Apps taking over favorite pastimes like scoring baseball games

iScore Baseball app from ESPNGene Crocker of Oakland, Calif., has a baseball keepsake any fan would love -- the scorecard he used on May 9 to record Dallas Braden's perfect game for the Oakland A's. But Crocker, 50, wasn't keeping score with a paper scorecard and a pencil the way his dad taught him when he was 8 at a Washington Senators game. He used his iPhone and the app called ESPN iScore Baseball Scorekeeper.

The $9.99 app, and the $19.99 add-on of Major League Baseball rosters, can also be used on the $500 iPad. That's a lot of money to replace a pencil and paper.
Apple's iPad and its many apps are taking the place of free or inexpensive pleasures that don't require a few hours of being charged in an electrical outlet. From reading paper books to keeping score at a baseball game, playing games in the car and unfolding road maps, the iPad and its electronic brethren are replacing simple and cheap with purchases that are often made with credit cards. Depending on your point of view, some are much better with the iPad and some are worse.

Here's a rundown of some of them:

Baseball scorecard

Anyone using the iScore app will have to print out their score sheet at home if they want a hard copy. That may not evoke as many memories as mustard stains on your program while watching the game with dad, but the games can be stored on the iPad for safekeeping. It's a more permanent record that's easier to read, said Crocker, who admits to some nostalgia for the old way of keeping score.

"There is kind of a magic for the old score keeping that you had as a teenager," he said.

Crocker, who has used the app at five baseball games, said he likes that each time he uses it, it keeps track of where a player's hits from previous games landed on the field. Once you learn the ins and outs of the app, it's easier to use it to keep score than a paper and pencil, various fans told me.

"It's very intuitive. It's very easy go go through," said Tom Bennett, an A's fan from Menlo Park, Calif., who likes getting lineups inserted wirelessly into his iPad app before the game. He has to input the lineups manually at A's games, however, because the stadium doesn't have WiFi like AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants. Bennett doesn't have the more expensive 3G iPad, which allows users to download from a network without using WiFi.

Bennett, 48, said the app keeps him more interested in the game because it has many more stats than he could keep with a paper scorecard. He can keep a pitch count and location of pitches, and instead of writing "6-4-3" for a double play, he just taps the fielders for the outs.

With paper it can be difficult to erase, whereas hitting "undo" on the iPad can easily solve a mistake. Shaded cover is needed if you're sitting in direct sunlight with the iPad, said John Zehr, senior vice president and general manager if ESPN Mobile. The app is faster and easier to use, while providing more data than a paper scorecard, Zehr said.

"Baseball is a very arcane game with lots and lots of rules," he said.

The best thing to say about the app is that if you've never scored a baseball game, the app makes it easy to pick up, Bennett said.

"What's kind of cool as a kid is to have someone explain the mysteries to you," he said. "Well, this thing doesn't have any mysteries in it."

Cuddling with a good book

Kids are reading books, or having books read to them, there are more more apps for kids than than any other app being used on iPads, as I reported recently. Thirteen of the 16 top book applications for the iPad are children's titles. I don't have an iPad, so I can't say for sure, but I'll bet that cuddling with a child while reading a paper book is better than an iPad, although some parents disagreed in the WalletPop story I did on the issue.

John Wilder wrote in an e-mail to WalletPop that he is still a fan of the printed word. "I still prefer the feel of holding a book to reading on a reader," Wilder wrote. "There are magazines that you can read online. I find the mechanical page turning to be a pain. While I appreciate the technological advance, I will continue reading hard copy. Not to mention that I can actually lend a book to a friend, you can't do this with readers."

I still say a deck of cards or game of spotting car colors or signs is plenty of cheap fun on a road trip with kids, but I can see how a few apps for kids can keep them entertained. For example, if you had a Lite Brite as a kid, then the iBrite iPad app is a dream come true if you don't mind missing stepping on the pegs or losing them.

"Serious gaming on the iPad definitely makes me long for a traditional video game controller," wrote Zak Dabbas, managing partner of Punchkick Interactive, in an e-mail. "As games get richer and more complex on the iPad/iPhone, I feel like the control mechanisms for controlling the games via a touch screen are showing their shortcomings. I miss the tactile feedback that a button press provides."

Viewing photos on an iPad or other electronic device is a lot easier than a bulky photo album, although you don't have to wait for a photo album to light up. Just open it.

Folding an outdated map back into its original shape is nearly impossible, and finding locations on a map app on the iPad is "quick and painless," as Dabbas wrote in an e-mail.

At my house, we still write upcoming events on a paper calendar on the refrigerator, and have a notebook near the phone and sticky notepads in the office. But again, I can see how an iPad would be preferable to writing everything on paper.

Writes Dabbas: "I used to have a massive calendar that had hand-written notes, Post-Its and push pins all over it. Making a change to an item on your physical calendar is a hassle, and before long, your calendar is readable only by you (barely). With the iPad, all of your events are in one organized location, and moving events in the calendar app couldn't be easier. I think the iPad calendar will replace countless paper calendars."

As for notes, he writes that the Notes app on the iPad is his favorite application. "I'm one of those people who jots things down on millions of pieces of scrap paper, only to be overwhelmed by all of the notes I've amassed. With the iPad's notes application, I can jot down concepts or ideas for a project, create a grocery list, and more. Additionally, these lists are easily edited or emailed to others for review. I love it."

With most of these, the iPad wins. But the cost of the iPad and its apps, along with the cost of electricity, make it an expense worth considering if you're trying to save money and prefer cheaper methods. But if money isn't an issue, then nostalgia for a paper book or scorecard at a baseball game shouldn't keep you from going with the iPad.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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