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Published on October 2nd, 2011 | by Greg


Nike+ SportWatch GPS: Sexy And Geeky?!

Those are two words that don’t of­ten go to­geth­er- sexy and geeky. But more and more com­pa­nies are com­bin­ing the them, whether it’s Ap­ple’s con­sis­tent­ly classy de­sign or the au­dio­phile head­phone and tube-amp de­signs that can make hearts flut­ter with both form and function.But to­day’s item was one we saw at CES ear­li­er this year and im­me­di­ate­ly fell for.

It’s a quintessen­tial­ly util­i­tar­i­an item- a wrist­watch- that com­bines the smarts of Tom­Tom’s GPS tech­nol­o­gy with Nike’s fit­ness back­ground: the Nike+ Sport­Watch GPS. For those un­fa­mil­iar with the Nike+ line, it’s an in­ter­est­ing set of prod­ucts that are formed around a small sen­sor that you in­sert in­to your shoe and that then pro­vides de­tails on your mo­tion to a suit­able de­vice. You’ll need a spe­cial pair of shoes to prop­er­ly uti­lize the Nike+ sen­sor, which we hap­pened to have on-hand (Nike Air­Max+s specif­i­cal­ly). As for the sen­sor, one is help­ful­ly in­clud­ed in the box with the watch. You pop it in un­der the sock­lin­er of the shoe, and then can pair it with your iPod (re­quires a small don­gle) or iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 (which have sup­port built-in). Ex­tra sen­sors are wide­ly avail­able and in­ex­pen­sive, help­ful if you have an ex­tra pair of shoes, dam­age or lose the sen­sor, or if it’s bat­tery dies.

The ba­sic tech­nol­o­gy has been around for a while, but this watch brings lots of new fea­tures to the table. Pre­vi­ous­ly, we were a bit skep­ti­cal of sys­tem: it seemed ide­al for se­ri­ous run­ners, but not so handy for oth­er ath­letes or en­thu­si­asts, or even those who just want­ed to keep an eye on their fit­ness. We’ve tried oth­er fit­ness gear- in­clud­ing some that re­quires a month­ly charge- and can ap­pre­ci­ate the fixed-cost, no-added-fees na­ture of the Sport­Watch. The watch it­self would de­cent on it’s own mer­its, a bal­ance be­tween dura­bil­i­ty, read­abil­i­ty, and style. Thus, the band it­self is black and yel­low (and avail­able in on­ly that col­or pair­ing), but the dis­play is quite large and read­able even while mov­ing or in day­light. And at on­ly a bit over two ounces, it’s sur­pris­ing­ly lightweight.

That said, it has some down­sides as well- it’s bizarrely miss­ing many of the nor­mal func­tions of oth­er watch­es, so there isn’t a stop­watch or alarm that we could find. It’s easy to use… but to make any­thing in­ter­est­ing hap­pen, you’ll have to use an app on your smart­phone, tablet, or a com­put­er, as lit­tle of the fun stuff is avail­able on the watch it­self. We al­so had some trou­ble ac­quir­ing a GPS sig­nal- it seems to take some time once your out­doors and isn’t very ef­fec­tive in­doors or even in more crowd­ed ur­ban ar­eas. And the bat­tery life isn’t great- you’ll have to think about charg­ing your watch via USB ev­ery few days, which isn’t bad but def­i­nite­ly took some get­ting used to. You in­ter­act with the watch, at least par­tial­ly, by touch­ing the screen-
but it’s not a touch­screen and some­times could be dif­fi­cult to op­er­ate.

When it all works, it’s love­ly. The app tracks your runs and ac­tiv­i­ty, and dis­plays them on an in­ter­ac­tive map that seemed quite ac­cu­rate when in the coun­try­side or the park. You can set up run alerts, gen­tle re­minders that you haven’t been hit­ting the pave­ment late­ly. The ex­tra da­ta gath­ered was nice, in­clud­ing el­e­va­tions that help you de­ter­mine why you took so long on a par­tic­u­lar sec­tion (the hills!) Log­ging is sim­ple- you don’t need to do much but syn­chro­nize ev­ery so of­ten, and the watch can hold 15 hours or 50 runs worth of da­ta be­fore you need to do.

We were dis­ap­point­ed to see that oth­er smart­phone users are not quite so well-sup­port­ed; An­droid users for the mo­ment are out of luck. But the watch is wa­ter re­sis­tant to 50 me­ters, and we got sev­er­al com­pli­ments on it dur­ing our jogs. We might’ve liked sup­port for oth­er ac­tiv­i­ties- swim­ming, cy­cling- but un­der­stand the laser fo­cus on run­ners. And though there are some tweaks to be made, the Nike+ Sport­Watch is a pret­ty amaz­ing piece of gear for a first ver­sion. Ur­ban­ites and techno­phobes should def­i­nite­ly steer clear for now, but oth­er marathon­ers should def­i­nite­ly take a look at their videos and see if the fea­ture set is what you’ve been dream­ing of. $199 or so, avail­able wide­ly. Ama­zon, odd­ly, list­ed the item as a pre-re­lease at press time.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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