Nike+ SportWatch GPS Review
While running, runners have a few different watch options to track their progress. They can use the standard chronograph watch to track how much time they have run for, there are watches that track your heart rate while exercising to see your level of effort, and there are GPS watches that track the distance you have run among many other things. Today, many watches mix some or all of these features. Since I was a child, I used the standard Timex Ironman watch to track my pace around the track and on my long runs. Over time, new technology was introduced and with my natural curiosity, I started to use newer and newer technology as it was introduced. It was 8 years ago that I started to use a GPS watch for running, back when Timex was the only company making a GPS watch. Today, there are a handful of companies making a GPS watches including Nike and they are all competing for your business. This not only creates healthy business competition, but it also encourages companies to constantly evolve and make better products. This is something we expect to see as consumers, but without competition, many companies wouldn’t be nearly as innovative and consumer focused.
New for this spring, Nike has introduced the Nike+ SportWatch GPS with Tom Tom as their GPS partner. Through time, Nike has historically been proactive when it comes to innovation. There are many reasons for the company having an innovative spirit; a few things that top the list include it’s in the company’s blood and the 2nd thing is they have the money to do it. When you have millions to spend on research and development, it often gives a company an advantage over smaller companies with much smaller R&D budgets. Since GPS running watches have been around for 8+ years, Nike had to come up with something that actually set itself apart from other successful GPS watches such as Garmin and Timex.
When GPS watches were first introduced, they were accompanied by a big clunky arm band that picked up the GPS signal and that signal was then transferred to the watch interface. With evolution of GPS watch technology, GPS watches are much smaller and much more attractive. The Nike+ SportWatch GPS is far more attractive than its competitors in my mind. The watch has a sleek design and it isn’t super bulky like many of its competitors. I often have many watches that I am testing at one time, but when I’m outside of my activities, I often will use the Nike+ SportWatch GPS. One of the nice things about this watch is that it has a long battery life. Nike has told me it will last for 2 months if you are just using it as a watch without any GPS activity, but since I use the watch as a GPS, I like to keep the watch charged so it doesn’t run out of juice on my runs. For GPS only, the watch will hold a charge for 40 hours which is much more than its competitors. My Garmin 301 that I use holds a charge of 13 hours. The way in which this watch is charged is through a USB Plug. In the wristband, there is a USB adapter that plugs into a USB cord and then can plug into your computer or any other item that can charge through a USB outlet. This is fairly innovative, but I worry about this breaking. Since this USB connection is often exposed, I feel that it could break over time. Currently, this watch only has a 1 year manufactures warranty, meaning if it breaks after one year, the watch will die and you are SOL. I would like to see the warranty to be closer to 5 years because of its high potential for breaking due to its USB configuration.
Nike has partnered with the GPS company Tom Tom to make this watch; Tom Tom obviously providing the GPS satellites and componentry. To date, I have not been completely impressed with the GPS side of the watch. I have done a number of longer runs with my Garmin GPS and Nike GPS watch side by side and the Nike GPS seems to always be off on routes I know the exact distance. I recently went out for a 6 mile run, 3 out and 3 back and the distance back was clocked at 2.92 on the Nike SportWatch GPS. Add this up for a marathon and you can be off a quarter of a mile. If you are trying to qualify for Boston or get a PR, this could be big. I have also run with the watch and it would read my current pace as being a 6:30/mile pace through my run and it would sometimes be off by a minute on my final output pace when I finished. For additional distance accuracy, you can also use a Nike pod that goes in your foot which collects information about your stride, but if I am buying a GPS watch I expect the GPS should be able to do all the work.
There are 5 options which can be displayed on the watch while running; time elapsed, current pace, distance, calories, and clock. These are all nice but I definitely have my complaints as a runner. I would like to see my average pace because for longer runs, my average pace is much more important than my current pace. The current pace only has the option to put it in mile pace, not mph. I would like to see both options. The calories are only calculated by your weight as your profile does not include your height to give you your Body Mass Index (BMI). Another complaint that is pretty important to me is that if you can’t get the GPS to find a signal (which has happened to me a number of times) you can’t use the chronograph. Sometimes as a runner, if I can’t get the GPS to work, I at least want to use the chronograph to see how long (time) I have run for.
The Nike+ SportWatch GPS has a much more user friendly interface than many other watches on the market. One of the things I like to see after finishing a workout with this watch is that it will tell me certain records I have met such as my fastest 5k. Even though I am running 16 miles, it will still tell me if I have run my fastest 5k and it also tells you when you hit new distance records. These are just a few of the feedback options you see, but this feedback is nice to see after a run. The watch integrates with Nike+ online where you can track your routes on an actual map and has a number of other cool features. If you’re running a 5k, half marathon, marathon, etc, it will give you a training plan for the race. These plans you often have to pay for outside of Nike+. If you haven’t seen the Nike+ website, I suggest taking a look as it has a lot to offer with regards to a social aspect.
The Nike+ SportWatch GPS retails for $199 which is a nice price for a GPS, far less than other competitors from Garmin and Timex. And while I like the watch and think it has a lot of cool differentiating features, I think there are a number of features that Nike has to address to make it a true GPS running watch. If you’re more of a casual runner, I think that some of the features or lack thereof would not bother you, but if you take you’re running a little more serious, they might bother you.