PC News Archive

Nike + iPod Nano = Nightmare

September 14, 2010 – by Per Christensson

I have been using the Nike+ (Nike plus) sport kit with my iPod nano to track my runs for the past several years. It is a great concept. You put a sensor in your shoe, attach a receiver to your iPod, and the iPod tracks your distance, time, and pace as you run. You can then upload your runs to the Nike+ website via iTunes.

The idea is great, but the implementation is severely flawed. Why? Well, let's just say I have gone through 3 iPod nanos and 5 Nike+ sport kits this year. That's how many have stopped working in the middle of my runs. This past Saturday, the receiver stopped working during mile 6 of my 23 mile run. It was my longest and most important run before my marathon. Just after 6 miles, I heard the dreaded words, "Activity stopped" in my headphones. For several minutes, while I continued running, I tried desperately to get the receiver to recognize the sensor by repeatedly pressing Menu, then "resuming" my workout. It didn't work. Finally, I pulled the receiver out of my iPod and it said, "Workout completed" right in the middle of my run. When I put the receiver back in the iPod, the only thing I saw on the screen was a message saying, "Please insert a receiver."

The reason the receiver continues to fail is simple. After running a few miles, sweat gets in between the receiver and the iPod dock connector and fries the receiver. After a few times, it also shorts the connections in the iPod. Hence the 5 receivers and 3 iPods I have gone through in the past 12 months. I don't sweat an abnormal amount, though I believe it's rather natural to sweat at least a little bit after running several miles. And that's all it takes to ruin the iPod receiver and eventually the iPod itself. It is a major design flaw.

I have tried multiple armbands, including the standard Apple armband and a DLO armband, which provides a tighter seal. The iPod receiver fried with both of them. The only way I have been able to run a long distance without the receiver failing is to wedge a small piece of a folded up paper towel between the iPod nano and my arm so it absorbs the sweat. Another option is to wear a long sleeve shirt, but this is pretty impractical on hot summer days.

I should state that Apple has replaced all the iPod nanos and Nike+ kits for free since they were covered under warranty. My local Apple Store even gave me a new iPod nano with a new warranty a few weeks ago, which I appreciated. However, I would have much rather paid for a new nano that didn't have this annoying problem. I was really looking forward to the new iPod nano, since I had hoped Apple would finally include the receiver inside the device, like they did with iPhone and iPod touch. But they did not. For some reason, Apple decided to put a video camera in the iPod nano 5G (the one I have) instead of a Nike+ receiver. I don't know anyone who has ever used an iPod nano to shoot video. In the iPod nano 6G, Apple removed the video camera, but did not add a receiver. It doesn't make sense.

So I am done with Nike+. They should just change the name to Nike-, which would be more appropriate. I don't even care to try the new Nano, since I would still need to attach that cheap receiver to it. I am looking forward to using a GPS watch to track my runs from now on.

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