Nike and Apple have had a special relationship since 2006 when the companies announced a partnership that created a sports-oriented ecosystem around iPods and Nike running shoes. Since then iPods and iPhones have been tightly integrated with Nike+, the Portland-based sports giant’s activity- and exercise-tracking social network. (Apple CEO Tim Cook is also on Nike’s board of directors.)
Expanding the wearables “frontier” is likely to start with Apple’s upcoming Watch, which will go on sale sometime early next year. The device will pack sensors that can not only track movement, but differentiate between types of exercise as well as capture the heart rate of the person wearing it.
When Apple showed off the device earlier this year, executives emphasized its fitness applications. (The company hired Nike’s former design director last year to work on wearable devices.) And during the keynote, a Nike-branded app for the Watch was shown briefly.
What could the two companies be working on? Impossible to say. But here are three features I hope they build into whatever it is they are doing together.
Intelligent music management. Nike’s iPod and iPhone apps have always been able to control music playback. Some versions have also included a “power song” feature—a user designated tune intended to motivate through crunch time. Apple’s Watch will also be able to control music playback through a connected iPhone. But, as far as exercising goes, this is all uber-basic.
Even better would be to be able to generate playlists automatically based on track BPMs, a.k.a the speed of each song, and the desired intensity of a given workout. So, for instance, for an easy recovery run, a set of slower-paced songs might be strung together. Similarly, correlating personal performance data with listening history could yield interesting insights, such as you run your best splits to “X” album or “Y” artist.
Additional sports. This is an easy one. Despite forays into other sports, Nike’s apps have been strongest on running. With the integration of a connected phone’s WiFi and GPS data, a wearable app should be compatible with a wider array of sports. Cycling and golf are two obvious ones—with the device tracking performance for the former sport and location and weather conditions for the later.
Deeper social integration. According to this summer’s keynote presentation, Nike’s Apple Watch app will allow you to challenge friends to runs, much like its software currently does. But the Watch’s so-called “taptic” feedback—small vibrations and audio cues that simulate a gentle tap on the wrist—open up new opportunities.
For example: recording and trading “ghosts” for runs that would gently let you know when you’re outpacing or falling behind a friend on a run of a similar distance or course. Or, if two users both have watches, they might be able to swap route information, say, a favorite place to run, using the Watch’s built in communications.
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