Here’s a confession: I own a Fitbit One (see disclosure) activity tracker, but I rarely use it these days. There are several reasons for my negligence (which could fill a post of their own) but one of the key reasons is that I just don’t want to deal with another device. Yes, you could chock it up to laziness. But, over time, the benefits of knowing my daily steps and distances traveled stopped outweighing the hassle of figuring out where to fasten the device each morning and remembering to remove it each night — not to mention charging it every so often before the battery died.
Fortunately, more developers are creating fitness tracking smartphone apps meant to monitor 24/7 activity without draining a smartphone battery. Earlier this year, startup ProtoGeo launched the Moves app on IOS to track users’ daily steps and locations traversed. And, on Tuesday, activity apps startup Noom launched Walk as a “social” smartphone-based pedometer for Android phones.
Like Moves, the free app continuously runs in the background, using the phone’s sensor data to track a user’s activity, but it also enables users to encourage each other with notes and light actions.
Noom co-founder and co-CEO Artem Petakov said the company, which has released six previous wellness apps, had been working on the pedometer technology for the past two years as part of its Noom Weight Loss Coach app.
“We wanted to leverage this technology to make a program for those who didn’t necessarily want a whole weight loss app,” he told me in an email. “Just 30 minutes of activity per day can do incredible things.”
The company knows that between Fitbits, Nike Fuelbands, Jawbone Ups and other devices, the Quantified Self and fitness tracking market is nothing if not crowded. But Petakov said that the people who need fitness tracking technology the most often can’t afford stand-alone devices or they may not be as motivated to carry them around. He also said that dedicated devices are less likely to inspire action because they lack the smartphone’s larger screen and connectivity.
But Petakov said he believes that a phone-based activity tracker can meet 90 percent of the fitness tracking use cases (and for the remaining 10 percent they’re considering integrating with hardware makers). As for the battery issue, he said, that because the app doesn’t use the phone’s GPS technology, just other sensors, Noom Walk uses 1/10th the consumption of Moves and 1/30th that of other GPS-based apps.
For now, there isn’t a way to do a straight comparison between Moves and Noom Walk because Moves isn’t expected to launch on Android until later this summer and while Noom says it plans to expand to iOS, it won’t say when. But I’ve been enjoying Moves for the past few months and definitely see the value of a smartphone-based pedometer. Of all the fitness-tracking devices and apps I’ve used, it’s the one I return to most consistently because it’s the most convenient and easy to use.
When Walk ends up on iOS, I’ll be very curious to see how it stacks up – especially given the company’s traction so far. As of May, the company says that its six fitness apps have been downloaded 18 million times and has raised $6.8 million from investors including Kleiner Perkins and Qualcomm Ventures.
Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.
Image by Blazej Lyjak via Shutterstock.