Apple Watch Nike+ review

Updated April 2017: NikeLab has just announced an exclusive new "neutral-toned" style Apple Watch NikeLab, which is Space Gray with a Light Bone/Black band. It's otherwise identical in form and function to the standard Apple Watch Nike+. If you like it, you'll need to get it directly from (opens in new tab) starting April 27.

Back in October, Apple announced Watch Series 2, which brought the global positioning system (GPS), swim-proofing, longer battery life, and a brighter display to the wrist. In addition to continuing their existing partnership with fashion house Hermés, Apple also announced an all new one: with athletics company Nike. Given the fitness focus on Apple Watch Series 2 — and Apple CEO, Tim Cook's position on the Nike board — it made total sense. At least in concept. So, how's the execution?

I've spent three months with Apple Watch Series 2 and a month with Apple Watch Nike+, and here's the answer!

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The Watch

Apple Watch Nike+ is a variant of Apple Watch Series 2. More specifically, a variant of the aluminum Apple Watch Series 2, the type previously branded as "Sport". There aren't any anodized gold or rose gold options in the Nike+ line though, but these are silver and space black, along with distinctive Nike+ bands and a watch face to match.

There's no stainless steel option for Apple Watch Nike+. Since it's designed for health and fitness, though, the sportier aluminum version is the better fit. Inside, though, there's the new dual-core Apple S2 system-in-package (SIP) with built-in GPS, which means it can lap the original when it comes to performance. It can also track your running, walking, wheeling, and swimming routes, even if you don't have your iPhone with you.

Nike+ seems biased towards running, but it's got the same swim-proofing as every other Series 2, so you can do your laps in a pool or swim along the coast and, every time your watch breaks surface, your route will still get mapped. Regardless of how you're working out, the double-bright screen will also make it easier to see your stats, even in the sun.

On the watchOS side, there's extra integration for the Nike+ app. If you don't already have it, you'll be prompted to download and install it as part of the setup process. From there, you can access it via Siri or right from the two special Nike+ watch faces, one digital, one analog. They have BIG, BOLD numbers on them, so it's easy to see while you're out for a run — either in silver or in electric green "volt". And if you're not out for a run, the Nike+ complication will stare at you, prompting you, until you go.

That's the biggest advantage of Apple Watch Nike+ — it ties you into the larger Nike+ community and that's great because it's less about brand and more about lifestyle. It's also great for people who are intrinsically motivated. Activity Sharing on iOS does wonders for this already, but Nike+ goes beyond Apple hardware.

It becomes a very literal extension of the "just do it" philosophy, making sure you've "just done it", both now and next time.

To be honest, though, I got more out of Apple's Activity Sharing than Nike+. Both are great but my friends are all on Activity Sharing, not Nike+, so that was a better experience for me. It'll vary for each individual though, and that's the real advantage of having both.

Apple Watch Series 2 + watchOS 3

Rather than recapitulate the Series 2 hardware or watchOS 3 software reviews, I'll simply point you to my colleague, Serenity Caldwell's original reviews, and my second opinion follow up. Everything we wrote there applies here.

The bands

Apple Watch Nike+ comes in a "collection", or a series of different case and band colors. You can't currently buy Apple Watch Nike+ bands separately. Apple Watch Hermès started similarly but the bands eventually did go on sale separately. It remains to be seen if Apple Watch Nike+ will follow along, but unless and until it does, you should make sure you get the color you want right up front.

Apple Watch Models

Apple Watch Models (Image credit: iMore)

Here's the full Apple Watch Nike+ collection, as of the time of this review:

  • 38mm or 42mm space gray case with black and volt (green) sports band.
  • 38mm or 42mm space gray case with black and cool gray sports band.
  • 38mm or 42mm silver case with silver and volt (green) sports band.
  • 38mm or 42mm silver case with silver and white sports band.

There's also an exclusive, special edition NikeLab version with a light bone and black band.

The sports bands, as the name implies, are variations on the classic Apple sports band introduced with the original Apple Watch. Made of fluoroelastomer, it's water and sweat proof, resilient, and easy to both put on and tuck away. All of which makes it ideal for exercise. The big difference is the perforations that run, staggered three across, almost the entire length of the band. Not only do they look hella cool, they make the sport band breathe better.

When Apple debuted the woven nylon band back in March of 2016, I liked it better than the sport band because it was more breathable. The Nike+ variant of the sport band, though, gives it a run for its money.

I do wish it was available in more colors, though. Black, white, and volt (green) are fine. But this design is also begging for a shocking yellow, neon pink, and even a bright orange trim. Don't even get me started on Product (RED). Hopefully we'll see those eventually — maybe if/when the bands go on sale separately?

Like with the casing, there aren't any fancier versions of Nike+ bands available. Nothing in leather or steel. Since Apple Watch Nike+ is compatible with the full range of Apple Watch bands, though, from woven nylon to Hermès, when you're done working out you can still dress it up just as fancy as you want.

That's the huge advantage of Apple Watch Nike+ not simply being tied to NIke+ services but being part of the Apple Watch family as well.

The conclusion

With Apple Watch Series 2, Apple coalesced their messaging from a little something for everyone to a real focus on health and fitness. The other aspects are still there, from excellent notification handling to super-convenient Apple Pay and remote control, but activity and workouts are front-and-center in the marketing. And Apple Watch Nike+ is front-and-center for activity and workouts.

