Published on October 2nd, 2011 | by Greg0
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.