Why isn’t Nike+ Compatible with the iPhone?

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Imagine the following scenario:

You’ve just finished a great run, and you listened to some good music along the way. You even paused your workout midway through so you could take a few photos of the beautiful trails, and also to speak to a friend on the phone because you were using Nike+ with your iPhone. As you hear “Workout complete” in your ear as you officially close the Nike+ workout, your iPhone sends your run data immediately to the Nike+ Web site. As you walk back to the car, you check Google Maps on your iPhone, and the Nike+ kit has tracked your exact running route and mileage.

Wishful thinking, but alas, this is not currently possible.

If you connect your Nike+ device to an iPhone at the moment, you get a very disappointing incompatibility error message. But the technology is already largely available (everything bar a true GPS system within the iPhone), and the iPhone is desperately waiting for the day Nike+ becomes a compatible device. It would make perfect sense for Apple to allow Nike+ to work on their device. After all, one of Apple’s selling points with the iPhone is that it is an all-encompassing media device — why carry around multiple gadgets when everything you need is in one unit?

Although Apple always warned that classic, hard-drive based iPods should not be used for exercise in fear of hardware damage, I think there is a lot of truth in the suggestion that Apple has purposely limited Nike+ to the flash memory-based iPod Nano because anyone who already owns an iPod, whether an iPhone or a classic iPod, would still be interested in purchasing a second device (the Nano) in order to take advantage of Nike+. Cunning, yet brilliant capitalism at its best, when a company can convince its customers to purchase two different devices instead of just one.

As the iPhone hard-drive is flash-based however, there is no reason for Apple to argue that the iPhone should not be used to listen to music while enduring physical activity, such as running. Indeed, there are many armbands already available that are designed to accommodate an Apple iPhone during sporting activity.

A further advantage in allowing iPhone and Nike+ compatibility would be safety. I know runners who run at the crack of dawn and I know other runners who run as late as midnight. So what a positive statement Apple would be making to the safety of its customers and to the running community if they allowed Nike+ to work on the iPhone, because it would allow runners to carry a phone with them at all times in the case of an emergency.

It’s a shame that there is no true GPS functionality with the iPhone at the moment. It would make sense to add this in the future of course. What is available presently however is something called LBS, which stands for “Location-Based Service.” If you are an iPhone owner, you may know that the Google Maps integration on the iPhone includes the ability to identify your approximate current location based on nearby cellular towers and/or Wi-Fi networks. Maybe this could be the prelude technology until the iPhone becomes a true GPS device — LBS could provide and identify approximate start and end positions of a run. As simple as this feature sounds, it might be a good way to kick things off.

One reason Nike+ may not be quite ready for the iPhone market yet is the NikePlus Web site. The entire Web site is (Adobe) Flash-based, and the iPhone cannot presently load/display Flash content in its Safari Web browser. There is speculation that Flash content will one day be viewable on the iPhone, but no one honestly knows when. In order for Nike+ to integrate on the iPhone, Nike would either have to build a customized, non-Flash-based interface so iPhone users could view their Nike+ account, running data and/or challenges, or simply wait until Safari on the iPhone is Flash compatible.

In conclusion, it would appear that Nike+ integration with the iPhone is indeed technologically possible and would become an absolutely worthwhile solution for Nike+ runners who own or would like to own an Apple iPhone. It will just be a matter of when this will become available however, as there are still some questions to answer, most notably regarding the ability to view Flash in the Safari Web browser, and how GPS can be emulated until iPhones are upgraded with native GPS in the future. That said, GPS is more of a “would like to have” improvement, as GPS is not currently a Nike+ feature.

Until then, I’m afraid you’ll have to carry a Nano and an iPhone, or a Nano and your cell phone, while we wait for the ultimate Nike+, telephone, Web-access, GPS and iPod all-in-one running device to become a reality.

4 Responses to “Why isn’t Nike+ Compatible with the iPhone?”

  1. Russ Says:

    Apple hasn’t made the iPhone compatible with the Nike+ Sport Kit which is required to track data. Also, who wants to lug around an iPhone? It’s a phone! The nano is much smaller, lighter, and is flash based with no moving parts.

  2. Scott Says:

    Hey, Russ! You’re absolutely right, the Nano is a lot smaller and lighter, but as the article suggests, the iPhone would offer so much more advantages and functionality to runners. The iPhone is also Flash-based like the Nano, so there are no moving parts to worry about. Personally, I like the idea of owning/using one, all-encompassing device that you can always carry with you at all times, and when a piece of hardware like the iPhone could take Nike+ to a whole new level, I’m not sure I like Apple’s practice of restricting technology to just one device (the Nano.)

  3. cory Says:

    Good points Russ, but i tend to agree with Scott. If it were just the plus function i wanted and had the choice of running with a nano or an iphone. i would choose the nice small nano. Due to my job however (always on call) i have to carry my stupid phone too. In cases like mine the extra capability would be a real plus (doh!). It looks like iphit has come up with an app to access the data from the nikeplus wesite with your iphone. Now if someone could just make the sensor work too. cc

  4. janine Says:

    Well I agree with Scott, Russ…really you should take a phone running with you for safety. esp with me being a girl and it would be perfect to combine stuff. I didn’t have a place to carry my iphone until I got an armband and now I would love to get a nike + but oh well. They do have apps for this..not sure how great they are.

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