I was very impressed with the Apple Watch Series 2. It added GPS and waterproofing and became a far more effective fitness tracking tool. But there's another new Apple Watch, and this one has even more sporting cred. Nike's take on the Apple Watch adds a fancy lightweight band and two exclusive watch faces, but is that a good enough reason to choose one over the equally priced regular Watch?
What Is It?
For the same $529 (38mm) and $579 (42mm) price as the regular entry-level Apple Watch Series 2, the Apple Watch Nike+ changes a few small but significant things up. Like the entry-level Apple Watch it comes with the lightest possible matte-finish aluminium casing, but you can buy the black or silver Apple Watch Nike+ with one of four different and unique Nike+ perforated fluoroelastomer watchbands — they're not sold separately, either, unlike Apple's own accessories.
That watchband is the only external difference, but in the Watch's watchOS 3 software you also get a Nike-bespoke analog and digital watchface, which in typical Apple style you can customise to add different widgets — no, sorry, Apple calls them 'complications' — to quickly access your favourite apps. One of those apps will be, by necessity, the Nike+ Run Club app, which is half fitness tracker and half fitness motivator.
The Nike+ Run Club is a social fitness app that lives both on your phone and on the Apple Watch Nike+, and that tracks your indoor and outdoor workouts using the Apple Watch's GPS or accelerometer and heart rate monitor to log your exercise. It also lets you view your friends' activity, as long as they're Nike+ users, and share fist bumps and other digital ephemera as motivation. This is the point where I should say you can install it on a regular Apple Watch — you just don't get those extra watchfaces.
The Apple Watch Nike+ gets everything good that the Apple Watch Series 2 does — all the same waterproofing and sturdy construction and GPS. I took an Apple Watch through 18km of Tough Mudder and it survived without a scratch — no complaints there. It's identically priced and has identical hardware, but just has those extra two watchfaces and the different wristband. The integration with Nike stretches as far as the analog and digital watchfaces having direct access to the Nike+ app through an un-changeable complication.
Should You Buy It?
In short: if you like the Nike brand, then sure. There's no real reason not to get the $529-plus Apple Watch Nike+, because it's no more expensive than the regular Apple Watch Series 2 in an equivalent aluminium-bodied variant You're paying that extra $0 for deeper integration with the Nike+ Run Club app from the home screen of the watch. In fact, you're paying nothing extra for those Nike+ home screens in the first place. You're getting more bang for your buck. And that's good.
The Nike+ Run Club app, which you can install and run on a regular Apple Watch, gives you a little more info and motivation on your run — in advanced mode it'll give you regular split distance and speed and countdowns until you're finished your exercise. You also get a nice little congratulatory message if you reach your goal. It's really no different to an app like Runkeeper, but if you have a critical mass of Nike app-using friends to share your activity with then that's a big plus for the Nike+.
The biggest actual difference that the Apple Watch Nike+ offers is that its fluoroelastomer band is far more perforated than Apple's own Sport bands, and if you're running over a significant distance out in the heat or even exercising in a air-conditioned gym, you will notice the difference. Even Apple's lightest bands get warm after a while, but the Nike+ band dissipates that heat far better — and it's also significantly lighter to start with.
The Apple Watch Nike+ has the utility of that lightweight band, and those two fancy watchfaces. It'll stand out more than even a regular Apple Watch will, if you want it to. Choose the right one and it's not so gaudy. It's a perfectly nice watch, worse in no conceivable way than a regular Apple Watch, and with that slight extra street cred — with the right crowd — that the Nike brand carries. If you like to run, and you have friends that like to run, pick an Apple Watch Nike+ over the regular one.