Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Impression: Nike+ GPS for iPhone

Fig 1: The main screen of the App.
If I was asked to give my review of the new "Nike+ GPS app for iPhone" in just one word, my review would look like this:

"JUST WOW!!!!!"

I realize that is actually two words and I also realize that a single exclamation mark is sufficient to convey amazement but I added 5 exclamation marks just to be on the safe side.

The "Nike+ GPS App" is a new application that is designed specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It works with iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4. It also works with the iPod Touch but since the Touch does not have a GPS (Global Positioning System) chip, the mapping functionality does not work. So for all purposes of this review, I will only focus on the functionality of the app as it relates to the iPhone and the GPS. The functionality as it relates to the built-in accelerometer for the iPod Touch (or the iPhone when running indoors) is not reviewed here.

A 3G data connection is recommended on the iPhone to get the full benefit of the application.

The app works with the built-in GPS chip of the iPhone to track your outdoor runs. This means you don't need the Nike+ sensor (that you put in your shoe) to track your run. Just click on the start button, wait for the device to acquire the GPS signal and start running. Since the chip tracks your GPS coordinates, it works only when running outdoors where you can lock into the GPS satellites. If you are running on a treadmill, then the app will not work properly so you would still need the Nike+ sensor for such cases.

This is not the first application for the iPhone to make use of the GPS chip to track your outdoor runs. Runkeeper does the same thing. But Runkeeper can only track your outdoor runs and does not work for treadmills. Since I mostly do treadmill running (with an occasional outdoor run), the Nike+ system that works both on a treadmill (using the sensor) and outdoors (using GPS) works much better for me.

I downloaded the app from the iTunes store (costs $1.99). When you first start the app, you are greeted with the main screen (Fig 1 - shown above) with options:
   1. Start a New Run (Choose this when you want to start from fresh).
   2. Challenge Me (Choose this if you want to improve on your previous run).

Once you select the "Start a New Run" option, you will be presented with the following screen (Fig 2):

Fig 2: Choose type of run.
   1. Choose "Basic run" when you are not sure how long you want to run.
   2. Choose "Time" when you want to run for a specific period of time.
   3. Choose "Distance" when you want to complete a specific distance before stopping.

For my first test run, I chose "Time" and selected 30 minutes (Fig 3).

Fig 3: Select or customize time to run.
Next, you choose the music from your playlist, select location (indoors or outdoors) and hit the "Continue button". If you choose "Indoors", the app assumes that you don't have a GPS access and will switch to the built-in accelerometer. I chose my favorite music mix, and selected "Outdoors" and hit the "Continue" button (Fig 4).

Fig 4: Select Music & Location

The app will start scanning the GPS satellites to get a lock on the signal. I got the signal lock in less than 5 seconds. Once you get the signal, click on the big button to start your run.

Fig 5: Scanning for GPS satellite
Once the signal is locked, you can check the live map (3G connection required) to ensure that the GPS coordinates are accurate (Fig 6).

Fig 6: Real-time satellite image/map.
Once you start running, it is the same familiar feedback that I am used to from normal Nike+ application. Even the audio feedback is from the same generic female voice. I got an alert after every 5 minutes including my current pace and after the 30 minutes were completed, I got the congratulatory feedback for completing the target. I stopped the run and the run summary window automatically popped up (Fig 7).

Fig 7: Run Summary
The "Run Summary" screen allows you to review your run, see the map route (3G connection required), insert comments about the run and finally sync it to your nikerunning account. The direct syncing from the device is something I really love. When I run using the normal Nike+ sensor, I have to wait till I connect the iPhone to the computer and sync the run using iTunes. Using the new app, I was able to instantly send my run with the 3G data connection, and review my progress on the nike running website using the Safari browser of the iPhone.

Things gets more interesting when you log into your Nike+ account from your laptop. The run appears along with your other Nike+ runs, but has an extra option to view the detailed GPS data. I made this short youtube video of my run data.

Pretty cool, huh?
You can also see the run on the Nike+ website by clicking this link.

This is an amazing app for runners who already own an iPhone. I love the way you can track your run on the map. Now that I have the app, I actually feel like going to different places and running there so that I can visually see where I ran. This app will be great for me when I go to Goa and run on the beach. I would love to map my runs there.

10/10. A must-have app for runners who own an iPhone.


  1. Very Impressive!!!!!!!!!

  2. Thanks. Are you referring to the App or my running skills?

  3. both...and I see that my chances of inheriting your IPhone are very bleak.