Thursday, September 8, 2011

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Nike+ iPod vs. Nike+ GPS

Nike+ iPod Sensor
I recently took up running and like every new runner I needed some motivation to keep me going.  Enter Nike+ iPod.  Nike+ iPod can be used with just about any iPod, and if you happen to have an iPhone or an iPod Touch then all you need is the transmitter since the sensor is built-in.

I had an iPhone, so all I needed was the Nike+ transmitter.  And after I bought the Nike+ transmitter, I realized that there is a $1.99 Nike+ GPS app that works with the iPhone with no transmitter required.  Did I just waste $20.00 on the Nike+ transmitter when I could have simply purchased a $1.99 app.  Well, yes and no.  Nike+ iPod and Nike+ GPS are two entirely different animals that serve similar purposes.

Nike+ iPod requires that a transmitter or sensor be purchased and attached to your shoe while you run.  You can either use a special Nike+ shoe or somehow attach the transmitter to your shoe (see  It uses your stride to monitor your pace and distance.  But the really cool thing about Nike+ iPod is that it is built into your iPhone or iPod.  That means Nike+ iPod runs nicely in the background.  And it also means that it can do some cool stuff like take over your phone's home button when you lock your phone.

When I run with Nike+ iPod using my iPhone, I simply select my workout goal (distance, time, custom, etc.) and then I'm off.  Nike+ iPod gives me the option to select the music I want to listen to during my run too.  Although I must confess that music selection is limited to the ordering of a play list or shuffling all songs - you can't shuffle on a playlist (boo!).  But you can get feedback on your workout progress at anytime when the screen is locked by simply pressing the home button (cool!).

Nike+ GPS is not built into your iPod or iPhone; it's an app.  And since the iPhone has GPS and iPods do not, it will currently only work on the iPhone.  Because Nike+ GPS is an app, it really likes to run the foreground.  I have heard people complain that in some cases their workout time stops if the app is put in the background (say, when answering a call or locking the screen).  So, if you use Nike+ GPS then make sure your screen is set to NEVER auto-lock and make sure it's running the foreground - don't hit the home button during your run.

Aside from the fact that Nike+ GPS is an app that has to be installed (and as a result, has all the restrictions that an app might have), it does have some nice features.  One nice feature is that it leverages GPS, which means that your distance traveled is pretty darn accurate.  The use of GPS also allows you to see your route on a map that is color coded to show your relative pace (where you ran fast and where you ran slow).  Also, because it's not an easy task to get instant feedback on your progress during your run with Nike+ GPS, it gives you regular unsolicited stats.

Both Nike+ iPod and Nike+ GPS keep track of your workout history and allow you to upload your stats to Nike+ online.  And if you switch between the two then you can see an aggregate of your workouts online.  Unfortunately, they don't download from Nike+ online, they only upload.  So, you won't be able to import stats across programs.

Nike+ iPod
Nike+ GPS

Bottom Line
Both Nike+ iPod and Nike+ GPS are both decent apps.  I have to admit though, Nike+ GPS is a little more polished looking and the GPS integration does give more accurate distance measurements.  However, the ability to get instant progress reports from Nike+ iPod is a really nice feature that Nike+ GPS doesn't make easily available.  Also, because Nike+ GPS is an app and likes to run in the foreground, it will chew up your battery.  For short runs (45min or less), the additional battery drain might be something you can live with.  But for longer runs, it is something to note.

Personally, I love the instant feedback that Nike+ iPod gives me.  But now that I starting to run longer distances (45min or less, still), I am strongly considering making more use of Nike+ GPS for it's more accurate distance measurements and GPS maps.

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