The Nike Amp+ iPod control watch is unusual for many reasons. To start with, it only displays hours and minutes. No seconds, no date, no alarm, no stopwatch. And to see the time, you actually have to press a button to illuminate the LED display.
But the Amp+ isn’t designed to be an all-around running or fitness watch. It’s specifically designed for runners who already have the Nike + iPod kit. Similar to the Timex iControl we recently reviewed, the Nike Amp+ is a remote control for your iPod Nano, however unlike the Timex, the Nike Amp+ uses the existing Nike + iPod gadget that plugs into your iPod, so you’re actually adding the iPod remote control to the Nike iPod system.
Ok, I know that’s a little confusing. Let’s slow down and start from the beginning.
You’re a runner or walker who wants to track your workouts electronically, and easily control your iPod. After installing a special wireless sensor in your Nike shoes, the Nike + iPod kit let’s you use your iPod to:
- Track your time, distance, pace, and the number calories you’ve burned.
- Choose workouts with specific types of goals, and record your personal bests.
- Program a “power song” which is selectable from a special menu for when you need some additional motivation.
- Receive voice feedback about your workout so you don’t have to look at your iPod while running.
So now you’re using your iPod to listen to music, and to record and track workout information, but the problem is that iPods aren’t all that easy to use while running. Imagine needing that power song at the foot of a killer incline, and having to fiddle with the scroll wheel to find it. That’s where the Amp+ comes in. With the Nike Amp+ watch, you can:
- Start and stop your workout.
- Change tracks forward or backward.
- Easily play your power song with the press of a button.
- Raise or lower your iPod’s volume.
- Check your workout progress.
So now in addition to using your iPod to record and track your workout information, you’re using your watch to wirelessly control your iPod. The other advantage of the Nike Amp+ watch is that it’s water resistant to 50 meters (about 160 feet) while iPods don’t do well with any kind of moisture, so if it’s raining outside, your iPod can stay safely tucked away.
As you can see from the included video, the Amp+ actually has a low-resolution array of very bright LEDs hidden beneath a matte rubber surface. The entire watch is actually a band of this rubber that you cut to size using the included measuring tape, it is held together by a nice snap-lock clasp. The Amp+ is extremely light and comfortable, and you don’t even notice it on your wrist while running. The swoosh logo is subtle, and the whole thing looks like a wide version of the Livestrong armbands. It comes in several colors: red/black, orange/black, and pictured here, the blue/gray.
The Nike Amp+ is a great concept, and it functions quite well, but there are a couple of drawbacks:
- You have to press a button to see the time. The advantage of LEDs is that they are very bright and easy to see in low-light conditions or while running, but the disadvantage is that they are power hungry, and would deplete the battery if they were on all the time. That’s why you have to activate the display by pressing a button.
- The animation is cool, but it takes a bit longer to read the time because of it.
Of course, there are more than enough advantages:
- Great way to control your iPod while on the move. The Amp+ let’s you keep your iPod safely tucked away where it’s not at risk of being dropped or getting ruined by water.
- Integrates nicely with the Nike + iPod kit for a very complete music/data/remote solution.
- Lightweight and comfortable.
- Stylish enough to wear all the time — not just when running.
The Nike Amp+ is a pretty impressive piece of technology. It’s both visually and functionally well designed, and is perfect for any athletic technophile.
By Paul Hubbard