First Impressions

My Running Coach

On my second day with Moov, I opted to take it out for a 4 mile jog. I’m no athlete. I don’t run everyday. While I enjoy cycling, I haven’t been on a run in months. So I was ready for ‘Coach Moov’ to kick my ass. Choosing the “Running Efficiency” workout at the lowest intensity, I proceeded on my jog from the front door of my building.

Getting up and going is quick and to the point

Right away, coach Moov (Siri serves up the voice) had positive feedback for me. “Perfect. You’re right on track!” I felt great. Like a natural really.

“You are at 153 strides per minute, and you should be running at least 160. Imagine yourself running on hot ground to step more quickly.”

So much for the positive feedback, but she is probably right.

“You’re stepping with too much force. Landing on the balls of your feet with cushion will help prevent injury.”

I get it. I need to improve.

Comments like these continued for most of the run. When doing well, a subtle chime gives me a bit of positive reinforcement. And once in a while, she might even tell me what a good job I’m doing. But much of the time, like a good trainer, she was calling out the small things I need to push on. Most of the feedback was focused on cadence, stride length, and step weight. Once in a while she’d give me some feedback on my posture, arm swing, and center of gravity. Though, I’m still not sure if those are just randomly thrown in tips or real feedback based on my running.

“Running Efficiency” is broken up into intervals with 30 second breaks. Being that I don’t know proper training technique, this was new to me. And much appreciated coaching.

By the end of the 4 miles, I’d increased my intensity up to level 4 (out of 16!) and managed to meet the target of each interval by the edge of my teeth. I felt accomplished. I’d learned some things. And generally felt like I’d gotten more out of this run than any before it. Running isn’t so bad after all. I just didn’t know what I was doing before. Hence the value of a coach.

The User Experience

Most of the feedback is handled through audio cues. In fact, Moov is so confident in the audio feedback that there is no visual compliment. This differs from Siri, where everything she says is displayed on screen, and even sometimes requires looking at the screen. So in that way, this felt more like having Samantha (from the Movie ‘Her’) than anything before it. Even though I couldn’t actually talk to her (this is a one way conversation) she responded quickly and directly to my performance, which is very different than anything else in the fitness market I’ve tried.

The app itself provides some nice visual feedback too, such as live cadence data, an interval timer, and past interval performance. The primary use of the app, mid-workout, is to increase or decrease the intensity of the intervals. After the workout, a detailed report of the workout statistics are available for viewing.

Reports are long and filled with data

The minimal (but necessary) screen interaction is begging for a smaller, smart watch-like implementation. It’s a bit annoying to bring a phone on a run, and every time I checked my progress or changed intensity, I had to unlock the phone. Not bad with the TouchID fingerprint recognition on the 5S, but as your hands get sweaty, this gets less reliable. It perfectly highlighted a use for a wearable smart watch product (iWatch?).

The app itself is well organized, simple to use, syncs easily with the Moov device, and a good looker. The style is different from many apps in the space but works well for Moov. It’s sporty and classy. It’s very easy to read while running in bright sunlight (likely a driver behind the clean black and yellow graphics). But remember, that the real star is not the app UI. It’s the voice in your ear spoken by Siri. It’s the coach that is constantly giving direction and feedback.

The flat, clean graphics, are easy to read outdoors

The voice coach is the product. The device itself is well designed, light, waterproof, and probably one of the most advanced sensors of it’s kind on the market now. But it falls into the background. The voice is the thing to learn from. Swap out the sensors, add more sensors, get a new phone, or swap for a smart watch in the future; but the voice will always be there, pushing fitness performance to the next level.

Room For Improvement

These are the early beta days of Moov, so it’s expected they’ll be making improvements. Here’s a few.

  • I’d love the ability to go on a specific workout length of time or distance. Right now, you just run for as long as you want. An extra level of smarts would know how to get your best out of those 4 miles you plan on running, and would even encourage you to run an extra half mile after a few sessions.
  • iOS lock screen would be amazing. Unlocking the phone to see the app during a run is a pain.
  • More insights after the workout. While the live feedback is great, the wealth of data provided at the end is hard to interpret. Data without insights isn’t valuable (a common problem with fitness wearables).
  • There’s no way to review workouts without connecting to the device. This is a big problem if you don’t always have the tracker with you.
  • Workouts can’t be shared.
  • No way to compete against friends.

Obviously many of the expected missing features will likely be filled in over the coming months.

A Wearable Worth Sticking to

Everyone is making a play in the wearable market. Most of the activity is focused on fitness devices and apps, and yet one of the biggest problems it that people just don’t stick to using them. After a few weeks, most people are bored of the repetitive march of daily steps and ill-calculated sleep. Moov avoids the problem of monotony by serving a specific audience with a specific need. It’s designed for working out and improving performance, so it’s up to you when you use it and how often you take it with you. There’s no loss if you skip Moov coaching on some of your runs. Does anyone want coaching 100% of the time?

I personally loved the experience and expect to keep using it for when I need a boost in my performance. Better yet, it doesn’t make any of my other devices redundant. I’ll still wear my Jawbone Up even when I’m on a run with Moov. Even though they’ve only released an app for Running & Walking, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with other activities I’m into like biking and swimming.

Moov is still in the pre-order period. So if sounds like a fit to you, I highly recommend it. Have you used Moov? What has your experience been?