Thursday, October 6, 2011

Apple iPod Nano 6g v1.2

The other day Apple introduced an update to the iPod Nano 6g that I use for running with the Nike+ receiver and shoe transmitter.

The update included the opportunity to dispense with the white Nike+ dongle that hangs off the 30-pin port (shown here on the left). In fact, it permits for the first time the use of its internal accelerometer to record run pace and mileage instead of relying on the separate shoe sensor.

This is quite exciting because...
  • There is only one 30-pin port, and the iPod Nano lacks integrated bluetooth. So if that port was freed up, one could use a small bluetooth dongle and pair the Nano with bluetooth earphones. Yes, in other words, ditch that pesky cord that is always bouncing around and interfering with arm motion while running.
  • Also, I wondered whether the Nano accelerometer would be less accurate than the accelerometer built into the shoe sensor: reasoning being that footfalls should be more accurate than torso movement: the Nano being clipped to one's clothing.

So I eagerly downloaded v1.2 of the system software for the Nano and installed it via iTunes. Things went smoothly and one good piece of news is that stored data was preserved: in other words, it didn't wipe out my pre-existing records of workouts on the Nano. So far, so good. Let's see if the internal accelerometer does as good a job as the Nike+ foot sensor.

To do the experiment, I ran on a treadmill for exactly 12 minutes at 7.5 mph (8:00 min/mile pace), once with the internal sensor and once with the dongle inserted.

The new version of the iPod Nano user guide recommends "Clip iPod nano to your waistband for better accuracy." So I obeyed and did the experiment so configured.

(Note: I began the timer when the treadmill was at 3.0 mph (walking pace), and held the increase-speed button until it hit 7.5 mph. Total time spent including the ramp up in speed was 12 minutes. Assuming the treadmill is accurate, the total distance should be just under 1.5 miles.)

Here are the results:

Neither sensor was calibrated beforehand. I was pleasantly surprised how close they were to each other. (The one on the left is the run recorded by the internal sensor.)

(Seems within the margin for error I've experienced with repeats using the Nike+ foot sensor. Also both sensors were slightly optimistic. Even without calibration, assuming the treadmill is correct, it is within single digit percentage points of reality.)

I was disappointed though that when I synced the iPod Nano using iTunes, it only uploaded the Nike+ foot sensor session to the Nike+ website. So it could only display one of the graphs.

I went into the Nano while it was mounted as a drive on my Mac. And extracted the raw data.

(See how to do that in my 2007 blog post here.)

It is mildly interesting that using the internal sensor records only distance (in km) every 10 seconds. But using the Nike+ foot sensor it recorded both speed and distance data every 10 seconds.

I plotted and overlaid the distance data (converted to speed) on top of one another in Excel:

As you can see the data are pretty comparable.

Hmm, now the dongle has been deemed unnecessary, I guess I could go wireless. I see the preferred set-up is to pair that tiny i10s bluetooth dongle for the iPod port with a pair of those Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 earphones. My birthday is coming up. So I think I will reward myself...

Update: December 1st 2011: I have new and serious doubts about the usefulness of the built-in accelerometer based on a treadmill run. See Apple iPod Nano 6g v1.2 (Part 2).

43 comments:

  1. Does this mean the dongle and shoe sensor still work after the update. Did you check if the shoe sensor was actually working and not that both tests were using the iPod accelerometer and ignoring the nike shoe sensor?

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  2. Yes, when you plug the dongle in and try to start a workout it asks you to walk around so it can find the sensor. Also, the raw data collected is different as mentioned above.

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  3. do you know if this update "upgrades" pedometers in 4th and 5th gen? Older gen. have pedometers built in as well.

    Great post! EXACTLY what I was looking for!

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  4. I doubt it very much. 6G was a big change in user interface. Plus I'm sure Apple would have announced it as such if it could have upgraded my 5G Nano.

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  5. Great review! It has helped me so much. Many thanks

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  6. Thank you so much - I had been looking for ages for a comparison like this. Much appreciated!!!

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  7. did you resolve the issue with uploading your run to the nike+ site?

