Nike has a speckled history of partnerships with MP3 player manufacturers. Its collaboration with Philips produced the relatively competent MP3 Run, but this failed to raise more than a bored eyebrow from the jogging community. The Nike + iPod kit is a significant improvement on this.
In many ways, it's surprising that Nike and Apple have waited all this time before embarking on what seems a natural alliance. Both brands have plenty of currency with the young, fashionable demographic that is keen to shed its disposable incomes. Both companies have also enjoyed their fair share of controversy over labour practices. Apple had its recent problems over iPod sweatshops, and Nike is not exactly a poster-boy for the worker's party.
The Nike + iPod Sport Kit looks like a very simple and effective way of turning your iPod nano into a sophisticated pedometer. The kit consists of three parts: the transmitter, which fits into your shoe; the receiver, which plugs into the base of your iPod nano; and the shoe itself -- a Nike trainer, of course.
So has Nike finally nailed this concept, or will your first run take you back to your place of purchase, demanding a refund?
There's not much evidence of Apple's typically impressive design here. The receiver that plugs into the base of your nano looks exactly like the head of the charger lead -- it couldn't be more utilitarian. The transmitter, which inserts under the sole of your Nike trainer, is a small, flat lozenge. Jonathan Ive must have been on holiday the week they injection moulded this. On the other hand, who cares what this stuff looks like when you're drenched in sweat? At least it's discrete.
The pedometer does not have a replaceable battery, so the device has a finite lifespan. Nike and Apple say the pedometer will last for 1,000 miles, and this approximates to one year for the typical user. Admittedly the kit is cheap at £19, but it seems unforgivably wasteful that two of the world's leading brands should be so blasé in their attitude towards the environment. Why not have a replaceable battery in the unit?
Unlike some fitness systems, the Sport Kit doesn't use GPS. Instead, there's "a sensitive piezoelectric accelerometer that monitors your footstrike when you walk or run and determines the amount of time your foot spent on the ground. This contact time is directly related to your pace".
You can calibrate the system so that it learns your typical walking and running gaits. The bundled manual states, however, that, "Even after calibrating, the accuracy of the distance measurements may vary depending on gait, running surface, incline, or temperature".
The Sport Kit uses a proprietary version of 802.11 wireless networking to relay pace data to the adapter on the nano. The nano uses this data to extract information on distance travelled, pace, calories burned and time elapsed.