€™s been constantly evolving with the designers thinking up new ideas for functionality, and introducing upgrades. And the work doesnâ€™t end there. Over the course of an F1 weekend, there is lots of work going on behind the scenes, with a trackside team calibrating approximately 30+ timing loops on the Thursday of the race weekend, and running tests on the whole system. There are three commentators for the app, each bringing the action closer to English, French and German users. During each session, the @f1timingapp Twitter feed is monitored so that quick answers can be given to any users who have any questions or issues, and following each session the data is packaged and made available for download, and the results and standings are updated.
Iâ€™ve only used the app for one race weekend, and I must say I definitely think it is worth the money. The track positioning feature is incredibly useful and well designed, and while the televised footage shows us whatâ€™s going on at a certain point on the track, the app highlights other battles that are going on around the circuit. Another plus is that while the app is running, the iPhone never goes into â€˜sleepâ€™ mode, and thatâ€™s without having to change auto-locking to â€˜neverâ€™ in the iPhoneâ€™s settings. Having used both apps, I have to say this is something that I really liked. You can get engrossed in five minutes of actual TV coverage, come back to the app and you donâ€™t even have to unlock your phone. It may sound like Iâ€™m looking too far into the way this app has been designed, but it is definitely a plus. On the downside, it drains the battery, with nearly 50% of it being used during the race itself as it downloads high volumes of data. But as long as you have unlimited data or a wifi connection, and have charged your phone, there is no need to worry.
Overall I wouldnâ€™t hesitate in giving it 5 stars. Just the track positioning and zoom feature alone are enough to win me over, and whatâ€™s even better, is that the data screen didnâ€™t crash like the other app did.
I would say to anyone unsure about buying this app, like I initially was that it is well worth the money. For all it offers, it effectively costs Â£1, or the US equivalent per race, and with the amount of effort that was initially put into designing and launching the app, to all the effort that goes in during the race weekends, itâ€™s a small fee to pay.
For Soft Pauer, the response they have received from this app is an encouragement that they have achieved what they set out to do. Justin Dutton said: â€œWe always hoped it would be a great success but you never can tell. Our aim was to enhance the F1 fansâ€™ experience. Using the capabilities of the iPhone and iPod Touch we could deliver a fuller picture to the fans no matter where they are.â€
The features of this app mean that wherever you are, whether itâ€™s in your home, in the pub or at the actual race itself, you can access all the data that the F1 engineers are accessing, and follow your favourite driver and watch him make a pass you may have otherwise missed, with ease.
Like I said last week, technology is taking F1 to new levels, and in my opinion, the Soft Pauer app is definitely leading the wayâ€¦