Nike+: First Look


The Nike+ receiver fits into the bottom of a standard iPod Nano

Nike – along with Apple - have just put on a sprint in the race to make the sexiest running gadget yet.

The ‘Nike+’ kit turns Apple’s sleek iPod Nano MP3 player into a speed and distance monitor, using a tiny wireless footpod and a small plug-in receiver on the iPod. It’s very slick, and it ties special musical features and audio coaching into the package. But is it any good?

RW went to a pre-launch press day and took one home to find out. (It’s on sale from July 13.) Here are our first impressions: we’ll write a more in-depth feature and a head-to-head test next week:

How it works

You’ll need an iPod Nano and iTunes software on a PC or a Mac first of all. (The Nano starts at £99 for a 240-song capacity model).

Then you’ll need a Nike+ Sport Kit at £19 – that consists of the motion sensor footpod for your shoe (an oval ‘button’ 35mm long and 7mm thick) and a little plastic receiver that plugs into the bottom of your iPod Nano (about the size of a large stamp). The receiver automatically adds speed & distance functions to your iPod screen when you switch it on.

The other part of the package is a Nike+ shoe – that’s a standard Nike running shoe with a special oval slot under the insole for the motion sensor. Initially the lightweight Air Zoom Moire+ at £65 is the only Nike+-enabled model; the more cushioned Air Zoom Plus and more stable Air Max Moto will follow in late summer. Read on for whether we think the shoe is optional.

You can see your running time, pace and distance on the iPod screen, and scroll through the history of your past runs. You can also log your runs automatically on Nike’s free training log website – nikeplus.com – whenever you plug your iPod back into your computer. More on this below.


The Nike+ motion sensor and the Air Zoom Moire shoe

Is it any good?

If you own an iPod Nano – or wanted one – already, then the extra £19 for a speed and distance function is a bargain. It doesn’t exactly turn your iPod into a running watch – its only stopwatch functions are a ‘stop’ and ‘start’, for example – but it’s very friendly, and its basic speed and distance function seems to work just fine. And – of course - it plays music using the best software around.

Our initial tests bear out Nike’s estimate of 90% accuracy if you use the motion sensor straight out of the box without calibrating it. Nike claim this rises to 97% when calibrated: we’ll test that more fully soon, but that would be consistent with most conventional footpod-based SDMs.

How does it compare with GPS-based SDMs, like Garmins? GPSs should be fractionally more accurate. The Nike+ also shares the mild disadvantage of all foot-sensor-based models that you have to transfer the footpod to each shoe you use – or, even more limiting, stick with Nike+ shoes if you follow Nike’s recommendation. Our initial tests suggest that you can fix the little Nike+ footpod under the laces of any shoe and get a reading that’s similar to the ‘official’ one. Watch this space for more testing.

The free training log functions, based on Nike’s easy-to-use website – are basic with nice twists. There’s no space for notes and no way of categorising your runs, for instance, but the site does show you progressing towards long-term goals, and includes the cool function of ‘challenge a friend’, in which your records are logged side-by-side; and a weekly ‘race’ in which you can log your time against everyone else on the system.

The audio functions are unique. You can listen to your iPod as normal during your timed runs, but you can also set audible countdowns towards a time or distance goal – and press a button to hear a ‘power song’ of your choice when you need a boost. Nothing that will make a Garmin Forerunner owner throw away their wrist-top watch, but nice touches. We weren’t sure that we needed Paula Radcliffe’s voice congratulating us at the end of every run, however, but maybe that’s personal taste.

Tried one yet?

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Official sites

You can read more at Apple's site and Nike's site

Nike's web-based software lets you log your history and compete against friends