Today in Apple history: Nike+iPod brings fitness tracking to your pocket

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The Nike+iPod Sports Kit was a nifty innovation.
The Nike+iPod Sport Kit was a nifty innovation.
Photo: Apple

July 13: Today in Apple history: Nike+iPod Sport Kit brings fitness tracking to your pocket July 13, 2006: Apple releases its first activity tracker, the Nike+iPod Sport Kit, which combines Cupertino’s popular music player with a smart pedometer.

The product marks Apple’s first step toward the kind of mobile health-tracking initiatives it will investigate in the following decade — most notably through its iOS Health app and the Apple Watch.

The rise of health tracking

The launch of Nike+iPod Sport Kit coincided with a broad push toward health-oriented devices across the tech industry. Later that year, the Nintendo Wii would join the trend with motion-tracking games like Wii Sports.

While the Nike+iPod Sport Kit didn’t sell close to those numbers, it was actually a pretty smart device in its own right. It boasted a miniature sensor that fit under the insole of a Nike+ shoe. A similarly sized receiver plugged into an iPod nano to track workouts.

Apple's smart sensor fit into Nike+ shoes
Apple’s smart sensor fit into Nike+ shoes.
Photo: Hamish2k/Wikipedia CC

Nike+iPod Sport Kit: More than just a fitness tracker

The software went beyond tracking steps. It also allowed users to check statistics from past workouts and set fitness goals. Plus, they could hear (via a computerized voice that preceded Siri by five years) how far they had run, how fast their pace was and how far they were from their destination.

“We’re working with Nike to take music and sport to a new level,” Steve Jobs said in a statement. “The result is like having a personal coach or training partner motivating you every step of your workout.”

The Nike+iPod Sport Kit prefigured another shift in Apple policies, too. In the aftermath of the product’s launch, a report by University of Washington researchers highlighted a security flaw in the RFID-powered device that opened up the possibility of letting unwanted third parties track users without their knowledge.

Today, user privacy stands as one of Apple’s core concerns. While the Nike+iPod didn’t bring about this shift, the pre-iPhone mobile device highlighted one of the big security issues that defined the past decade.

Did you own a Nike+iPod Sport Kit? Leave your comments and recollections below.