5 best ways to follow the 2018 FIFA World Cup from your smartphone

The 2018 World Cup is entering the last phase of the group games before it goes into the knockout stage. Time does indeed fly. It’s just the other day when our biggest worry was how best to watch matches on the go without having to worry about depleting whatever data plan we are on.

Soon, it will be all gone and all we will have will be the memories. Just like some of us have fond memories going as far back as 20 years ago.

Being the busy people that we can be, it is very easy to mix up dates and fixtures and end up either being late or entirely missing some of the games we badly want to watch. More so considering that some of the early fixtures are likely to find you still at work or school.

So, how best can you keep up with the action taking place in Russia?

I asked myself that question as the tournament got underway and, for over a week, I have been trying out various ways. These are the best, in my opinion. Sure, there are specialized sports apps that are doing the most this World Cup but the last thing you need is to overwhelm your little droid with another heavy app. What if you just got the FIFA app and just used apps you already have installed on your phone?

1. Google app

The Google app, which comes pre-installed on every certfied Android device on the planet, is probably the only app you will need as far as the World Cup is concerned. This is because it’s from, well, Google.

Google’s work is to crawl the entire world wide web unearthing information, properly indexing it and delivering it within microseconds when you ask it to do so. As such, who is better placed to tell you everything you may need to know about the World Cup than Google?

From the Google app, one can search for team news, match statistics, fixtures etc. Additionally, one can just scroll through the Google app’s news feed and they will still be greeted by information cards with the latest from Sochi, Moscow, Ekaterinburg and the rest of the Russian cities hosting World Cup matches. From here, one can follow specific matches or teams so that they get real-time alerts by way of notifications.

I like that one can even pin a particular match so that they can keep tabs on it as it progresses.

The minute by minute live updates, dubbed “Insights”, are even better as they offer both important anecdotal and contextual information that makes users even more informed but also keep the user up to date in case they are not watching the match on TV. Live blogs for who?

Talking about watching the match on TV… Clicking the “Watch live” tab inside a particular match’s info card results in a redirection to the Kwes√© iflix app from where one can watch the game either for free or by paying a small fee.

2. Google News app

Sure you can follow the World Cup from the main Google app and be up to date and all but the Google app is still the Google app. It’s not the World Cup app. As such, World Cup news and information tends to compete with the rest of the stuff that Google fetches for you like local news, weather, latest music from your favourite artists etc

Google News is not that different when it comes to its presentation approach from what I have described above about the main Google app. It still lives up to its name of being a news app. However, what differentiates it from getting World Cup content on the main Google app is that other than World Cup news and information being thrown around like it’s a marketplace, it is all collected and housed under one roof. One that you will easily spot as you scroll through the Google News feed. You can’t miss it. This is thanks to an update released earlier in the month.

Click on it (the World Cup section) and you will land on one of the most beautiful visual representations of the action taking place in Russia. All the groups and the progress of each team in those groups, video embeds from FIFA’s official channel on YouTube with summaries of past matches as well as a live score ticker.

Download Google News from the Play Store

3. Opera News

Here is a brief timeline of the Opera News app:

  • January 2018 – Opera News is launched
  • February 2018 – Opera News app hits the 1 million downloads mark
  • Early June 2018 (before the World Cup) – Opera News app reaches 5 million downloads mark
  • Late June 2018 (during the World Cup) – Opera News app crosses 10 million downloads mark
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As you can see from the above timeline, Opera News has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the World Cup craze. The same week the World Cup was starting, Opera News, the flagship news app from the makers of popular browsers Opera and Opera mini, was updated to include several World Cup-specific features.

It is these features that make Opera News worth considering for your by-the-minute World Cup news and updates fix. Sure, you can bypass it if you use the Google News app but guess what? The Google News app is not one I would recommend to people who, like yours truly, are using devices that want to make the most out of their meagre system resources. Like the Android Go Tecno Spark 2 I am using. So, which way to go? Opera News, of course.

The app is just 9MB.

Opera News has a dedicated World Cup section from where users can not only get the latest news stories on the World Cup but also monitor the action live as it happens through live blog-style snippets akin to the ones that users of the Google app are getting but minus the anecdotes and contextual information. One can also follow specific matches by clicking on the bell icon so that they can be sent a notification just before the match begines. This is in addition to being able to follow any specific country and even the group.

The Opera News app can often feel like malware has invaded your phone. This is because it goes overboard in terms of the notifications it sends to your notification shade but make no mistake, it comes in handy this World Cup season. Oh, and it saves you data as you use it, just like its more popular sibling Opera mini does. And, when you use Opera News in Kenya and some other countries, a simple shake when you have the app open could result in a reward. On top of the other reward they will send your way in the form of some megabytes (they’ve partnered with Safaricom for this) for just using the app.

Download Opera News from the Play Store

4. Twitter

Twitter has done the most when it comes to enforcing its bogus developer guidelines that are nothing more than just hurdles meant to frustrate third-party developers from competing with its own apps. This is why all these nice third-party Twitter apps are falling by the wayside, one by one.

However, using the Twitter for Android app during this World Cup, I am tempted to put aside my misgivings and embrace Twitter and their app.

Fire up the Twitter app, log in and swipe right. The first thing that greets you is a huge World Cup banner which, when clicked, shows all the #WorldCup related chatter from the accounts that you follow on Twitter. Further down, just before the news section, Twitter has specific tabs for all matches for that particular day. Clicking through any of those tabs takes you to that particular match’s page complete with live scores and the latest chatter from around the globe.

Download Twitter on the Play Store

5. FIFA app

Of course, it’s the FIFA World Cup so who better to have their app than the organizers themselves?

FIFA has not disappointed. The app is top quality. The kind that you would expect. This is the main FIFA app that on any other day you would easily pass up on the Play Store on your way to downloading that game by EA Sports that goes by a similar name. That can be seen in the kind of menu options available in the slide out. They include the rest of the stuff that FIFA does that may not necessarily interest anyone out to know what’s happening in Russia.

However, the good thing is that the app has been updated specifically for this tournament and that’s where you land when you fire it up. The World Cup is also the first menu item.

It has everything that all the apps highlighted before have – standings, team news, stats, video highlights, live commentary, alerts, venue information – and then some. Like, for instance, assume you want to know why and how Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Panama made it to Russia despite showing nothing in their game play that justifies their presence, you simply scroll all the way to the last tab and peep at how the qualifiers went. This is stuff both Google apps won’t give you until you ask them to and then have to skim through a couple of blue links.

Download the FIFA World Cup app from the Play Store

Bonus: Via a Telegram bot

What is it that Telegram bots can’t do? There’s one that we have encountered in the past that handles basic customer service operations and, since it’s World Cup season, naturally, there’s one that is for, well, the World Cup.

Just before the World Cup started, someone by the name Alex got in touch with me and introduced me to the Futaa bot. Its work is simple: tell you when matches are being played every time you ask it. Easy, no complications.

Check out the Futaa bot on Telegram

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com