New Balance RunIQ is Android rival to Apple Watch Nike+

New Balance this week announced at CES a run-focused smartwatch that's designed to go head-to-head with Apple's Nike+ fitness watch. The two high-end devices have a number of similarities — and some key differences.

new balance runiq watch
Credit: New Balance

Boston-based New Balance made headlines from the Nevada desert yesterday, when it announced at CES 2017 its first wearable device, the $300 RunIQ smartwatch.

Unlike many other smartwatches designed to look like traditional watches with fitness features packed in, RunIQ looks more like a traditional runner's GPS watch (a la Garmin or Fitbit), but it runs Android Wear, Google's OS for wearables. RunIQ also appears to be designed to compete directly with Apple's running-focused Apple Watch Nike+ Series 2, and it has many similar features, such as a social component, and virtual and in-person run clubs.

What you need to know about New Balance Run IQ

The RunIQ watch features hardware components from Intel and software from both Google (for the OS) and Strava (for run tracking and related social features). It has built-in GPS, heart-rate monitoring, a lap button, interval capability, and "marathon distance" battery, which translates into "up to 24 hours of battery life with typical use or up to five hours of continuous life with GPS and heart rate monitoring," according to New Balance. And it is reportedly waterproof up to 5 atmospheres (ATM), so it should withstand the pressure equivalent of up to 50 meters — though pressure is not equivalent to depth, so it won't necessarily be waterproof in 50 meters of liquid.

[Related: Why you should buy Apple's Nike smartwatch instead of Watch Series 2]

The watch can sync songs from an Android phone via Google Play Music and stream them wirelessly to compatible Bluetooth headphones, including the new $109.99 Jabra PaceIQ, which is designed for use specifically with RunIQ, with exclusive features and New Balance branding. (PaceIQ is expected to be available at retail stores on Feb. 1.)

new balance runiq jabra paceiq New Balance

The RunIQ watch taps Strava to let you upload and share run progress. And it integrates with the New Balance Global Run Club, a community of runners, as well as the Strava social network to connect runners and track performance. The club also features virtual training programs for specific races and running events in users' geographic areas.  

New Balance RunIQ vs. Apple Watch Nike+ Series 2

It's not possible to do a fair and accurate comparison between New Balance's wearable and Apple's Nike watch until RunIQ is actually available. However, the two devices clearly target the same market segment — tech-savvy runners — and they have some notable similarities and differences.

Here's list of quick takeaways:

  • RunIQ runs Google's Android Wear OS (though the specific version is unclear), while Apple Watch Nike+ Series 2 runs watchOS 3.
  • RunIQ should work with any Android phone, but you need an iPhone to use Apple Watch.
  • RunIQ looks like it's designed to be much more functional than fashionable, and it comes in just one dark color option at launch, but Apple's Nike watch comes in a handful of different bright colors with perforated bands.
  • RunIQ looks like it's designed to blend in while Apple Watch Nike+ generally stands out.
  • RunIQ tracks a variety of run-related metrics, but it doesn't appear to have any sort of fitness-reminder features to motivate users to run or workout, as Apple Watch Nike+ does.
  • RunIQ's social component is powered by Strava, which means it's not restricted to one smartwatch, so it should provide a much larger base of participants than the Apple Watch community.
  • RunIQ integrates with New Balance's own run club and Apple Watch taps the Nike+ Run Club.
  • RunIQ is $69 cheaper than the smaller, 32mm Apple Watch Nike+ and $100 less expensive than the 42mm Apple Watch.
  • RunIQ is not expected to ship until Feb. 1 at the earliest, but Apple Watch Nike+ Series 2 is available now 

RunIQ is available for preorder via NewBalance.com for $299.99, and it should ship early next month. Apple Watch starts at $369.99, and it's available today online and in Apple Stores.

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