Apple Watch Nike+: the Nike+ Run Club app
As mentioned above, the Nike+ Run Club app is not exclusive to the Nike+ version of the Apple Watch, but it has been freshly updated to coincide with the launch of the hardware and you are encouraged to install it as part of the setup process, so it’s worth taking a look at in a bit more detail here.
First up (and it’s an obvious one) - Nike+ Run Club is a running app. Unlike Apple’s own Workouts it’s entirely dedicated to pounding pavements and treadmills. It does, however, share one of Workouts’ best features, in that it can utilise the Apple Watch Series 2’s built-in GPS chip so that you can record your runs without the help of your phone. For many people this is a big deal of a feature, and one that other popular fitness apps - such as Strava and Map My Run - don’t yet offer.
It’s also a very simple app, and that’s absolutely intentional - the idea is that it gets you started on a run as quickly as possible. Open the app and you’re immediately presented by a big green button labelled ‘Start’. Tap that and you’re given a 3, 2, 1 countdown before your run begins. Too many taps for you? Just say “Hey, Siri, let’s run” into a Nike+ Watch and that countdown begins immediately. Best make sure you’re ready to go.
It’s also probably best if you’ve selected the ‘Advanced’ mode before you set off as well, as the default mode only has readouts for distance and time. Even the most undemanding of runners are likely to want to check on their pace and heart rate during a jog, and these are only enabled in Advanced mode. Even then the BPM is a bit small for quick glances and the pace seems a little erratic while you're on the move, but seeing as they don’t make the rest of the info harder to read I’d recommend adding them in.
There seem to be a couple of issues in the post-run performance of the app, too. At the time of writing it’s about 24 hours since my last 5km run, and every time I try to check the stats of the run using the Activity tab in the iPhone app I find there are some pieces of info missing, and it seems fairly random which. At first there were no figures for BPM or elevation, then when I checked back I had an elevation figure but pace was missing. At no point have I logged in to find a full suite of stats. In other words, the new version of the Nike+ Run Club app seems to be pretty buggy right now.
That’s not to say there aren’t some good things about the Nike+ Run Club app. Its biggest success is how it motivates you to keep running and keep improving. Just under that big, green Start button on the Watch is a smaller, not green ‘match it’ button, which immediately starts a run that targets the distance or duration of your last run.
Or you can swipe right from the main Start screen to get to a page that asks ‘when are we running?’ and offers a list of time slots complete with little icons representing the expected weather at that time. It’s a great way to check for the best time to run and to mentally commit yourself to getting out there and getting on with it.
Then there’s the community aspect of the Nike+ Run Club phone app, which offers not only feeds and leaderboards for your friends and the community at large, but also allows you to register for free, paced club runs organised by Nike. Admittedly these club runs are limited to a few cities across the world, but if you’re a Londoner or someone looking for a fun social run while visiting a city abroad (some include a bit of sightseeing, apparently) these are a really neat little added extra.
It’s these extra features that make it such a shame that the Nike+ Run Club app has launched with those niggling bugs. Once those have been squashed, though, this should be a very simple, motivating alternative to Apple Workouts that’s especially good for beginners or casual joggers.
But remember, you don’t need the Nike+ Apple Watch to get the Run Club app, so it shouldn’t really have an effect on which version of the Apple Watch you buy.
Apple Watch Nike+: the verdict
You’ll notice I’ve not gone into the general details of the Apple Watch Series 2, and that’s because I’ve already written a pretty exhaustive review of that, which you can check out here:
Want the short version? I think the Apple Watch Series 2 is a brilliant device, and the first wearable to really successfully bridge the gap between sports watch and smartwatch.
But should you buy the standard edition or the Nike+ version? Seeing as the price is the same, I’d say that if you’re planning on getting all sporty with the Apple Watch the Nike+ version is the one to get, even if you’re not specifically a Nike fan.
The exclusive faces are good but not terribly exciting, and the Nike+ Run Club app is available to all Apple Watches. The strap, though, is a real winner. Lighter, more breathable and more flexible, it’s simply more comfortable when working out, regardless of the sport.
It’s a fairly minor improvement, for sure, but it’s a minor improvement that costs you no extra money. Now that’s the kind of maths we can all get behind.