RunKeeper launches ‘life tracking’ app Breeze to make Fitbit irrelevant

(Courtesy of RunKeeper)
(Courtesy of RunKeeper)

Boston’s RunKeeper today debuts a new mobile app that aims to help motivate you to move yourself even when you’re not working out. While the idea is simple — a step counter paired with well-timed push notifications to help you hit daily goals — the company aspires to make wearables from the likes of Fitbit and Jawbone no longer necessary.

First, a bit more on how the “life-tracking” app, Breeze, actually works. It’s worth noting up front that the app is only available for iPhone 5S right now because that’s the only device with the M7 co-processor, which automatically tracks motion without draining the battery. That means that when you open Breeze for the first time, the app is already able to pull in how many steps you’ve taken in the past seven days.

It also means that you don’t need to do anything in order for Breeze to track your steps; you don’t need to open the app or even hit “start.” The app uses the data from your past activities to set personal daily goals for you and then offers reminders during the day, via push notifications, about how you’re doing and how far you have to go to meet a goal.

Breeze aims to meet a need not filled by RunKeeper’s run-tracking app, said RunKeeper co-founder and chief executive Jason Jacobs. “A lot of people care about leading an active life, but you’re only spending 30 minutes in active cardio mode,” he said. “What we want to do with Breeze is to help show that these little decisions you make throughout the day do count.”

With Breeze, Jacobs said, “you don’t have to do anything, it just becomes part of the fabric of your life — bringing you just the right information at just the right times.”

Jacobs draws a parallel between what Breeze could mean for step-tracking wearables and what RunKeeper did to GPS tracking devices at one point. Before GPS came to run-tracking apps on smart phones, many runners were spending hundreds of dollars for a standalone GPS device that they could carry with them on their runs, he said. RunKeeper made that unnecessary and opened up run-tracking to the mass market (the app now has 30 million users, about half of which were added just last year).

Breeze aims to do the same for hundred-dollar devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone UP. Breeze is already part of a device that people take everywhere — you don’t have to remember to put on a wrist band — and it doesn’t need to be turned on, like wearables, to work.

“And even if you remember all that stuff, there’s no compelling reason to use [standalone fitness tracking devices]. ‘Now I have all this data, now what?’” Jacobs said referring to the lack of practical usefulness of some popular wearables. That’s not a problem for Breeze, because the app is continually telling users how the data is relevant to them, he said.

Down the road the plan is for Breeze to integrate with RunKeeper and to be available for more devices. More personalized guidance — that is, better and more helpful notifications — is also part of the plan.

Investor take

At Spark Capital in Boston, an investor in RunKeeper, general partner Todd Dagres said Breeze is “tapping into a whole different level of user experience.”

“RunKeeper, up until now, was the best user experience if you want to track activities like running, cycling, swimming, etc.,” he said. “With Breeze, it taps into a much different level of how to quantify and how to measure, and it’s much more cerebral, it compounds the user experience.”

Founded in 2008, RunKeeper has raised $11.5 million in funding to date, and hasn’t raised money since November 2011 when it closed on $10 million led by Spark. Other investors include Steve Case’s Revolution Ventures.

Jacobs said the company doesn’t need to raise funding right now, but will likely add funding “at some point” to help accelerate the company’s progress. He didn’t rule out the possibility of that happening at some point this year.

RunKeeper employs 51 at its office on Canal Street near North Station, and expects to need a larger office space soon to accommodate its growth, Jacobs said.

Dennis Keohane contributed to this report.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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