Apple just made it a little bit easier for people to use an iPod nano to track their walks and runs with Nike+.
This morning at the "Let's Talk iPhone" event at Apple's Cupertino headquarters, company executives announced that the newest iPod nano, which, like the sixth generation model is a square-shaped screen about the size of a large wristwatch face, does not require users to have a Nike+ sensor in their shoes. The accelerometer in the device tracks the user's workouts and users then upload the date to NikePlus.com for analysis. (CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the device now included an embedded receiver that synchs up to Nike+ shoe sensors, but Apple.com's new description of the nano negates that.)
Back in 2009, MobiHealthNews reported that Apple had outfitted its iPod nano with an accelerometer so that people could use it to count steps through apps like Nike+; However, users needed an external receiver that plugged into their iPods in order to synch up with the Nike+ insert in their sneaker. The Nike+ system uses a 2.4GHz wireless radio and proprietary network protocol for short range wireless communications, similar to Bluetooth LE and ANT+.
According to Apple's new CEO Tim Cook, the company sold 45 million iPods between July 2010 and June 2011. Half of those went to people who were buying their very first iPod, Cook said.
“We’ve improved the fitness experience as well," said Phil Schiller, SVP of Worldwide Product Marketing, Apple. "Right out of the box, you can go on a walk or a run as well without adding sensors or devices,” according to a report from the event over at GDGT.com. The move toward easier integration with Nike+ certainly strengthens the sneaker maker's position with Apple in the face of an emerging dedicated fitness device market. (It's worth noting that Schiller's presentation included a number of screenshots of Nike+'s platform.)
That said, MobiHealthNews' recent analysis of Apple's AppStore found that there are now more than 100 pedometer apps available for iPhone and iPod touch users to download.
Schiller also noted that people have begun wearing iPod nanos as watches thanks to a growing number of companies and independent artists creating wristbands for the tiny device.
“There’s a really cool use people have created all their own," Schiller said. "Accessories like watch bands. We thought that was really fun, so with the updated nano we’ve added 16 new clock faces to make it fun for people who like to wear it as a watch," he said. "Why not, right?”
The 7th generation iPod nano comes in seven different colors and is available now with the 8GB for $129, and 16GB for $149.
Earlier this year, a report in FastCompany wondered if Apple would capitalize on the growing trend of wearing iPod nanos on the wrist:
"It's possible Apple is planning something novel with the device to turn it into a full-fledged wrist computer, if not for this immediate update then for one in the near future. The first clue is the incorporation of Bluetooth 4.0 in newer Apple gear. The standard is a lower power consumption one than current Bluetooth hardware, thus improving battery life, and offers simpler 'pairing' between devices--meaning it would be perfectly plausible for your iPhone or Mac to quickly, efficiently, and simply send data to your nearby Nano."
While it's clearly just baby steps of progress for the iPod nano today, FastCompany's prediction may come true in the years ahead. A number of new wrist-worn fitness and health devices have either recently launched or expect to in the coming months, including Jawbone's Up, Basis B1, Wriskwatch, and Hitachi's Life Microscope (which may just be a concept). Another smart watch project that could lead to big things is MetaWatch, an open source project spun out of Fossil that will almost certainly lead to health devices.