Nike Amp+

While Reebok makes overtures to casual runners with its Run Easy campaign, encouraging them to run for enjoyment rather than performance (“Why hit the wall? It hurts.”), Nike has taken its own approach to making enjoyable running through an old standby: gadgetry. In a throwback to the days of light-up LEDs and pump-up heels, Nike has returned to marketing shoes with tech appeal – but this time with a lot more function.

Through a partnership with Apple, the shoes in Nike’s Plus line will work in conjunction with an iPod to integrate the running and listening experience into one cohesive, conveniently marketable package. Besides sensors for Nike shoes that make distance and other stats available right on an iPod Nano, one of the latest additions to the Nike Plus line is the Amp+ wristband, which gives runners remote control of iPod functions without having to fumble with the actual music device on the move.

Nike Amp+
Image Courtesy of Nike

The Amp+ resembles a watch with no face. It’s a single band of bi-color polyurethane that can be trimmed to fit, with a raised control dial where the actual timepiece would usually be and a stainless steel buckle tying it all together. There may be no circular watch face, but that doesn’t mean the Amp+ lacks a display: A discrete panel of LEDs embedded in the band above the controls light up to show the time of day and what state the connected iPod is in (paused or stopped, for instance).

Runners can skip through tracks, adjust volume, stop, start and pause music, and even punch a side button to trigger a designated “power song” for the climb up that brutal hill. In addition, all of the stats the Nike’s foot sensor delivers – time, distance, calories burned and pace – can be audibly called up from the watch with the press of a button.

The intent here is to give runner’s a little more flexibility in where they carry their iPods. Without needing easy access to an iPod to fiddle with songs or check times, it no longer needs to be Velcroed onto an arm or held in the hand. It could just as easily slip into a pocket, or the dreaded fanny pack. Keeping the unit tucked away in this fashion means less chance for accidental damage from a fall, or just getting it fouled up with sweaty hands. Combined with low-profile earbuds, it could even help prevent potential thieves from knowing you’re toting around a $200 USD device in your pocket.

Nike’s Amp+ can be worn on its own as a watch, or with the $29 Nike Sport Kit and an iPod to get the full remote control and stat capabilities. At $79, it is priced competitively with other sports watches, and offers even more advanced features – so long as it’s paired with an iPod. For runners who have already made the iPod a staple of their runs, the Amp+ would be an intelligent addition to make a mobile music platform that much easier to use.

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