Running mates: What's going on with Apple and Nike?

Nike Fuelband SE

Nike's Fuelband SE is one of the best fitness bands around

Reports have suggested that an Apple/Nike hook-up exactly what's behind Nike's spree of layoffs.

One site says that it had word from Apple insiders that claimed the rumoured iWatch device will actually be less smartwatch and more smartband with heavy integration of Nike software and perhaps the Nike Fuel fitness currency that allows wearers to tick-off daily movement goals. The report says the device will launch in time for Christmas.

Beyond that there have been several recent pointers that have us kicking ourselves for not seeing the potential launch of a Apple/Nike smartband coming a mile away. How about the hire of Nike's designer Ben Shaffer, who reportedly played a leading role in the design of the FuelBand? Or the reported pick up of long-time Nike fitness consultant Jay Blahnik?

These hires could have been coups for Apple but it seems more than likely that both went Nike's consent to assist the greater cause. And then there's Nike's VP of Digital Sport, Stefan Olander claiming he "hopes" Apple does launch an iWatch in order to "continue the partnership in a meaningful way."

We've also been awash with reports claiming the iWatch wouldn't be so much of a smartwatch, but more of an all-encompassing health and fitness band with iOS integration. Apple has reportedly been stock-piling medical tech experts, with experience in biometrics like vein mapping and blood monitoring, while speculation has suggested the iWatch will include sleep tracking tech and the most accurate motion sensor yet.

Last year we even speculated: "So will the iWatch be more like a Nike Fuelband on speed than a souped up iPod nano for your wrist? Sure looks that way."

Tellingly, despite launching two generations of the FuelBand, Nike has so far neglected to release a compatible app for Android despite claiming one was in the works six months ago. Surely if Nike were truly serious about conquering the fitness wearable's market it wouldn't alienate three quarters of the market. Perhaps it was preparing for something bigger all along?

Get cooking

Cook likes Nike. That much is clear. His appointment to the board in 2005, while still Apple COO may have underpinned the friendship and fostered the partnership. Even more so than his predecessor, Apple's leader seems to value what the health and fitness sector means to Apple and its future.

Perhaps there was more to Tim Cook showing up at an Apple launch event wearing a FuelBand. It could well have been a clanging great hint when Cook refused to discuss the iWatch but singled out the FuelBand for praise during the D11 conference in 2013?

The clues have been there all along: Nike and Apple seem to have something big and it's only a matter of time before that thin veil is removed.

Fuelband SE

It's Fuel Goal Time!

It makes sound business sense too. Nike would surely be happy to leave the hardware side to Apple if its Nike Fuel currency was transplanted into any new fitness band. While it has dabbled successfully with fitness accessories like wristbands and watches down the years, Nike's vast empire is emphatically dependent on sportswear sales; trainers, not trackers.

For Apple, they'd be getting expertise from a trusted partner with huge name recognition, rather than plotting its own course in an already densely populated fitness market. Why create a new, competing fitness portal when it has a ready-made solution, well refined over almost a decade?

Together the pair could forge an unstoppable partnership in the wearable tech sector that could leave upstarts like FitBit and Jawbone in the dust, while supressing efforts from more traditional rivals Samsung, LG and the rest.

While a co-branded device is probably unlikely, with the full backing of Nike and the integration of everything the FuelBand did well, Apple's wearable would surely have what it takes to sprint clear of the field once again.

Chris Smith

A technology journalist, writer and videographer of many magazines and websites including T3, Gadget Magazine and He specializes in applications for smartphones, tablets and handheld devices, with bylines also at The Guardian, WIRED, Trusted Reviews and Wareable. Chris is also the podcast host for The Liverpool Way. As well as tech and football, Chris is a pop-punk fan and enjoys the art of wrasslin'.