LeBron James is the best NBA player... to follow on Instagram. Whether you're a superfan of the Miami Heat forward or not, scrolling through the carefully curated mix of courtside action, Lanvin outfits and video tributes to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is pretty freaking endearing. He -- with some help from his publicist, no doubt -- is a master at communicating with us normals through social media, and even as someone who isn't rooting for Miami this season, I've missed his updates since they stopped around the beginning of the playoffs. It's not like I need to suffer major withdrawals, though; Samsung has an exclusive LeBron app with original content to keep Galaxy phone users attuned to his every move and outfit change.
I spent this past week, in which the Heat handily defeated the Brooklyn Nets, checking this app several times a day. I didn't exactly have a good time. For one, I had to trade my non-Samsung phone for a Galaxy Note II to even get access to the app, and then there's the fact that checking updates across the app's four sections becomes pretty time-consuming. Still, I ended up fascinated -- and also very confused.
So why does this app exist, you ask? Just because.
So why does this app exist, you ask? Just because. There's no real point -- for the user, at least -- other than to look at pretty things and appreciate how awesome this guy's life is. That means no links for buying LeBron's sneakers or anything like that -- it's just perfect photo after perfect photo. There's also no option to share posts on Twitter or Facebook, so it's not intended to be a social experience. Maybe that's meant to make the updates feel more intimate; look at you, lucky Galaxy S5 owner, getting exclusive access to your personal hero.
I expected celebrity cameos and selfies on private jets, but the LeBron app is more about video from recent games and behind-the-scenes photos of James at Samsung photo shoots. Best of all, if you want to watch game highlights, you'll be treated to some of the highest-quality video you'll ever see on your phone. Samsung clearly optimized clips for the app, and they look amazing.
The "Style" and "Journey" sections of the LeBron app do give you a look at pregame meals and snapshots with captions such as "Sunday reading," but Samsung's heavy hand feels very apparent in the presentation of these. The upside is that the app looks fantastic, especially compared to the official Miami Heat application with its omnipresent, pixelated TigerDirect ads.
When asked exactly how involved James is with the daily updates, a Samsung rep made it clear that the app is a team effort.
When asked exactly how involved James is with the daily updates, a Samsung rep made it clear that the app is a team effort. (And the company really doesn't want any one person taking credit; the spokesperson wouldn't even let me print his or her name.) "While LeBron is focusing all of his energy on the playoffs, Samsung is working closely with his team and the NBA to capture exclusive content," he (or she) said. I confirmed that James is in charge of curating the radio feature, though, so you can listen to "HeadBand" by B.o.B and 2 Chainz knowing it has his stamp of approval.
The LeBron app does serve up some amusing stuff -- you can pretty much eat vicariously through it, considering how many amazing photos of breakfast you'll see -- but it's basically a publicist in app form. Samsung's version of LeBron is a lot less entertaining than the one offered through the hashtag-heavy Instagram account that's clearly run by him. I'm happily removing this app, switching back to my favorite LG phone and patting myself on the back for not being an obsessive celebrity stalker.