Home Nike Launches Impressive Hyper-Local iPhone App

Nike Launches Impressive Hyper-Local iPhone App

Nike launched a new iPhone app yesterday called True City (iTunes link) with the slogan “Make the hidden visible.” The app provides hyper-local, real-time information for 6 European cities. It combines expert curation of news and events info, crowdsourced information discovery (with a chance to become an official guide), push notifications, QR codes printed and posted around the city and apparently a little Augmented Reality. Of course True City also lets you learn about shoes you can buy.

It was built by AKQA, the same design firm that made the truly useful Augmented Reality app for the US Postal Service that lets you see if an object you’re holding up to your computer will fit in a postal shipping box.

Design blog PSFK says that with the app, Nike appears determined to build “an army of hyper-local, mobile-connected advocates.

Can an apparel company’s app compete with local content from companies specializing in that kind of work? As one reviewer wrote on the iTunes store, “Do you want bar recommendations from Nike? Nice app but no content. Will never compete with the likes of Yelp. Pointless really.”

Presumably the expert contributors for each city will try to help overcome these limitations. Would you be interested in a handful of select people recommending places, events and news for your local area? As one component of a larger hyper-local news and events source that sounds great to me. In fact, I think it’s a model that would serve any location based social network well.

The Downside of Corporate Portals Into Your True City

Nike may very well be able to dazzle a substantial number of users into using the app with its remarkable design, but there is still some concern about building your connection to your local area through the sterile lens of a marketing campaign. There are certain important but unpleasant things that seem unlikely to be served up on such a platform. Nike’s app makes the hidden visible, right?

Nike’s home town of Portland, Oregon for example, is a major hub of international sex trafficking. Matters like that are far more likely to be reported about by institutions that place the public interest of their communities, namely newspapers, than they are by mobile marketing apps, no matter how cool, hyper-local, curated, crowdsourced and augmented they may be. The True City campaign says it’s performed “all with Nike?s unmistakable irreverence” – but I think that just means it’s sassy advertising.

None the less, the technology and strategy is an interesting data point in the unfolding history of hyper-local, mobile technologies.

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