Mobile ESPN phone
Mobile ESPN
The Mobile ESPN phone is a stunning Sanyo phone in black with red highlights.
By Columnist
msnbc.com
updated 2/2/2006 2:44:56 PM ET 2006-02-02T19:44:56

If you’re a rabid sports nut, you gotta get yourself one of these.

Actually, you don’t have to be a fanatic. If you just find yourself running to watch a game on TV or listen to sports radio frequently, or if you have a favorite team or teams and like to keep up with pertinent news and scores —then the brand new Mobile ESPN phone is a must have.

It's not cheap, unfortunately, but we'll get to that later.

Mobile ESPN consists of a special cell phone tied to a nearly all-encompassing, wireless sports service which provides up-to-the-minute scores, news, opinion columns, audio and video. It’s a good slice of what you might watch on ESPN’s cable channel.

The Mobile ESPN phone is a beautiful, black Sanyo MVP handset that is set to access ESPN’s service. It operates on Sprint’s cellular network, but it’s not a Sprint phone. ESPN buys services from Sprint and resells them as the basis of this new service. So, when you buy the phone Mobile ESPN becomes your cellular provider as well.

The phone itself is very cool, with features like a super speedy EV-DO data network connection, a 1.3 megapixel camera with camcorder capabilities, an MP3/AAC music player (a 16 MB mini-SD storage card is provided) along with a great-looking screen and 3-D graphics. It measures 3.66 by 1.91 by 1.05 inches and weighs just less than 5 ounces. The battery is said to be good for up to 3.2 hours of talk and 9.5 days of standby time. Your mileage will definitely vary from those numbers.

Just above the dial pad, in the middle of the navigation arrows is what they’re calling the “E” button. Press it and a few seconds later you’re connected to the Mobile ESPN service.

exterior screen of phone with game scores
Mobile ESPN
You don't even have to open the phone to see the latest scores — you can set the exterior screen to show updates.
What's great about the service is it lets you customize what you see. I consider myself a rabid NFL fan so I used the phone to keep track of the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers — it’s going to be a long off-season! But you can track far more than just the big three of football, baseball and basketball. Wild about soccer? You can make that front and center. Crazy about women's NCAA basketball? Ditto. In addition to personalizing your Mobile ESPN phone with up to five favorite teams, you can also track up to fifteen favorite players.

There's much more, of course. Video clips include game highlight packages and even your favorite ESPN shows. If you’re into fantasy leagues, Mobile ESPN lets you get updates on your team when you’re on the road and allows you to set up text and video alerts for the teams and games you care about.

ESPN is also promising more to come, including breaking news alerts, an Answer Guy service for all your burning sports questions and ESPN Search in case you need a quick check of stats or scores.

In my tests, Mobile ESPN does everything it promises. I liked the service a lot. If you’re a big sports fan, there’s little not to like. My only gripe is that I would have preferred to watch streaming video rather than downloading it before viewing, but that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Mobile ESPN is not cheap, particularly if you plan to use this phone to, you know, actually talk to people. The phone itself sells for $199.99. Monthly service plans start at $34.99 for 100 minutes of talk time. Talk a lot? You can get up to 4,000 minutes a month for a whopping $224.99. Again, that's per month. All plans include unlimited data services, which means all the Mobile ESPN service you can use.

If all this sounds good to you, you won’t be disappointed. Well, except for one thing. The phone may be great, but it's not magical and all the usual licensing restrictions inflicted by the pro sports leagues still apply. That means that even though the Mobile ESPN service launches on Super Bowl Sunday, you won't actually be able to use it to watch the Super Bowl. There’ll be lots of news and commentary about the game available on your phone, but not the Super Bowl itself. Like my Giants, all I can say is, maybe next year!

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