At the start of 2014, smartwatch maker Pebble opened up its platform with the launch of an app store. On Tuesday, it further expanded its ecosystem with a software update that lets developers build apps that monitor a user’s physical activity and sleep, even when the app is closed. In addition, the company cut $50 off the price of the Pebble and Pebble Steel watches to $99 and $199, respectively.
Pebble, the blockbuster Kickstarter project that raised $10 million, counts about 400,000 smartwatch owners. Its first fitness app, RunKeeper, launched last May, tracked physical activity only when the app was actively running in the foreground. “That’s annoying because there were 4,000 other apps that were in the store, and users wanted to use the watch face and get notifications or control their front door,” Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky told Fast Company.
The first apps to take advantage of Pebble’s new in-the-background tracking are Misfit, Jawbone, and Swim.com. With the new software development kit rolling out Tuesday, other third-party developers will be able to update their apps to take advantage of background tracking.
Migicovsky said it took some time before the company was able to release this update because it wanted to fine-tune the user experience and optimize for battery life. Background tracking will have a small impact on the watch’s life, reducing the 6.2 days of use on a full charge to about 5.5 days with tracking turned on 24 hours a day.