march madness appIf you thought March Madness was crazy before, it's become even more insane with the advent of smartphones. With mobile applications' abilities to get you access to the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball tournament on the go, everyone from ESPN and the NCAA to tiny smartphone app developers are offering apps for tournament news and bracket games in advance of the 2011 tourney.

Before the games begin, you've got to know which March Madness apps are best for you. WalletPop's Compare and Contrast looked at eight different tournament apps for Apple products and smartphones, to see which app is championship worthy.App: 2011 Bracket Challenge
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android
Features: Create a bracket; compare with friends; receive points for brackets; updated scoring for brackets; feature shows who's winning the bracket competition.
Average Rating: Two and a half stars out of five for Apple apps. (averaged from 48 reviews). No reviews for Android.
Price: 99 cents or free for Apple apps (free version ad supported); free for Android.

App: College Basketball Live!
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android
Features: Provides scores, schedules, standings, news and blogs; ability to chat with other fans; live play-by-play updates.
Average Rating: Three out of five stars for the Apple apps (averaged from 18,033 reviews). Four out of five stars for Android app (averaged from 514 reviews).
Price: Free

App: College Basketball Scoreboard
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android
Features: Provides scores, schedules and news; share scores and news via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.
Average Rating: Three stars out of five for Apple apps (averaged from 43 reviews). Three and a half stars out of five for the Android app (averaged from 73 reviews).
Price: Free

App: ESPN Bracket Bound 2011
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android
Features: Access to ESPN Tournament Challenge game; provides news, rankings, relevant tweets and video highlights; access to analysis from ESPN college basketball reporters and interviews with players and coaches; scoring updates as they happen; allows tracking of bracket performance within groups.
Average Rating: Four stars out of five for Apple apps (averaged from 33,485 reviews). Four and a half stars out of five for the Android app (averaged from 103 reviews).
Price: Free

App: Men's Bracket 2011
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android
Features: Create brackets; create or join private pools that welcome users across smartphone platforms (Android users can enter iPhone app pools, for instance).
Average Rating: Five stars out of five for Apple apps (averaged from 9 reviews. Four out of five stars for Android app (averaged from six reviews). Price: Free

App: NCAA Fan Zone – March Madness/NCAA March Madness Fan Zone
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android
Features: Post messages on teams and games; send posts to Twitter or Facebook; join discussion groups; set up discussion groups; upload photos.
Average Rating: Two and a half stars out of five for Apple apps (averaged from 179 reviews). Four stars out of five for the Android app (averaged from 112 reviews).
Price: Free

App: NCAA March Madness on Demand
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Features: Free live streaming of every NCAA 2011 Division 1 Men's basketball tournament game; alerts for teams; programming schedule by Zip Code; ability to manage bracket game; ability to comment on live games through Facebook and Twitter; iPad-exclusive feature showcases game highlights, scores and team leaders in single screen.
Average Rating: Four stars out of five (averaged from 254 reviews).
Price: Free

App: Sporting News NCAA Basketball
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android
Features: Option to get notifications for breaking news on favorite teams; share information via Facebook and Twitter; game info.
Average Rating: Four stars out of five for Apple apps (averaged from 21 reviews). Four and a half stars out of five for the Android app (averaged from 24 reviews).
Price: Free

What we think: Since all these apps are essentially free, you don't have much to lose if you download multiple apps, except your time. But based on features and reviews, we'd go with ESPN's app first, which combines bracket games, news and analysis. And because the Apple-compatible versions have been around for a bit, the odds are greater that kinks have been worked out for the latest versions and the Android version (the reviews are certainly encouraging).

But we'd say the one app we're most excited about is the NCAA's March Madness on Demand app for Apple, which includes live video and is free. Time will tell if the video streaming for this new app will work, but based on potential alone, it's a must download for diehard fans.

The apps we'd definitely pass on, based on reviews, are NCAA Fan Zone, College Basketball Live and College Basketball Scorecard for Apple, and Men's Bracket 2011. (The fact that the brand new app already has a perfect score on iTunes, and it's the first version and the tournament hasn't begun yet, is fishy).

Piet Levy's Compare and Contrast breaks down the prices and perks for products and services that college kids want, and posts them on WalletPop's Money College page. Send suggestions, including items or services that you want written about, to moneycollege@walletpop.com.




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