I’ve never been one for Nike+, the previously iPod-specific application that tracks running and exercise statistics. That may be because I’m not a runner, never have been, and probably will never be. It could also be because I don’t really want to know how long or how far I actually ran. Sometimes it’s better not knowing.

Nike’s Just Do It motto completely disagrees, and thus the SportWatch GPS. It’s an atypical watch with a more sophisticated monochrome display than your typical $5 watch. No more than 3 buttons and a gesture sensor control the SportWatch, which are intended to scroll through the minimalist menus or activate the GPS.

I played around with the SportWatch, and as someone who gave up wearing watches years ago (I prefer pocket watches…but more reasonably use a cellphone), I can appreciate the design. It’s lightweight though with a large head. The backlight is enabled by taping on the front, one of the gestures. Navigating the menus is an absolute no-brainer. One button scrolls down, another up, and the last is colored green and selects the highlighted option.

Nike representatives assured me that, thanks to their collaboration with TomTom, who supplies the GPS data for the SportWatch, it’s accurate within several feet. That means no tricking it like the iPod’s pedometer. It also means more options for exercise, such as setting up timed laps for runs around specific paths and recording best times. The little things, like a congratulatory note when completing a run, are nice touches.

What I don’t like, but don’t see a realistic way around, is the need to connect the SportWatch to a computer. This is required for two reasons: first, to download the data off the watch to Nike’s website for your personalized data to be stored and viewable to you. Second, the SportWatch uses a small lithium-ion battery and must be recharged, depending on your usage, weekly. With zero running, I’m told that it’ll last up to two months, but that the GPS drains the battery and if you run three times a week, the battery should be charged once weekly. The USB connector is tucked safely away in the strap.

The SportWatch works with other Nike+ accessories, like the heart monitor and shoe sensors, but it also works fine as a standalone device. Nike expects to launch on April 1st, selling specifically through their online store, as well as TomTom’s. A larger retail release will start July 1st. There is no price set for the Nike SportWatch GPS yet.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.