Nike +, NRC or Nike Run Club whatever you call it it took one hell of a nosedive this past summer! Nike and apple have had a long, long relationship which resulted in millions of loyal users who logged on en mass to rate it down from 5 stars to 1/2 a star in the iTunes store almost overnight. As of the update this week things have almost returned to normal. Except the trophies are all messed up but that’s nothing new.
Unfortunately we’re going to have to start with a history/business lesson here. It’s interesting because it was as big a misstep as New Coke and Blockbuster declining to buy Netflix. Interestingly my history with the app goes back to the very beginning so some of that will be in here too. Nike+ iPod was announced in 2006 and the nike+ app precursor came installed on all 4th generation iPod nanos. For Christmas my sister was kind enough to give me a nano and the chip kit you needed to plug into the bottom and wear on your shoe. This gift though generous in itself was one of the best I ever got to this day as it started a genuine love of running in me. It replaced my classic on my runs and tracked your speed and progress and could be calibrated to your gait. “Walk around to activate your sensor,” was constantly displayed in the old days. I thought I had repressed that memory until just now. It was about this time I started thinking the next step would be a half but I just couldn’t find the time. Runs now included attaboys a verbal congratulation post run which was instrumental in my actually starting to like running!
Then I transitioned to my iPod touch which some asshole houseguest stole a couple of years ago, another repressed memory until now. Perhaps I’ll have to go back and edit this post about terrible houseguests, but I dirgess. The generation I had still required the chip and sensor to be plugged into the bottom but now I could see the trophies I earned on my device as soon as my run was done. Happy Face 🙂 Nike+ GPS which didn’t require the chip and sensor was first available in 2010 with the introduction of the iPhone 3GS, I got this in the fall of 2011 when Richard got the new 4s and I took his old 3GS. This transition was a difficult one as transitioning to the new app didn’t import all of my old data. Sad face 😦 but I offer my 2012 anniversary trophy as proof of a long term relationship.
Things ticked on pretty much like that through updates and tweaks through a 4s, a 5, my first 5s and the 5s I have now, until this summer. But updates usually meant problems typically disappearing trophies, problems getting your music to play in the app or runs would stop for no reason. Soon an update would happen and the patch would fix it, eventually the trophies would trickle back at least on the website. But good things were added with updates too like the ability to add Nike friends, training plans and leaderboards to track your progress against your running friends, in case like me you don’t have any to run with in real life.
So why is this a business lesson? Well Nike with the help of Apple created and OWNED the fitness app market. Everyone had/wanted an iPod and then an iPhone and the Nike app came preinstalled, for a while I think it was one of those ones you couldn’t delete. It was their market to loose. Every active user supplied an email address with their iTunes and later with in the app. Nike had a captive audience to pitch their gear and they still do, sometimes with daily emails. Even though its a free app it makes Nike BIG MONEY! Messing it up, like they did this summer, may very well have cost them a lot!
Now there is Strata, Mapmyrun, apple fitness and every phone has a fitness app included. When they messed it up people had options now. From what I’ve heard a lot of these were better than Nike Plus before the update this summer came. People were largely still using it, me included because of the history they had with it. The lifetime pace and miles, run colour progression, trophies and displayed PRs kept us loyal. I’m sure those emails got more than a few people to pony up for gear hell I even know one person who did who doesn’t even have the app!
I’m pretty immune to email advertising and most of my running gear is thrifted, made by me or no name and bought on sale. But I occasionally clicked on those emails and sometimes showed honey how cute a top or skirt is I even wondered out loud if tennis would end differently for me if I tried it again, just for the skirt. Hell those emails even got me to the sale page holding my visa it was just the shipping that held me back. After watching me run in mismatched thrifted gear Richard went out and got me EVERYTHING I needed for cold weather running for Christmas. Almost all of it Nike and super cute! They got at least a couple hundred out of those emails from me this year. I can’t be the only one.
So how badly did they F$#K it up, pretty damn badly! First of all now it was green and called Nike Run Club cool, rebranding I get it. Yeah they added an in app social Instagram like feed for your friends, alright I guess. Now it could pick up your heart rate from your watch, ok. PS I quite like all that now. But… Trophies were gone, PR’s were totally screwy, runs quit for no reason, you were booted from in progress training programs (right before September races). All the sneakers you’ve ever owned were active again and no music connectivity when it is running. Overnight it was ruined. Routes you built and heat maps were gone but now I can post a pic to my 8 friends, not worth it! Personally I noticed that email that said I might get booted from my training plan for my 1st 1/2 and I turned off auto updates in iTunes for my phone in time. I did install the iPhone app on my iPad so I saw the S&@T show up close. After my 1/2 I updated which put me in the thick of it.
