Popular fitness device Nike+ launched years back to much fanfare, thanks to a smart, simple design and sleek integration with Apple's iPod and iPhone. But CEO Mark Parker's latest training gadget no longer relies on Apple's branding. Instead, Nike has teamed with car-navigation company TomTom for the Nike+ SportWatch GPS.
Unlike many exercise pacers such as Adidas MiCoach and past Nike+ iterations, the SportWatch severs its dependence on Apple's apps and accelerometers. Rather than syncing a gaggle of armbands and heart rate monitors to your iPhone, this Nike+ device tracks your route via GPS and displays running data--pace, distance, etc.--on the wristwatch's front. If the GPS signal weakens for whatever reason, the Nike+ shoe sensor will kick in to seamlessly prevent data from being lost.
While certainly not the first GPS-enabled sports watch--we've already seen products from Garmin and Timex--it is one of the more elegant. Featuring a two-tone, mouse-wheel wristband and a high-contrast LCD screen with Kindle-like clarity, the device retains Nike's simple design approach to fitness gadgets. It isn't burdened with clunky buttons or cluttered by on-screen data--instead, it boasts an unfussy (if not limited) tap interface which lets users tap the display to activate the backlight and mark laps during a run. Pricing has not been revealed, but the device will head to retail in-store and online in April.
It's not too surprising Nike would want to distance itself from Apple. Before, the partnership enabled both companies to push products--it helped Nike sell its fitness sensors and Apple hawk its iPods. But since the iPhone eliminated the need for separate gadgets, it's become necessary from a business and branding standpoint for Nike to reduce its dependence on Cupertino. It's far more lucrative for the company to sell an expensive watch than simply offer a free Nike+ app to iPhone users through Apple's app store.
Although the new Nike+ helps eliminate the need for lugging multiple devices around during a jog, we can't help but imagine most runners will still be laced with electronics regardless. Don't we need music? Heart-rate monitoring? Synaptic surveying? Gravitational analysis?
Who can get by with only pace and distance metrics these days, even in the form of a light-weight GPS watch?