Though I've always been intrigued by Apple's original Nike+ Sports Kit, I didn't want to have to buy a specific Nike shoe (I'm an Asics guy) just to use the sensor. Also, the sensor seemed like just another thing that I would lose.
Still, I liked the idea of keeping track of my runs by measuring pace and actual distance. So when Nike finally introduced a standalone app earlier this month, I was pleased to give Nike+ GPS a run (so to speak). Granted, competing iPhone apps like Runkeeper are available--CNET contributor Rick Broida compared four such titles last year--but I wanted to see if Nike's+ GPS could deliver on its promises. Fortunately, I was pleased with the experience even after a couple days of use on CNET's iPhone 4. There are some missing features I was hoping to see, but the app performs well and is easy to use. I have no trouble recommending it, particularly at the affordable price of $1.99.
Getting started After downloading Nike+ GPS from the iTunes App Store, I was ready to hit the pavement almost immediately. I started by setting my profile (height, weight, and sex), units of measurement (miles or kilometers), and preferences for voice feedback (more on that later). The app also has a short tutorial, but I didn't find it very useful.
After you've described yourself, you're offered three convenient options for structuring your runs. You can designate a set distance, a set time, or you can just go for as long or as far as you'd like. The first two options offer several preset choices--with distance, for example, they range from one kilometer to a full marathon--but you can enter a custom field if you like. To finish, just tell the app whether you'll be running outside or on a treadmill, and you can be off on your way.
On the go For outdoor runs, first you'll need to establish a GPS connection. Keep in mind that this can take a couple of minutes if trees and buildings are in the way; on both runs I had to move to an intersection to get a fix. Luckily, the GPS connection didn't appear to wave once I had a fix, though I noticed on at least one occasion that the iPhone lost a cellular connection for a few seconds. It didn't seem to make a difference in tracking my route (see the Maps section below), but I'm wondering why I received the notification at all. I'm checking with Nike and will report back.
As you run, Nike+ GPS will continually track your distance, time, and current pace (minutes per mile). And if you activate the voice feedback feature, the app will alert you of your progress every few minutes or after a set distance. You also can pause the app when you're stuck at a spotlight or pausing for a rest. I didn't always do this, but it's a good idea if you don't want the app to factor any stops into your pace.
If you prefer running to tunes, the app can tap into your music player. It supports a shuffle mode and playlists and you can set a "powersong" if a particular track gives you an extra mental boost. I didn't test this feature completely--I find music distracting when I run--but appears to work as expected.
Maps When you're finished and resting your feet, you can view your route on a Google Maps interface. Two versions of the map are available: the first shows your total distance with flags for each mile, while the second shows your pace throughout the course. The latter view was particularly interesting for my first course, which took me from San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood to the top of Corona Heights and back. As I climbed hills and stairs, my pace slowed but then picked up again in flatter areas. … Read more