Review: Three miles with the new Nike+ Sportband

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Nike’s new running Sportband goes on sale on Wednesday. I got the chance to try it out on a couple of short runs over the weekend, and I must say it’s pretty rad.

The function of the Sportband is pretty much the same as the Nike+iPod system, which has been out for several years. The Sportband is the simple, no-frills wrist band version that doesn’t play music or talk to you. If you’re the type of runner who needs to listen to music all the time, and you already own an iPod Nano or Touch, this won’t excite you much. Personally, I often skip the tunes if I’m running with friends, and it’s awesome to have the option of not having to wear an armband and headphones while still tracking my run. The Sportband “talks” to the Nike Plus sensor in your shoe the same way that the iPod version does, but there are several other minor differences besides the above:

* There are only two buttons on the Sportband &mdash one that starts, stops, and resets the distance meter, and another that switches views between distance, pace, time, and calories. These are really the only two buttons you need. No awkward fumbling with iPod controls just to get your run on.

* Metrics are easier to see when they’re on the wrist vs. on your triceps or in your pocket.

* With the old Nike Plus, you had to calibrate the sensor by running a known “control” distance. With the Sportband, you don’t have to do any additional runs &mdash just map out your run using a program like Gmaps Pedometer and use that as the calibration basis.

* The little black display bit comes off the armband and plugs directly into your USB port, then automatically uploads runs to Nike Plus. No extra adapters = sweet.

* When you’re not running, it’s just a watch. Tells time = useful.

* For $59, it’s totally affordable.

By the way, I am keeping my word about running a marathon &mdash although admittedly I’m starting with a half-marathon, I have been training five-six times a week.

Sportband User Guide [Nike]

Previously:
How Nike Plus is helping me train for a marathon

About Lisa Katayama

I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.
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27 Responses to Review: Three miles with the new Nike+ Sportband

  1. dan says:

    Unless this is a new version (which it doesn’t look like, other than the color), this has actually been out for quite a while. I’ve had mine for maybe a year now.

    It’s been a good tool. My one gripe would be with the display. It is difficult to see in sunlight, and mine has had some kind of failure…I can no longer see the entire display; I don’t know if sweat got up inside it or what happened. I still use it, but it’s tough to read on the fly.

  2. so you need the little nike+ gadget too, or is the watch a standalone? Cause I want one, but I wear NB not nike+ shoes and am not really keen on shelling out the $ for both the sportsband and shoe insert.

  3. NM, I found it in the docs that you do need the sensor (which could be fastened to other shoes with some tape or zip ties…)

    oh well…maybe ebay can get me some new sneaks.

  4. KurtMac says:

    Yeah, I’m wondering about this b/c I have a 1st Gen iPod touch (no worky with Nike+) and just got some new running shoes and am looking to data geek my workout. Is this review for the pre-existing model or did they come out with a newer model? I’ve heard the same gripes about the current model as mentioned above, and would be more apt to jump at the purchase if a new version solved these issues.

  5. KurtMac says:

    @#3 Should’ve Googled prior to comment. Other articles are more apparent that it appears to be a completely new version of the SportBand: “has a new background to be more easily readable on the run and is weather sealed to prevent it getting wet.” Apparently they also updated the Nike+ website with new features.

    http://www.crunchgear.com/2009/07/13/nike-unveils-the-new-nike-sportband/

  6. Jeremy says:

    Adam hit the nail right on the head. I have a 160 GB iPod classic which suits my needs perfectly but unfortunately isn’t compatible with Nike+. The Nike Sport Band was an answer to prayers. What the Sport Band did that Garmin didn’t was allow me to track calories burned, distance, pace, etc. online and it also allowed me to set goals for myself / track my progress online. Aside from that, I could also participate in races and other functions online while running routes that I was comfortable with. I’m in the active duty (U.S.) Army and aside from being able to log my morning physical training sessions, I could also keep track of pace and distance when leading a formation run which was very useful. I’d only owned my Sport Band for a few months when it started to malfunction. I took it back to the Niketown I purchased it from to exchange it and was heartbroken to learn that it had been recalled (due to an improper seal design that allowed moisture in). The intended exchange resulted in a full refund and my eager anticipation for the promised release of the next generation of Sport Band. Well, that time has finally come. I’ve been periodically calling Niketown to check on the status of the next generation Sport Band and they finally told me that it will be available online as of 0300, 15 July 2009 (also in stores 15 July 2009). This was confirmed by online reports as well. So far from what I’ve read online, if you don’t have an iPod Touch or Nano and are in the market for a device that will perform as stated above, this “new and improved” device should meet your needs perfectly. Best part of all, this one is water-proof/sweat-proof!!!

  7. AE says:

    I guess if it says, when your not running you can use it as a watch… so it works without the Nike+ Shoe sensor.. right?

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is one of the best devices I own for training, but I wish they would release a heart rate monitor to go along with it. There were pics on the internet originally that claimed there was a heart icon on the screen. If they had an reasonably pricing heart rate monitor that went along with this, it would be perfect.

    Maybe Holidays?

  9. jnichols959 says:

    Guido Rosso, I’ve had some success with the Nike+ Utility on Windows 7. One issue is the utility icon is hidden from the taskbar in some cases. Maybe it’s running after you plug it in but hidden by the Windows 7 “feature.” Clicking on the white up arrow in the taskbar in the lower right of the screen, then Customize… then Show icon and notifications for Nike+ Utility.exe made the icon for the utility stay in the taskbar for me. Right clicking on the icon game me options though the utility seems easily hidden by any other windows/programs running.

