Journal:

Don't Believe Me, Just Watch Wearables

20 February 2015

I went for a 12-mile run with a friend the other day and my inability to check my pace and the distance I ran made the experience quite frustrating. Granted, 12 miles is more than I’ve ever run at once so the feeling seemed justified. But as most runners realize (I assume), the more often I run, the easier it’s getting and the distances seem more conquerable.

This new confidence of mine, although overdue, puts me directly in the driver’s seat towards purchasing some sort of device that can track my running. But an iPhone 6 in an armband is comparable to running with a small TV attached to my arm. No thanks. I found myself wanting one of those cool-looking running bands that I’ve seen on people. Here’s the thing:

They all suck.

I’ve done some minor research on features, specs, compatible platforms, and pricing and there are so many shortcomings. Nike, who I’ll discuss later and who I thought already took over this area of the wearable tech market seems like an utter failure. Other devices look to do specific things such as sleep-tracking and step-tracking, but lack real-time stat delivery or lack a screen altogether. And some examples are not connected via GPS allowing no ability to log my routes. The band that had everything I wanted was at a $300 price-point. Hmm.

Two questions popped into my head as I realized that there’s no affordable option:

  1. Why haven’t I been paying attention to the inability of tech/fitness companies to produce affordable, feature-loaded fitness bands? This market is ripe for disruption. There seems to be no real leader.

  2. Why haven’t I been running!? I’m working on it.

 

I used to laugh at the idea of Apple, Samsung and other mobile device leaders launching smartwatch products. Why would I need a fancy digital watch? Oh right, I'm a runner now. Well, if the best feature-loaded, design-forward smartwatch is from one of these tech giants for only an additional $50 than the next best-available fitness watch, then I may be convinced (Apple Watch is slated to start at $349). And you have to hope that the fitness apps flooding the AppStore and GooglePlay will be functional on these new devices.

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What about Nike? I’m a little surprised by their inability to take hold of the fitness wearable world. The Nike FuelBand reviews have turned me away from getting stuck with commonly reported syncing issues, band defects, and software glitches. The hurdle to meet the UX standards of the most notable tech-giants is a high one even for Nike. However, Nike’s fitness app software seems to be well-executed and highly regarded so expect their focus to be on developing for Apple and Android fitness devices* and moving away from their earlier stunts.

Moreover, it’s not the end of the road for Nike by any means.

“They have this tremendous network of consumers and this community they’ve developed. That’s where the power is. That’s where all of the value is."

Sean Naughton, Nike analyst with Piper Jaffray

Take those 28+ Million users and wait for an expert to develop a well-designed device.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Designs for the coming Apple Watch have already been released months ago but I’ve shared a sharp concept by UI designer Todd Hamilton above showing what another potential Nike-Apple partnership could yield in the future - a Nike FuelBand and iPhone marriage. Awesome video of the proposed UX here.

But maybe Apple has already moved on from this type of partnership.

And maybe I’m just a sucker for Apple products. Guilty.

 

*EDIT on 3.10.15 - Nike+ Running has partnered their app with four industry-leading companies: Garmin, TomTom, Wahoo Fitness, and Netpulse.