This coming weekend is the Formula 1 Turkish Grand Prix. A couple of weeks ago I had the great pleasure of making it to the Chinese Grand Prix in person at the Shanghai International Circuit. And the week prior to that I was comfortably ensconced in one of Shanghai’s premier expat pubs watching the dubious, and avert laden Star Sports coverage of the Malaysian Grand Prix. On both of those occasions I have been able to test out Soft Pauers’ F1 Timing app for the 2011 season. And this weekend I look forward to using their definitive F1 timing app again while watching the BBC’s awesome live coverage of the Turkish GP at home!
For those of you that are not familiar with Formula 1, or with the basic features of the F1 2010 / 2011 Timing App, I would direct you to my review of the 2010 edition here on Touch Reviews. I cover an awful lot of background F1 info in last years review. And rather than regurgitate that here I’d like to give you the option to read that stuff if you wish, as it is still relevant. But not make you wade through it if you just want to get to the meat of this years review.
Not a whole lot has changed in the F1 Timing App’s basic functionality since last year. And for good reason: If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it! The flagship feature of Soft Pauers’ official F1 app, over that of less premium offerings, is that you have excellent 3D maps of each of the circuits that the F1 Circus visits during the year. Obviously these tracks have been updated for any track changes, or track additions for this year. And on those maps you can watch the progress in real time of the awesome machines and drivers that make up the F1 grid each and every race and practice session. As well as that you also have, as one would expect, a bunch of stats, live timing sheets, news and team information panels which are indispensable to the true F1 Fanatic.
You can pinch zoom into the maps, rotate and track the progress of cars around the track in any and all of the various practice, qualifying and race sessions of each and every Formula 1 weekend. It is great fun to be able to tap an individual car and then follow its rapid progress around the track. Or pull your view out to get an overview of all the action from a helicopter eye view. And depending on your particular way of using maps, or location at the track, you can orientate the map view so that it lines up right your vantage point, the camera views you are getting on TV, or to watch areas of the track that interest you most.
During all the various sessions that make up an F1 weekend Soft Pauer also provide live text updates on all the action on and off the track, which augments the raw data, and visual overview of the race you have at your fingertips.
In-between races you can remind yourself of race and practice sessions by downloading “race packs” with all the live data in them to replay, pause or fast forward – from any event that has happened so far this year. Which is a great way to settle arguments about what actually happened in a race! You can also catch up on F1 news and the current standings in a range of tabs always available at the bottom of the app’s main view.
The $33 you pay for a new version of the F1 Timing App each year is effectively a license for that year to have access to any and all F1 data there is to have. And it is considerably cheaper than a budget ticket to a single race! Soft Pauer even sell the previous years version at a serious discount if you want to look over last years events on track – to perhaps enhance your enjoyment of a retrospective DVD of the years racing. Also worth noting is that each year if you sign up early on in the season for the app you get an “early bird” discount. It’s a little late to take advantage of that this year, as the season is already underway. But if they follow the same policy as last year you may well be able to pick up a copy slightly cheaper later in the season for this year too. Worth bearing in mind if you are not sure about the app, but might like to try it out as the season comes to a climax. I guarantee that you’ll be signing up early for the next version once you’ve experienced it!
If you want raw timing data (instead of the awesome real time track view), which is often more useful in practice and qualifying sessions, then you have the option to have the map view slide away to reveal a large and detailed timing table – with pit stop info, sector times, and lap times. As is expected in all F1 timing data apps you can see when individual drivers are on personal bests, or an overall best lap time with different colourings to the live timing data. You also get to see when they are on the track, or doing pit stops. New this year are improvements in your ability to pause and replay telemetry during live events – something they did not have last year, and I and others requested. It’s great to see an app maker react to reviewer and customer requests this way.
Another great new feature in the app is the ability to set corner views around the track so that you can track a particular location on the track and watch as cars come past that point. I used this at Shanghai so I knew what was going on at crucial corners at the side of the track furthest from my own vantage point. Something which really brings the app into its own as a way to augment the often confusing nature of watching F1 at the circuit. The option to see corner numbers, and also change the units used for measuring car speeds, as well as show, fade or remove stopped cars are also very handy.
Using the F1 Timing App at a race venue does rely on either a good 3G connection, a very good GPRS connection (and then you’ll only get timing data reliably), or some kind of WiFi service. I tried all three at Shanghai, and for practice and qualifying days the GPRS and 3G data was OK – but on race day the local mobile phone company buckled under the pressure of all the Tweeters and Live Timing app users, so WiFi was the only option.
In bars, and at home, the WiFi option is of course more usual, and can handle your requirements just fine. At those times the F1 Timing App is a superb way to augment your live, or recorded, TV viewing.
Soft Pauer have put a not inconsequential amount of work into updating their 2011 edition of the F1 Timing App. Building on top of the solid features in the version from last year. Whilst the information presented is the same, and the layout will seem very familiar to those who bought the app last year, it feels a little more polished and rounded in this version.
On the downside Soft Pauer have had to go with integration with Game Centre, which is not really a good fit for a sports timing app in my opinion. But may have been a necessary evil in order for them to continue to take advantage of Apple’s ever more complex app requirements, and iOS networking features. It is not really a big niggle, but having to either dismiss a log in prompt for Game Centre, or make an account / log in was an irritation when I was at live events with restricted bandwidth.
The controls for fast forwarding and rewinding, or pausing race data seems a lot easier and more intuitive this year, and is a lot easier to find in the sometimes cramped user interface of an app that is really trying to cram a lot into an iPhone screen. On an iPad or iPad 2 there seems to be a lot more space, and the entire app layout feels superb to use. This version of the app has of course also been updated for the iPad 2.
Soft Pauer often update their app during the season, and were very quick last year to fix problems. And this year I have no doubt that they will do the same. There are a few bugs with the app. Occasionally when you switch from tab to tab, the track view, or the live timing view will break, requiring you to quit and restart the app. But that doesn’t take much time, and I’ve not had it break while using it to watch stuff going on. Rather when I’ve been flipping back and forth between tabs; something you tend to do when looking at app data offline outside of live events. So it’s not a huge issue but, does need to be fixed.
If you love Formula 1 this app is a must buy for your iOS device. And if you are looking to get into the sport it is an excellent way to learn more about the sport, and access more information which in turn makes it easier to understand what is the most complex, technologically advanced and exciting motor sports on the planet.
- Ability to follow individual cars around the track.
- Corner cameras, for specific track location coverage.
- Landscape and Portrait modes.
- Intuitive user interface that allows to switch between stats and map view very quickly.
- Ability to playback races from downloaded data packs on your device.
- Ability to pause, rewind and move forward the data feed to sync up with live tv feed.
- Live text feed during races, and all practice and qualifying sessions.
- Awesome on a new iPad 2!
The Not So Good
- Live app feed and tv feed can get out of sync on bad mobile connections.
- Would love more detail on the track showing the areas that are covered by active yellow flags.
- Game Centre integration is irritating.
- The occasional rendering bug that requires restarting the app.
Updated: Apr 29, 2011
Current Version: 3.4
Size: 16.3 MB
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
Seller: Soft Pauer Limited
© Soft Pauer Limited 2011
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1 or later