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  8. Sorry I haven't tried again yet. I guess if Nike hasn't already fixed this, they will.

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  9. So, what is your conclusion about it? Is the same to use the internal accelerometer or is better to user the nike+ ipod kit? I'm asking this because I just received the kit and if with the 1.2 update the nano is as accurate as the shoe sensor I can return it... Thanks in advance!

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  10. Based on my single test, I'd say return it.

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  11. my run from using the receiver plugged in and same run from not using the receiver plugged in were almost identical over a 3 mile jog.

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  12. Excellent. Another data point that confirms the foot pod is no longer necessary.

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  13. Great info and analysis. This is just what I've been searching for. Thanks!

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  14. excellent. LOVE the idea of now getting a bluetooth.
    super review. very nicely done.

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  15. Do you know how to calibrate the nano now? I have been looking for pictures as I do not seeing any calibrate options at the end of my run as the user manual says I should.

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  16. Great review! What's your opinion regarding use of the Polar Wearlink+ heart rate monitor? I suppose this would need the Nike+ plugin accessory to work with the Nano 6G, is this correct? If so then we would need the same accessory to have the Nano 6G work with so-called compatible gym equipment, right?

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  17. I like it. It's the one with the red Nike+ logo on the front. Works reliably.

    See http://sandiway.blogspot.com/2010/09/ipod-nano-6g.html

    Yes, I think it needs the dongle. I lost mine recently. I have yet to replace it.

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  18. a long-shot, but here goes...

    Do you know if the Nike + iPod Watch Remote works on the latest generation nano without requiring the Nike+ app to be open in 'workout mode' (along with Nike+ dongle to be attached)? Can it operate independently of each other in unison with your new 'going wireless' findings?

    My assumption is that the nano would still need the Nike+ dongle to function the watch remote.

    Sorry if my comment is a little obscure, but I still have this legacy device from Nike and I am aware that they, and Apple, are no longer supporting it on the newer iOS platforms. This means that 2 iOS apps "Nike + iPod" and Nike+ GPS" (for Touch/iPhone) will no longer enable remote functionality for anything above iOS4. As we now have iOS5 available, it seems Nike has completely dropped the ball and left great products to die needlessly. It also seems that Apple has removed iTunes sync with Nikeplus.com and via the settings you must wirelessly push your workout results to Nikeplus.com directly. Shame really.

    I vaguely understand that the nano uses Nike+iPod and not the Nike+GPS app as it's default app. Is this correct?

    There could have been a very good opportunity to go truly wireless or 'minimalist' to hide your nano away instead of fiddling with the touchscreen, when changing tracks or volume. Particularly if you are sweaty from your workout.

    My dream would be to have the remote on my wrist, my nano tucked away in a concealed pocket along with wireless earphones -- which looks like you may be opting for in the not to distant future.

    Any thoughts or help would be appreciated.

    And thank you for the excellent research.

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  19. not sure if this helps, but most of the bluetooth headsets that are out have audio controls. i run with the hd10 and it have volume as well as track and play\pause.

    if you run with a nano on the wrist, then you should be able to get your run data verbally by hitting the sleep button on the nano.

    the question would be what the 1.2 version shows on the nike+ screen. does it have pace info?

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  20. It helps somewhat, but would you really want to be fiddling with your earpeice to change tracks and volumes when a remote on the wrist is much more adequate, particularly if you don't want sweat in or around your ears/devices.

    Having the nano on the wrist would still be a target for sweat and potential damage. I don't know, I'd be interested to hear how people 'carry' their gear whilst working out.

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  21. it looks like my earlier question has been answered. You still require the Nike+ dongle in order to enable remote or heart rate monitor functions to work. I'm guessing without the dongle, the options on the menu become 'unavailable' again. Which would mean a true wireless system is still just out of reach if you intend to use bluetooth dongle.

    See the review here (last paragraph of fitness capability):
    http://www.macworld.com/article/162964/2011/10/hands_on_with_the_new_ipod_nano_software.html

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  22. Cool link!

    The iPhone (from 3GS) has both bluetooth and the ability to communicate with the Nike+ footpod without the dongle.