  10. Adam says:

    Nike pulled the original Sportband off the shelves because of quality issues with the screen and humidity. This is the new version that should correct most of the previous version’s problems.

  11. MB says:

    While I understand the pricepoint appeal of this, I think that anyone who is really excited about this owes it to themselves to check out a Garmin Forerunner (perhaps used). GPS + heart rate = data heaven. I bet you can find one for ~$100, with a bit of looking.

  12. Ed Matias says:

    I had the old sportsband, and i was informed by my friend that Nike pulled it out and went to the store where i bought it and they let me exchange it for another item, since i can no longer read the lcd on the sports band.
    Hopefully this new Sportsband will have good quality. if it does.. it’s worth to have one….

  13. Dave H. says:

    I’m excited for this! Would be nice if it could be used under Ubuntu, but the Mac client is appreciated.

  14. F1Mikal in NYC says:

    Like most of you, I’ve had the 1st gen sportband and then the screen went kaput on me.

    THE GOOD NEWS!

    I took mine into Niketown NYC today and they replaced it completely NO CHARGE!

    And you can do it by mail also; send it in, and they send you a new one.

    try doing that with your car!! LOL

    mikal

  15. Hooahman says:

    I found this article while shopping for nike new armband, I read other reviews and seems not a bad idea ( I hate listening to music while running…I don’t have death wish buying run over a yellow cab in ny) I’m debating on buying this armband or GPS watch from Garmin. Hooah!

  16. Baha says:

    I have been using nike sportband for more than a year.I think it’s a lot more convenient compare to ipod+nike+. The piture does not seem new but the old version they stop producing 2008. Mine was broken because of my careless, i want to buy another one but could not find anywhere.I hope the new version is gonna out soon.Strongly recommend to buy….

  17. Andy says:

    To answer some of the questions etc asked above.
    The band does not control the ipod or iphone, I believe the reference “works with …” relates more to the shoe pod connection OR that someone can use the band and an ipod at the same time (only one of the devices would be allowed to upload to the nike+ website)
    The band requires a shoe pod abd it comes with one included in the price. If you don’t use Nike shoes, or don’t want to fork out for a pair of Nike+ specific shoes you can purchase a little “pocket” thing that attaches to your shoelaces. Nike doesn’t recommend them but, as long as it is fastened securely it works just fine (no need for cable ties etc)
    I originally had a Gen 1 version and, like most, had problems with the screen, the new version has a normal LCD screen (black digits instead of the white ones used in Gen 1) which I hope aids with ability to read it during use.
    Still no back lit screen, though, none of my cycle computers have had this feature and I can generally read it under street lights…hopefully this will be true in Gen 2…?

    My wish for Gen 3 in order of preference:
    Ability to view the clock whilst running
    ability to switch between walk and run settings
    backlit screen
    GPS tracking
    heart rate monitor

  18. Yoav says:

    Hi Guido Rosso,

    I have the same problem, have you found a solution yet?

    Thanks!

    Yoav

  19. Ben says:

    Ok device…buy beware though! If you run in the evenings, there is no backlit display making it impossible to read at night!!! Huge mistake on Nike’s part.

  20. Guido Rosso says:

    I just got one but I’m having trouble getting it to work in Windows 7. The Nike+ Utility installs and runs (process appears in System Monitor), but the app never actually pops up. Tried running it in compatibility mode, still no luck.

    Anybody managed to get this running in Windows 7?

  21. Jackson Thomas says:

    Awesome when not broken. I had the old version and just bought the new version. The screen scratches EXTREMELY easily. Be very careful. I try to never wear except for when I am running because it breaks so easily.

  22. nezro says:

    I’m glad they did changed how the calibration works. I tried using the original Nike+ system that uses the iPod and found it useless because of how off the numbers were even with calibration. I ended up just breaking down and getting a Forerunner 305 instead. Now I have HR info along with lots useful data during the run. (Pace/Pace per lap/virtual race)

  23. Ryan says:

    I hate to be that guy, but this has been out for a while (maybe not in your locale?). I am generally a fan as it works as advertised. That said, I’ve had some recent issues in which the screen is almost unreadable – the brown color text on black LCD seems to have faded to black. It still works, but I can’t see my distance until I get home and plug it in.

  24. mjolt says:

    In my opinion $59 are better spent on a matchbox-sized GPS logger which you can keep in your pocket while running. GPS logger do not only log your position, but your speed, too.

    This will allow you to measure your runs better. With Sportband, you lose out on all the tracking information.

    And while running, a normal digital gives you enough clues on how much to run.

  25. Jo says:

    Can you explain what ‘works with iPhone’ means”? Will it let you skip tracks and control the volume on an iPhone 3G ?

    thanks.

  26. Quasilaur says:

    I had the same problem with the display that some of you have had with the old version (which is no longer available.) I contacted Nike and the rep was very helpful. He recommended to first try to return my busted SportBand to where I purchased it, and if that didn’t work, to send it in to Nike for exchange/refund. Luckily, the place of purchase (from over a year ago!) refunded it with no problem whatsoever.

    I’m really excited to get the upgrade with the cash that I was refunded. I love the price point of and the clean simplicity of the Nike+ SportBand. It’s not quite the orgy of data that a Garmin Forerunner will give you, but I think it’s a great tool for no-frills tracking on a beginner budget.

  27. Wayne says:

    I was thinking about this, but I’m not much of a runner, and I’d need it primarily for inline skating. Unfortunately the sensor doesn’t really work for that sort of thing yet, but I assume Apple might accommodate different sports like skating, skiing, etc if the market supports it.

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