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Nike gets into smartwatch software with Samsung Gear S app

Nike is moving from fitness bands to smartwatches with an app for Samsung’s upcoming Gear S.

The Nike+ Running app will come pre-loaded on the Gear S, and will put the watch’s built-in GPS and cellular connections to good use. While out on a run, users can record their route and check their speed even if they’ve left their phones at home. The app also has a built-in music player and Facebook connectivity for “real-time cheers” from friends.

Samsung’s Gear S is hardly the only wearable with GPS built-in, but that feature is notably absent from other smartwatches, and from some popular fitness bands such as Jawbone Up and Fitbit Flex. Without GPS, fitness bands essentially become step counters, unable to determine speed, pacing or route on their own.

And so far, the Gear S is the only major brand smartwatch with cellular connectivity. The ability to stay connected is useful for fitness applications, where your phone may not be on hand. (It’s unclear, however, whether wireless carriers will support standalone smartwatches without charging a fortune for service.)

For Nike, the partnership is part of a bigger focus on software and services, and comes after reports in April claimed that the company would abandon its own fitness band business. Although Nike downplayed the rumors that it’s getting out of hardware entirely—and it continues to sell its current line of FuelBand activity trackers—it hasn’t denied the change in focus. The Gear S app is the first instance of Nike tapping into third-party wearables, though it may not be the last, with Apple expected to announce its own wearable device in a couple weeks.

Samsung’s Gear S, meanwhile, will start a phased rollout in October, though the company hasn’t announced specific release dates or pricing.

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