    I wish Apple had built the Nano with the chipset to do this as well. I don't mind if it has higher power consumption, just make it a bit bigger. It'll still be tiny and very portable.

    Having it on the waistband is what is recommended, but you can't see the screen.

    This headband is very interesting:

    http://www.o-synce.com/en/products/running-fitness/data4vision-cap.html

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  23. Cool product augmented reality is the wave of the future (hopefully it will work well if it's water/sweat-proofed.

    we should have a linkfest, check these out:

    http://www.jabra.com/sites/mobile/na-us/products/pages/jabrasport.aspx

    http://www.scosche.com/mytrek

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  24. the motorola sd10 is completely sweat proof. and the track and volume function are pretty easy to hit. basically the controls would be right behind the ear. i have not had a problem with it for the last 3 months. i had an sd9, but it was not sweat proof.

    if you are worried about sweat on the nano, there is a company that waterproofs the nano. basically you can swim with the thing.

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  25. sandiway. curios what the nano screen shows when you are in a run. does it show pace, distance and time? could you maybe take a pic of the screen in a run?

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  26. one question, What about the accuracy of the Nike+ (without Dongle) if I use it with a Clock Wrist Band ?. I have the nike + sport Kit & I want to begin to usi only the Nike+ of the ipod alone.
    Thank !!! great info

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  27. Good question about the accuracy on the wrist. I'd guess that the arm motion might confuse the accelerometer. Definitely an experiment to try for someone with a wrist band (I don't have one).

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  28. Thanks so much for this article! The upgrade came at an unfortunate time for me because my parents just mailed me up a Nike+ ipod sport kit as a birthday present (to use with my nano), but it looks like I should just return it. Oh well. Thanks for confirmation that that Nano can now do it all on its own.

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  29. Hi, I just Try with my wirst & compare with Endomondo of my Blackberry. The Ipod Nano: Says 7,23 KM & the Endomondo 6,93 Km. I will try more days and will give you the data.

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  30. Looking forward to seeing how accurate it is on the wrist as well. I will be wearing it as a watch during the day anyways and I'd hate to have to take it off the wrist band before every workout.

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  31. Just upgrade to 1.2 and was happy to see your results but how do you calibrate it. Maybe I'm just missing it but I can't find it. Thanks so much.

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  32. Sandiway,

    When I plug my ipod nano 6g into my computer there are no data files (I have a pc). Any thoughts on how to extract the raw data for speed and distance from the ipod?

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  33. awesome, I want to have it, the work of steve jobs is always amazing

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  34. How do you sync two different runner's runs to two to different nike plus accounts without the kit?

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  35. Let me try to make the question clearer: How do you sync two different runner's runs to two different nike plus accounts without the kit from the same ipod? With the nike+ kit, I could sync each runner to a sensor; now how do I do that if I don't want to use the kit?

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  36. I don't think there is any way to select a runner before the workout. All of the parameters are settable for a single person only. Maybe put that in as a suggestion to Apple for v1.3?

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  37. I was able to extract the raw data off of my ipod, however there is only distance data recorded (at 10s intervals) and no speed data. Do you know why this is happening? In the image you provide above, your lower data acquisition has values of 0.0000 for the speed, which is what I am getting.

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  38. Yes, that's correct. You can reconstruct the speed from the fact that the data sampling rate is 10 seconds.

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  39. Okay excellent that's what I had done. Thank you!

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  40. Since the 1.2 update, the synchronisation with nike+ doesn't work. When i go on http://nikeplusactive.nike.com..., the data is not updated although i can see the training on itunes. Does anyone have any idea about this issue ? (excuse my english, i'm a french guy). Thanks for your help.

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  41. Thanks for sharing this nice post.If you are like me very much in love nike zoom rookie then welcome to your return visit.

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  42. This is a nice post. Answers the same doubt I had. Although your December result is somewhat disappointing, I think I will try out the Nano on the waist and see how it works out. I may still get a sensor and use it with iPhone. If I don't use it, I am sure my wife will use it.

    Thanks for the nice post.

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