The Facebook page was full of rants and calls to return to the old version right this minute. Nike did not oblige, at least not quickly. Again to their credit people seemed to be answering comments from the page. Here we sit about 8 months later and most of the app has slowly returned to the way it was before. It took months for the glitch that ended runs, especially when using your Apple Watch to be fixed. Before the update the Apple Watch worked perfectly it just didn’t read the heart rate. The music controls on the watch seemed to go in and out but that got restored this past week. The runs ending and lack of music controls meant that you could no longer keep your phone in your pocket and use your watch exclusively while on the road. Personal records were restored about 3 months after the update but they were messed up and trophies trickled back on the website over time. This past week trophies were restored in the app some I earned but never received like roadless traveler and sneaker head finally appeared but other like night owl are only on the website, still others like 7x a week appeared in both places even though I never earned them. Most upsetting some of my big ones like platinum high mile disappeared from the website too. Plus other trophies I earned like 12 months in a row just never, ever showed up anywhere. Sad face 😦
The coach program previously was pretty prescribed and uninspired but I quite liked it. Mind you it was somewhat maligned online. It told you what to do each day and sent you notifications like ‘you have an 8k run today.’ and in the app it gave written instructions like: ‘Interval Run: warm up for 1.6 km then run at an increasing speed for 4.8km. Then cool down for the last 1.6 km’. The only in run feedback was,” you’ve reached the 1/2 way point”. I used it last year for my 10k in may and my 1/2 in October. It would recommend beginner, intermediate or advanced presumably based on your current milage but you could pick any level you wanted to. I learned during the 10k to sign up on a Sunday so that your long runs weren’t scheduled on a Tuesday for example. At the end of each week a nice summary page became available. Critics complained about the lack of flexibility and in run direction. Since the big update came in late August it booted many from training programs, who didn’t turn off auto updates, just before their big fall races. To their credit Nike made PDFs of the old plans available right away.
The new coach program is so flexible it might as well not exist. You tell it how much you’re currently running how many runs you want to do a week and it allows you to assign runs after the fact on any day you want. Run instructions are generally more vague then they were previously. There is still no in run feedback and I haven’t been able to get the summary page for my 10k plan to load even once. Some people might like the flexibility in the new program but I think somewhere in between would make the greatest number of people the most happy. Give us back the old programs but add in run verbal instructions. Let us pick between 3 and 5 runs a week (beginner, intermediate and advanced) but let us assign the days of the week we will run. For example long runs Saturday and speed work Monday and build and build our programs around that.
So many popular features were ended abruptly just as a new social feed was added to the app. It included lots of cool stickers and sayings you could add to your run pictures. This made it so, so easy to share your run from there to Instagram and the tag, along with the #NRC hashtag was already on there, perfectly every time. The combination of factors made it seem like Nike didn’t care about their users but really, really wanted to grow their Instagram presence.
The app overall is still slower and more glitchy than it was previously, something I noticed this morning when I was taking pictures for this post. My old 5s started to charge inconsistently but I still use it for rainy races and runs. If I can get it to charge I stick my SIM card in it and no big deal if it ends up fried. Murphy’s law is in effect here because as soon as I got a new phone every time I plugged in the old one, it charged. When I was booting them up for the picture the old app loaded instantly and ran smoothly while the new one took forever and I had to keep touching the old one to keep the light on for the picture.
For the most part though, the great things about the Nike running app have been restored over the last 8 months. I wonder how many people finally switched to something else in the meantime. I also wonder how Nike got this so so so wrong? There must be people out there that have the job of managing this app, they must be smart and one would think at least some of them run. It’s nothing new that big updates caused glitches that would take some time to be patched, but this was so much bigger than that! Why didn’t they hold the update back until November or December when race season was over for many runners? There is no good time for every international runner but Nike is a US corporation after all. Why didn’t they revert right away when it was clear that got it so wrong and try again? Why didn’t they incorporate verbal in run instructions into the coach program that users had been long begging for?
Are you a NRC user. How did you find the update?