Personal fitness trackers like Nike Fuelband are the thin end of the wedge for mainstream wearable computing. But if, like me, you’ve ever thought, Why would I buy a whole separate device just to do this one little thing? then you might be, like me, just lazy enough to try a free iOS app called Moves instead. Its killer feature? A completely interaction-less experience that requires almost no effort or change on your part—which is ironically effective for something designed to encourage you to change your habits.
The problem with a lot of fitness trackers is that, for all their gorgeous product design and supposed simplicity, they still provide an excuse to shave the yak instead of actually start exercising. "Shaving the yak" means completing an endless series of preliminary steps before you "can" do what you actually should be doing in the first place. It’s basically procrastination by other means. If saving up to buy an expensive fitness tracker, configuring it, learning how to use it, remembering to wear it, etc., etc., are all things you are convinced you "must" do before you can get your ass on a bicycle, then you’re simply never going to get your ass on that bicycle.
Moves brilliantly removes all those self-imposed obstacles. It’s free, so there’s nothing to save up for or buy or hem and haw about. It lives in your iPhone and tracks your activity in the background, so there’s no separate device to learn how to use or remember to carry (you already have your phone on you at all times). There’s no setup: You install it, turn it on, and that’s it. And there’s no management, syncing, or any other "interactive" bullshit to forget to do or get bored of and stop doing altogether. You don’t even have to launch it—Moves will simply ding a little summary of your physical activity into your Notifications Center every day, where you’ll end up seeing it regardless of what you’re doing with your phone. Essentially, Moves gives you no more excuses.
Moves was created by Sampo Karjalainen and Aapo Kyrola when Kyrola realized he was gaining weight while finishing his Ph.D. but didn’t know how to motivate himself to be more active. The first prototype they built included all the gamified bells and whistles you might expect, "but the problem was that [test users] didn’t remember to use the app for everyday activities," Karjalainen tells Co.Design.
The solution: radical simplification. Many so-called "features" simply got the axe. "The ideology is to keep the app really effortless, and that’s why we dropped user accounts, manual adding of exercise, and some other features," Karjalainen says. "This has served us well—our users are saying that Moves is such a great app as 'it asks so little, but gives so much.'" (By running in the background, Moves will deplete your iPhone’s battery faster than usual, but not by much.)
Designer Craig Mod called Moves a true "minimum viable product", and he’s right. There isn’t much else you could strip out of Moves and still have it meaningfully function. But that’s the point. It’s not there to "do stuff," it’s there to get you to do stuff. According to Moves, I walked 15.5 miles last week and biked eight. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more than I was doing before. And I didn’t have to shave any yaks in the process.
[Image: Fitness via Shutterstock]