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?