Apple Watch Nike+ gives you everything you get in the regular aluminum Apple Watch Series 2 and more. You get the exclusive Nike+ watch face and bands, and tight Nike+ integration into complications and Siri. All for the same price of $369 for the 38mm and $399 for the 42mm.

I'd go so far as to say that if you're even remotely interested in Nike+ or those exclusive bands, you should get Apple Watch Nike+ over the regular Apple Watch Series 2 without a second thought. If you later change your mind about either, you're just a swap or a swipe away from having that regular Apple Watch Series 2 anyway. If you later change your mind the other way, well, you'll currently need to buy another watch...

Even though I ultimately preferred Apple's Activity Sharing and workout app to the Nike+ integration, if I were getting an aluminum Apple Watch Series 2, Apple Watch Nike+ is absolutely the one I'd get. In fact, it's the one I got for one of my family members for Christmas, who was ecstatic.

I very much hope, like Hermès, Apple Watch Nike+ isn't a one off but rather the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Power Rangers Unite!!! What an ugly *** band.
  • Got one for my son for Christmas. It's very nice. Sent from the iMore App
  • Got mine at launch in late October. Suggest getting the black and grey strap if you want one that's a bit less in your face. The strap is really comfortable and probably the highlight of the added features.
    Personally I find the Nike faces lack the customisation that I'd like so I don't use them and the Nike Running Club is a dreadful walled garden; once your data is in there, Nike think they own it and won't let you share it anywhere else. Other platforms such as Garmin do allow the data to be shared with services like Strava which has far better tools for post-run analysis than the very basic features provided by Nike. For what it's worth, the Nike watch app does work well, seems accurate and has had a few updates since launch to iron out some early bugs. I no longer use it though for the reasons previously stated. All of the serious runners that I know use Strava and by denying it's existence Nike will only alienate people who should be it's core audience.
    Despite my anti-Nike rant I do recommend the watch over the standard series 2; there's no downside to owning one and has features that you can't get any other way if you later decide that you want them.
  • Thanks for your comments, I'm close to buying an Apple Watch 2 to log my running [I've used my iPhone for this intermittently over the years, trying various apps]. The Nike version of the watch adds custom faces & bands, are there any other differences that can't be installed from the app store [such as Nike+ app]?
  • Nothing that I'm aware of (except for being able to use the Nike Volt (fluro green-yellow colour) on some of the regular watch faces and I think there might be a few siri commands that are Nike watch only (but I've never used them so not certain on that).
    I have to add that currently I'm still waiting for the ideal Watch running app for me. Strava integration is vital (to me) and the few that offer it have proved buggy in their early versions. Strava have promised their Watch app will be updated in early 2017 to do the GPS functionality so I'm pinning my hopes on that. In the mean time, I wear my Apple Watch for everything except running. I've reverted to my Garmin Forerunner and HR chest strap because it's the most reliable way of getting everything I need; probably not what you wanted to hear!
  • Personally I think it looks rather brilliant, something that a mutated wasp/human would wear. Posted via the iMore App
  • Still prefer my Garmin Fenix 3. I love big, bulky and round watches. Tons of watch faces and you can make your own as well. Shares your workouts with Strava and Nike+ too. Charges about once a week.
  • I'm sending my Nike watch 2 back to Apple due to using the watch running it will not stop when I push to stop timing my run so my run times are wrong. My wife's watch 2 is the same using Nikes app.
    I would use Map My Run app but I have to carry my iPhone for the app to work.
    Back to carrying my iPhone when running.
  • The touchscreen is fairly ropey at the end of run I have to admit and plain old useless when even slightly damp. This won't happen but Apple need to put a couple of extra physical buttons on the watch if they want runners to ditch their Garmins and use the Apple Watch instead.
  • Does this give you the other watch faces that are included in the Apple Watch Series 2 in addition to the two Nike+ watch faces, or is it in place of?
  • You can use all of the other watch faces. You also get the option on the other watch faces to choose volt (bright yellow) as a color choice.
  • Can you chose volt even if you get the black and gray version? Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm not sure. I have the black/volt band and I have volt as a choice of color.
  • Yes, the Volt color options are always there - independent of the band selected.
  • I enjoyed the article. It is a thorough review. One question, in the photos some of the watches have a blue color scheme. Is that an option? I have the Apple Nike + with the black/volt band and the only options are volt, white or a combination of volt and white for the Nike watch faces. With the other model or band is blue an option on the Nike watch faces? I looked at other photos on the Apple site and do not see blue. It looks nice, I wish it was an option on mine.
  • No, that's just bad color balance in the photo. The blue you're seeing is really black.
  • Thanks I get your point that it's a color balance issue and I think you're right, but looking at it from that perspective, it's the white watch face choice which is appearing as blue on the black background. I still wish Nike had made that color.
  • Really interested!
  • I want one!
  • Question. I don't have an Apple Watch, but I'm a runner and am very interested in buying a GPS watch from some brand that also has 2-3 gigs of audio storage, so I don't have to carry a phone to listen to music. Does this watch have such capability? Thanks.
  • The Series 2 Watches do, yes. But I think you can only put music on there if it's in your Apple Music / iTunes library...? Can somebody confirm?