So did everybody else, right? 111.3 million people tuned in to Super Bowl XLVI, breaking the Super Bowl’s own record for the most-watched television program of all time. In fact, the ratings for the last four Super Bowls account for 4 of the top 5 all-time television shows.
Watching the Super Bowl is a cultural phenomenon. Whether you’re an NFL diehard or wouldn’t know pigskin from bacon, on Super Bowl Sunday you go over to your friend with the biggest-screened TV’s house and watch—or go out and find a place with a REALLY big screen.
But Verizon Wireless gave me the chance to watch it on a big screen of a different order: the 4.65” Super AMOLED display of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. For the first time ever, Super Bowl XLVI was streamed to Verizon Wireless mobile devices, through Verizon’s NFL Mobile app.
The device itself is a beautiful piece of hardware, with an enormous display and barely-there bezel. It’s almost too big—but the thin, molded chassis and thumb-pleasingly curved glass did a lot to make the little “big screen” palm-friendly. The Android 4.0 OS and active desktop looked fantastic, and performed just as well. As a longtime iOS devotee, navigation wasn’t perfectly intuitive, but I got my bearings before long.
4G coverage in the Lansing area is solid; the app still delivered quality content and solid video performance even when falling back to 3G and/or WiFi. I was able to get usable bandwidth from inside Jack Breslin Student Events Center while Michigan State defeated Michigan—an impossible ask of my personal device and carrier.
Bringing the Big Game to the small screen worked well. The Nexus’s display natively runs at 720p resolution—and while the stream didn’t broadcast in that definition, the picture quality over Verizon’s 4G LTE network was more than good enough to get wrapped up in the action. I noticed no performance dropoff between my home WiFi and the VZW network. The audio commentary, I believe, was handled by the Dial Global/Westwood One crew.
As a veteran of watching live sports online, I expected a “We’ll be right back” splash screen to pop up during the commercials—but no! The Verizon Wireless feed streamed all of the glitzy Super Bowl ads to the palm of my hand.
But the real value of the NFL Mobile app wasn’t during the game, though. It was in the week leading up to it: live streaming of the NFL Network, on-demand viewing of NFLN analysis and breakdowns, and a menu of stats and highlights were at my fingertips all week. Being able to watch NFL Playbook in waiting rooms, etc. was wonderful.
Watching the Super Bowl itself may not be anything new. But Verizon Wireless and the NFL have put real live NFL action in your pocket for the first time—and even if you’re near a TV display much bigger than the Galaxy Nexus, you’ll still want NFL Mobile on your hip to supplement the action with the interactive status analysis you can’t get from the talking heads.
[Full disclosure: Verizon Wireless sent me an activated Galaxy Nexus to play with for a couple weeks. I played with it for a couple of weeks. I sent it back. I was not otherwise compensated.]