I was familiar with using Nike+ GPS on my iPhone to track distance and pace while taking our dogs on long walks. Then I signed up with Team In Training to compete in my first half marathon. I trained with a large group of runners with varying experience levels who were split between using nothing, a wrist trainer, or a smart phone. I considered purchasing the Garmin Forerunner 305, but my coach advised against spending the money. At the time it was probably good advice, but now I want something more sophisticated than the Nike+ GPS app.
The stylish Nike+ SportWatch GPS, made in China, can be worn as a fashionable watch. When used for tracking runs, the SportWatch utilizes GPS satellites used by TomTom to map and track your run while auto-calibrating the shoe pod sensor. When the SportWatch isn't linked to the TomTom GPS satellites, the shoe pod sensor will track your run but may not be as accurate since there are no manual calibration methods. The double clasps secures the SportWatch to your wrist and also functions as the USB connection for transferring your data to the Nike+ website and customize settings.
On the left side of the SportWatch are three buttons, two black directional for up and down, and a colored button to select, or begin various options. SportWatch options include clock for manually setting time and alarm functions, run with the ability to turn on/off the sensor, GPS, laps, or intervals individually and tracking, history, records showing several stats and bests, and a stop watch.
When plugging in the watch from the hidden clasp USB connection for the first time, the user is sent to Nike's website to download the user interface, a simple tool which regularly transfers data to the Nike+ website, and updates the SportWatch's firmware and satellite positioning data. If you already have a Nike+ web account set up, your profile info will automatically transfer into the user interface. When you don't have an account, you can either create a new one or provide the information in the profile section of the interface. Additional customizable settings in the user interface include clock settings, run reminders, sounds and the stat loop can be set as well as lap and interval settings. The SportWatch is also charged by plugging in the USB.
To see GPS mapping with a run histogram or pace graphs, a Nike+ account is required. Other options available on the Nike+ website include coaching programs, goal setting, challenges, linking to friends, a world map showing all your GPS mapped run locations, and forums. Finding friends is based on a connection and postings to Facebook or submitting an email address. Looking for someone in your neighborhood to run with is difficult unless you're already friends with them.
The shoe pod sensor is your backup system for when the satellite is unavailable or running on a treadmill. It can also be used to quick start your run while the Nike+ SportWatch is linking to the satellite. Be sure to link your sensor by selecting Run -> Options -> New sensor. The shoe pod sensors can be problematic, as I have personally experienced, but are simple to deal with when the method is known. The shoe pod's solid white back has a small button, which when held down for five seconds will deactivate the sensor to preserve battery life. This is helpful for those without dedicated running shoes, or when the sensor won't be used for an extended period. A quick tap of the button, some recommend a few quick taps, will reactivate the sensor for use. If the sensor won't connect, it could be deactivated or need rebooted. If this is the case, deactivate the sensor, wait a minute, then reactivate to see if this resolves the problem. If the sensor is dead, you will need to replace it.
The TomTom satellite is finicky and requires a clear line of sight to the sky. Don't expect to link with TomTom satellites when running indoors. Nike recommends updating the SportWatch before use as satellite locations change regularly. (Take a laptop with you when you travel.) Then stand in a clear area with the SportWatch facing away from the body while linking, which could take from a few seconds to a couple minutes.
My first run with the SportWatch was frustrating as I couldn't get my sensor or satellite to link. After several firmware updates, I've concluded the SportWatch was rushed to market. Firmware updates are currently a regular occurrence, and the SportWatch seems to be more accurate or usable with each. Using firmware version 3.3.0 and a satellite link, the mapping information is accurate. I can fully track my runs, upload them to Nike+, and analyze my runs with trustworthy data.
Without detailed instruction, it has taken a lot of time and research to understand how to get the best results from the SportWatch. I've finally gotten the Nike+ SportWatch to work, and now it performs as expected. The consistent firmware updates, annoying as they are, shows Nike is committed to working out the kinks and making the SportWatch an effective running tool. If you use runkeeper or other apps, this may not be the best option. However Nike+ app users may find the SportWatch is a nice integrated upgrade.
PROS: Stylish appearance User-Friendly software Lap and Interval settings Weather resistant Can use optional polar heart rate monitor