Does Apple’s Nike+ Watch stand up to a triathlon?

With an open water feature, we test drive the sporty smartwatch and see if there's brawn behind the brains.

Robert Chilton November 16, 2016

Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for clearing the mind – but, boy, it can get dull sometimes.

After ploughing up and down a pool for weeks to get in shape for the Dubai International Triathlon, EDGAR was beginning to feel that brain numbness that can result from doing a task over and over again – goodness knows how Michael Phelps did it for so many years at such a high level.

We needed a boost, a change of direction, a fresh impetus. And then along came the new Apple Watch Nike+. Is it more than just the Apple Watch Series 2 with a Nike band? We wanted to find out. 

With two weeks to go to the scary red circle in the diary that marked the day of the triathlon, EDGAR strapped on the sporty timepiece and dived in. We were part of a three-man team, taking on the 1.9km swim, while two teammates tackled the 90km cycle and the 21km run. 

Weeks spent trying – and failing – to keep count of the laps completed in the pool suddenly became a thing of the past as the watch kept an accurate log for us and the total metres covered. Heart rate, calories burned and time elapsed are also measured on the highly legible and bright screen. It was like having a coach in the pool with us and the numbers ticking away on the face kept us motivated. A quick glance shows we had swum 900 metres. Let’s go for another 100 metres to make it a nice round number, shall we? 

As with the standard Series 2, the watch has 12 workouts to choose from such as outdoor run, pool swim, rowing, and indoor cycle. Tap the desired workout, set goals (or leave them open) and away you go. Crucially, Apple has recognised the triathlete as a potential customer and provides an option to choose ‘open water swim’ as well as ‘pool swim’ – a big thumbs up from us. The GPS in the watch tracks your sea swim and sends a squiggly little map of your route to your iPhone, along with all your data. 

The watch is ideal for swimmers. It’s water resistant to 50 metres and the perforated strap, that comes in four colours, is breathable and lightweight. Once you’ve completed your swim, scroll the crown a few times and the speaker blurts out a noise to eject the water from the watch using sound vibration. A quick swipe of the face takes you to the ‘stop workout’ button. Save your workout, and the data pings to your phone, helping to fill up those multi-coloured activity rings that soon become a daily obsession. 

Motivation and encouragement are a massive part of both the first Apple Watch, Series 2 and the Nike+. Complete an exercise goal and you receive a star, which feels like being back at school. But the really clever bit shares your workout data with pals in your Apple Watch network and enables you to see how much exercise they’re doing. Nothing gets you off the sofa quicker than receiving a ding to tell you your friend has just burned 250 calories on a run. It’s essentially a fitness version of Facebook status updates.

Being able to track both our pool laps and our metres in the sea in the final days before the Dubai Triathlon was an invaluable coaching aid for EDGAR and gave us confidence to know we could actually swim 1.9km without sinking to the sea bed with exhaustion.

With this little gadget strapped to his wrist, Michael Phelps might have found swimming a whole lot more interesting. 

The Apple Watch Nike+ is available in the UAE starting at AED 1,499.