Ap­ple dou­ble downs on run­ning with Nike-edi­tion smart­watch

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Ap­ple isn’t the first to add GPS func­tion­al­ity to a smart­watch, but it’s the first to make some­thing that feels like a run­ning watch.

And the com­pany is dou­bling down on that with a Nike edi­tion out Fri­day, while Nike is bring­ing fea­tures from its phone app di­rectly to all mod­els of Ap­ple Watch.

I’ve found de­vices with­out GPS typ­i­cally aw­ful at mea­sur­ing how fast and how far I’m run­ning. And those with GPS typ­i­cally do lit­tle more than mea­sure how fast and how far I’m run­ning. The ba­sics are great for ca­sual run­ners, but any­one who be­comes a se­ri­ous run­ner needs much more. I’ve logged more than 400 miles over the past six weeks with the GPS edi­tion of Ap­ple Watch, known as Se­ries 2. I’ve also run 34 miles with the Nike Plus ver­sion over the past few days; it’s es­sen­tially a Se­ries 2 watch with a cus­tom wrist­band and watch face. With both, Ap­ple ad­dressed many of the short­com­ings in the orig­i­nal watch, GPS be­ing just one of them. I’m not ready to ditch my Garmin run­ning watch yet, but the Ap­ple Watch comes close to meet­ing all my needs.

THE IM­POR­TANCE OF GPS

The orig­i­nal watch does a fine job of latch­ing onto your phone’s GPS if you’re run­ning with the phone, but with built-in GPS, you can leave the phone be­hind. Ac­cu­racy is on par with other good GPS watches, which is to say, mea­sure­ments are some­times off, es­pe­cially when tall build­ings block GPS sig­nals. The watch au­to­mat­i­cally cal­i­brates to my run­ning style, so it’s bet­ter than non-GPS de­vices even when there’s no GPS.

Though GPS drains the bat­tery more quickly, the watch still had about an hour of non-GPS use left af­ter a marathon run of about four hours, 40 min­utes. For nor­mal use, Ap­ple says you should get up to 90 min­utes a day of GPS work­outs; I’ve of­ten gone longer with­out the watch dying be­fore bed­time. It helps that I’ve dis­abled the heartrate sen­sor dur­ing work­outs.

While Se­ries 2 is meant for stand-alone run­ning, many peo­ple carry phones any­way. With it, I get slightly bet­ter ac­cu­racy and bat­tery life.

IM­PROVE­MENTS FOR ALL

Se­ries 2 watches start at $369, though it’s $30 more for a larger screen - the op­ti­mal size for larger wrists. Non-GPS mod­els, now called Se­ries 1, are $100 less. All mod­els get soft­ware up­dates that ad­dress two gripes with the orig­i­nal:

Ap­ple’s Work­out app now records your route, some­thing other GPS fit­ness de­vices and apps have long done. The Ap­ple app didn’t use to, even with ac­cess to the phone’s GPS. You can dou­ble tap the screen to record splits, or man­ual snap­shots of how long it takes to run a stretch. Be­fore, that was lim­ited to mile or kilo­me­ter in­ter­vals, which didn’t help when you were run­ning laps or loops that weren’t pre­cisely that length.

Nike’s app of­fers a lot to like, in­clud­ing big yel­low nu­mer­als for easy read­ing dur­ing runs and voice up­dates ev­ery mile and half­way to­ward your goal. Nike keeps things sim­ple for be­gin­ners by dis­play­ing just dis­tance and time; turn on ad­vanced mode for cur­rent pace and heart rate. My gripes: no man­ual splits, and av­er­age pace ap­pears only when paus­ing or through the voice up­dates.

Nike ex­cels in try­ing to mo­ti­vate you even when you’re not run­ning. It will keep ask­ing “Are we run­ning to­day?” by re­mind­ing you the weather is nice or that a friend (with a watch or just the phone app) is just ahead of you for the month’s to­tal. A sched­ul­ing fea­ture shows you weather fore­casts in half-hour in­cre­ments. Af­ter mak­ing a se­lec­tion, you get a no­ti­fi­ca­tion when it’s time to run.

Though the app is avail­able for all mod­els, the Nike watch also has a col­or­ful wrist­band sport­ing holes to help sweat dry. It of­fers cus­tom watch faces with one-touch ac­cess to the app, plus a re­minder of your next sched­uled run. Most peo­ple will be fine with just the free app, but run­ning en­thu­si­asts can get the Nike ver­sion for the same price.

BE­YOND RUN­NING

Cy­clists get sim­i­lar speed and dis­tance in­for­ma­tion, though the watch doesn’t mea­sure how fast you’re ped­al­ing, some­thing hard-core cy­clists might want. You can swim with Se­ries 2, even with chlo­ri­nated or salt wa­ter, some­thing most wa­ter-re­sis­tant gad­gets don’t al­low. The watch mea­sures dis­tance in­doors by count­ing laps, though you need a pool large enough for at least five strokes per lap.

WHAT’S STILL MISS­ING

Record­ing splits dur­ing runs is great, but I also want to know my av­er­age pace and time since the last split, rather than the be­gin­ning of the run. I find it use­ful when I want to go faster in the mid­dle of a run be­fore a gen­tle cooldown. And while Ap­ple Watch syncs work­out data with the phone’s Ac­tiv­ity app, many long-time run­ners al­ready have their fa­vorite on­line repos­i­tory, whether that’s Nike, Strava or Garmin. The abil­ity to move data around is lim­ited. While Nike of­fers an Ap­ple Watch app, it’ll take time for oth­ers to catch up. Strava’s still re­quires run­ning with a phone, while Garmin doesn’t have one at all. For these rea­sons, I’m stick­ing with my Garmin Fore­run­ner 220. And while it’s a mi­nor an­noy­ance, both Ap­ple’s and Nike’s app do a three-sec­ond count­down be­fore work­outs. I just want to run when I hit “start.”

DO YOU NEED AP­PLE WATCH?

Be­cause this re­view is fo­cused on run­ners’ needs, I haven’t got­ten into all the other fea­tures, such as maps, weather and shop­ping. Run­ning watches and gen­eral-pur­pose fit­ness track­ers such as Fit­bit don’t of­fer as much. The abil­ity to re­ply to mes­sages by voice came in handy when co­or­di­nat­ing with friends wait­ing at the fin­ish line, for in­stance. But if you don’t need the “smarts,” a de­cent GPS fit­ness de­vice is more than $100 cheaper.

The story has been cor­rected to show that Nike chal­lenge is based on month’s to­tal, and not by week. —AP

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