Nike+ Move Brings Social Fitness to the iPhone

There are few greater awards for an app than to be featured at a product launch. Nike+ Move, created by the same software team that developed the Nike FuelBand, is the latest chapter in a close partnership between Nike and Apple. The app finds itself in an odd position: it is, by far, the most hyped program to use the M7 co-processor found in the iPhone 5S. It also utilizes the same score system as the FuelBand. Do these two factors create the ultimate fitness app, or a jumbled mess of ideas?

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The Data Set

The Nike+ Move app can only ever be as good as its data set, and that set of information is compiled completely by the M7 co-processor. This co-processor, found only alongside the A7 system-on-a-chip, is dedicated to collecting this data. Apple claimed that it could determine whether the user was sitting, walking, running, biking, or driving, as well as various other pieces of potentially-useful information.

The data set is collected constantly -- and it would seem I need to get out more.

The data set is collected constantly — and it would seem I need to get out more.

All of this is collected, constantly, in the background. Don’t worry about it draining your battery: the M7 has been recording your movement since you bought the device. Nike+ Move (and any app that uses the M7) simply taps in to this pre-recorded data, and then uses it to determine a score.

The accuracy of the M7 chip is unclear, though that is ultimately not a problem in apps such as this. Nike+ Move displays the information in a way that is relative. The trend of the data, as opposed to concrete numbers, is of more importance. Still, in my personal use, I found the M7 to be surprisingly accurate at what it does. Still more surprising, it was able to accurately determine when I was running, and when I was walking.

The current day's activity is overlaid above yesterday's, though it can be difficult to get accurate information.

The current day’s activity is overlaid above yesterday’s, though it can be difficult to get accurate information.

Nike+ Move is a Nike+ app. This means that there are ties to the FuelBand, and to other wearable fitness initiatives. Upon opening the app for the first time, you must sign in with Facebook, or with a Nike+ account.

The App

Nike+ Move is interesting for what it can do, but not necessarily for how the app itself works. Instead, what Nike is offering is a perfectly adequate program: information is presented in a pleasing way that feels native to iOS. Charts are presented in an appealing, though somewhat confusing, manner, and integration with Game Center means that the NikeFuel points can be used to compete with friends and locals. Essential elements of the app, from the color scheme to the circle surrounding the NikeFuel points, lend a playful air to the app that is usually reserved for games.

The worst part, visually, of the app is this screen, which serves almost no purpose besides advertising other parts of Nike's ecosystem.

The worst part, visually, of the app is this screen, which serves almost no purpose besides advertising other parts of Nike’s ecosystem.

Performance is great, and navigating the UI is straightforward. Simply swipe left or right to see the various cards. The hamburger button — the only notable fragment of an app that likely began its life before the design of iOS 7 was completely known — brings in a view that displays more about the Nike+ and Fuel ecosystems. Essentially, it’s an advertisement for other Nike products; no settings or options are available here. The visual appearance also cheapens an otherwise decent app.

Motivation and Utility

The app works as advertised. It appears to accurately collect the necessary data to determine how much you are moving, and then allows you to compare this data — neatly packaged into a score — against others.

First, the motivation factor: I do not believe that monitoring your fitness levels with Nike+ Move will necessarily increase your physical fitness or exercise levels. I do not believe that the gamification factor is anywhere near that strong. I’m not even sure if it will convince many people that they should take the stairs instead of the elevator — is the allure of “beating” someone and increasing a calculated score that strong?

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The app uses Gamecenter to display other scores, with the hopes that it will motivate you to “beat” them.

But maybe that isn’t the point. Using Nike+ Move is fun. It takes what I considered to be a trivial data set and turned it into something interesting and visual. I wish the app could package the graphs into better representations of trends and changes, but the premise is solid even in its current form.

The largest issue I have with Nike+ Move is that I don’t actually carry my phone everywhere. I sometimes run with my phone for music; I sometimes opt to run without any music. I sometimes take a walk with my phone to capture pictures. Sometimes, I’d rather not have a $700 computer in my pocket to constantly worry about.

The app tries to differentiate between running, walking, and "other movement;" it is mostly accurate, but sometimes runs into hiccups.

The app tries to differentiate between running, walking, and “other movement;” it is mostly accurate, but sometimes runs into hiccups.

For that reason alone, I can see the value of this app for Nike: it gets people in the door, and makes them realize that something like the FuelBand could actually be fun, if not entirely useful. Personally, the allure of monitoring my fitness levels 24/7 isn’t worth the price of the band. But I can easily see Nike+ Move taking over as the primary source of FuelBand customers — in fact, after using the app for some time, there are periodic pop-up advertisements for the FuelBand. These advertisements are tastefully implemented, and are easy to ignore and dismiss, but the fact remains that Nike+ Move is designed to get you in to the Nike+ ecosystem.

Conclusion

For iPhone 5S owners, it’s easy to recommend the app. There are no obvious downsides: it doesn’t kill the battery, and it offers at least a playful representation of your activity. The app is also free. In fact, the only barrier to entry is the Nike+ account, though that cane overcome by using the Facebook sign-in option.

Other apps take advantage of the M7 chip inside the iPhone 5S and the latest iPads. But so far, Nike+ Move is the most interesting app to do so. More than that, it makes me curious — I want to see what other companies can come up with now. From indie developers to Apple itself, there’s an interesting world of fitness data now available on the iPhone 5S. Nike+ Move is the first to utilize this data in a playful way, but there is still work to be done.


Summary

Nike+ Move was highlighted on stage alongside the iPhone 5S. It combines the information of the M7 with an interested and fun way to display fitness information, while also trying to be motivational.

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