Why Nike would be smart to outsource their fitness hardware to Apple and the iWatch

Why Nike would be smart to outsource their fitness hardware to Apple and the iWatch

There's a rumor going around that Nike is axing their Nike Fuelband hardware division. Whether it ultimately proves to be true or false, given where Apple is and where they may be going with iOS 8, iPhone 6, and perhaps even an iWatch, it makes a ton of sense.

A few years ago Sonos, the Wi-Fi connected speaker maker, switched from making their own hardware controller to making an app for the iPhone and later, the iPad. When I spoke to them about it they said the iPhone was simply a better solution. It was great hardware, capable of presenting great interface, and it was something a huge amount of people already knew how to do.

By shifting their efforts from making hardware controllers to making an app to connect to their speakers, Sonos got to focus on what they did best while letting Apple handle the rest. Since then, many other peripherals, accessories, and connected devices have followed their lead.

Even existing wearables like the FitBit and the Pebble smartwatch have companion apps on the iPhone to handle aggregation, reporting, and updating, among other things.

With the Apple M7 motion coprocessor, Apple devices like the the iPhone 5s can do even more. For example, the M7 can store a weeks worth of motion data so that when you download a pedometer or similar app, you get a 7 day kickstart, and if you switch apps, you don't lose everything, you get the same buffer.

iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 are rumored to be taking this to the next level with Healthbook, which will collect all sorts of fitness, sleep, nutrition, and medical information, all in one place. Theoretically, Health Kit will come with that, letting developers hook into Healthbook.

That will extend the "buffer" beyond the device. Any motion tracker could share data with Healthbook, so that if you had your iPhone with your one day but your fitness band with you the next, it wouldn't matter. Progress would just get stored in the Pedometer card, for example.

If and when Apple has their own wearable on the market, then it wouldn't matter if you had your iPhone 6 or iWatch with you on any given day. Even your iPad, conceivably, in your backup while hiking. It would all just work together, syncing Healthbook via iCloud to all your devices.

In a world and future like that, a company like Nike wouldn't have to go to the trouble to make their own fitness band any more than a company like Sonos needed to keep making their own hardware controls. They can take all that effort and concentrate on making great software and services instead.

Some companies, competitors especially, will certainly want to keep making their own bands. Many companies will want to make peripherals and accessories that Apple doesn't, or at least doesn't yet, offer, like the blood sugar and pulse readers.

But those that just do things the iPhone and/or iWatch do could be far, far better served by just letting the iPhone and/or iWatch do those things.

Sure, in Nike's case it also neatly sidesteps any potential conflict of interest Tim Cook might face being Apple's CEO and Nike's board member, but it could also ultimately better serve the interests of both companies.

If you own or are interested in fitness bands like the Nike FuelBand let me know what you think — would you rather they focus on software and let Apple handle the hardware, or do you want to see a wider variety of hardware still?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Why Nike would be smart to outsource their fitness hardware to Apple and the iWatch


I recently purchased a fuel band and would be concerned that Nike stops supporting it.

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Personally, I love the look of the Fuelband. My only reason for not purchasing one was due to the several claims about sync issues.

Captain Obvious here but this looks like Nike is going to focus on their software and integrate it tightly with whatever Apple has coming up. The Fuelband was limited IMO.

And I just bought a FuelBand+ SE two months ago. It's wry limited in what it can do and the information it provides. It's a good thing I recently bought. Jawbone UP24. It a so much more worth the money and value of info it provides.

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Why does Nike even need to make their own software? Especially with HealthBook? Isn't that going to track steps, miles etc? Or will 3rd party apps still be required to gather the data? And if their data is so special that a company like Nike could track it, why not have their own sensor device(s)?

Whatever. I foolishly bought the Nike shoe fob thingy (sorry, the name eludes me) that went into my Nike shoe, I spent a day trying to calibrate the stupid thing, ruined my run. Then the next day, the iPhone/app lost my calibration. Then they came out with the GPS app, I didn't even need the shoe sensor anymore. I just said forget it and used my phone to play music.

PS- personal metadata reminds me of the pause menu of Grand Theft Auto. And Ivan Drago's training in Rocky 4. It's cute I guess, but does it really pay off?

I love the idea of a good "2nd screen" / notifier / Siri extender wearable.
I have a pebble, I like it, I just wish the stupid thing would stop repeating old notifications, buzzing all friggin day (could be the iOS's fault)

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(As if I didn't type enough) (off subject but on my mind)

I use Sleep Cycle, it tracks my sleep patterns and I tell it stuff like "ate late" "afternoon nap", etc but it does not offer suggestions on how to get a better night's sleep. So why bother entering/gathering all this data if all I get is raw data?
Give me suggestions to achieve a better nights sleep!

If it notices I'm sleeping like crap bc I've been taking naps after dinner while watching TV on the couch, set off an alarm to wake me up so I don't nap. Give me other pointers, etc.

I hope HealthBook does this. Be more that a raw data bank. Make suggestions. Give me reminders, a push to go on the run I'm skipping. Tell me that I gained 5 pounds last month bc I ate more ice cream than the previous 6 months. Or that my resting heart hate is higher bc I've been eating too much sodium.

HealthBook (or any other ME-tadata app) needs to intelligent with all this effort, not just a chart.

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I would be sad to see the FuelBand go away but as I've wore the original and now the SE for almost two years. But if it were for an eventual iWatch... I would love to have all of what the FuelBand does and then the added stuff Apple will bring with an iWatch. Later this year will be exciting.

Nike would be smarter to create an android app. There are millions of people using android phones and they are leaving major money on the table by abandoning that market.

Wearables are going to happen, but mainstream won't adopt them until some fashionable style is inherited. Nobody is going to pay $50 for a wearable device that looks good only with athletic clothing or plaid shirts. Hopefully the holiday season will be generous and deliver a practical, yet stylish wearable device.

It all comes down to whether or not the iWatch has all the features I want, doesn't it. Or if I like the look of it. Always better to have more options, especially if Healthbook will aggregate the data anyway.

Why on Earth would Nike commit and limit their offerings only on the Apple platform, which is losing market share quarter after quarter? This suggestion doesn't make any sense for a global brand like Nike. Sonos, what Sonos? Exactly. Nike is not some niche brand that can afford to play only with a tiny percentage of the market.

you know that Nike's income from apps/fuelband is like 1% right? they make clothing,shoes,etc, not electronics, so they can end fuelband division and not loose as much money as you think...

I hope you are kidding about the Sonos part.. They practically own the home networked audio business! "All the music on earth" is available through it and they aren't kidding