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Though I haven’t paid much attention to the Nike+iPod Sport Kit in recent months, every time a high-profile Apple event rolls around I secretly hope for an announcement (or even a mention) of the popular running gadget. I’ve almost stopped being disappointed by the silence. Almost.

At Apple’s WWDC this past Monday, I really wanted to see someone from Nike take the stage and show off a new Sport Kit iPhone app (there’s already been one report that they’re working on it). I’d love to be able to upload my runs and check my stats directly from my iPhone. As it stands now, the Nike+ website is still completely inaccessible to iPhone users since it’s built entirely with Adobe’s Flash technology (which the iPhone doesn’t support). It’s amazing to me that in a year’s time, Nike hasn’t been able (or willing) to put together a mobile version of the site so iPhone users can check and show off run data.

With third-party apps coming to the iPhone in a few weeks, now would be a perfect opportunity for Nike to announce the next generation Nike+ system; Especially since the iPhone 3G has one feature that could eliminate the need for it altogether: GPS.

On one hand, the inclusion of GPS in the next generation iPhone could bring great improvements to Nike+, such as better accuracy, integration with maps, and location-aware social networking. But on the other, it won’t be long before software developers start rolling out iPhone GPS-based running apps that compete head-to-head with Nike+… and without the need for special sensors, dongles, or shoes. And considering how slow Nike has been with regard to their website development, I can easily see a young, agile developer quickly outclassing Nike on the software/social end of things. As cool as the Nike+ website is, I haven’t spoken with anyone who truly feels any connection or loyalty to it or the Nike+ “community,” and that’s a big opportunity for a new player.

So what can Nike do to ensure the survival of Nike+? Perhaps they already see the writing on the wall, which is why they’ve released the Nike+ SportBand (no iPod required) and announced Nike+ integration with gym equipment. Perhaps Apple has agreed not to approve any third-party GPS-based fitness apps for the iPhone (which I would personally find outrageous) in order to protect Nike+iPod, and iPod nano, sales. Or perhaps Nike plans to go toe-to-toe with third-party developers in the iPhone space, relying on their current market and brand recognition to keep them one step ahead of the crowd.

If Nike chooses the latter, they have an uphill battle ahead.

3 Responses to “Will iPhone 3G Kill Nike+iPod?”

  1. Well, GPS is pretty useless when you are not actually moving in space (treadmill). Or when you don’t have a clear view of the sky (in the woods or indoors). But yeah, for the Nike+iPod target audience iPhone 3G with a little bit of 3rd-party software magic might very well be enough. I personally prefer Forerunner 305 with a heart rate monitor, a FootPod and a
    Speed/Cadence bike sensor – covers all possibilities and gives me plenty of data to work with.

  2. Podophile says:

    Good point George. I think Nike’s best bet would be to make the case you’ve made: that GPS isn’t 100% available or reliable (depending on location and conditions) and that their system falls back on the shoe sensor when you lose GPS signal. Or, mathematically, Nike+GPS > GPS alone.

    It remains to be seen whether A-GPS (as implemented in the iPhone 3G) really will be reliable enough in most conditions for most runners.

    Exciting times ahead.

  3. RunKeeper says:

    We have been watching Nike+iPod much like you have and wondered what and when they will move onto the iPhone. In the meantime, we went out and built an app for the app store using GPS for fitness tracking that is identical to what you are describing, including time, distance, pace, speed, and your route on a Google Map. Check out http://www.runkeeper.com to see a screen shot of the app and sign up to be notified when it goes live. You can also see a (slightly blurry) video demo at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jz4ZUnMC8X0.