Yog: Run with friends – or their avatars, anyway

By Nathaniel Mott , written on November 15, 2012

From The News Desk

Pardon my Seinfeld-ism, but what's the deal with running? What's the difference between running and jogging and sprinting? Should we be wearing headphones while we pound the pavement, or is that akin to burning a copy of "Walden" right in the streets? Is it better to run alone or with a bunch of friends?

Yog doesn't much care how you run, so long as your legs are moving and you're off the couch. The New York-based startup has launched its iPhone application that makes it easier to track your run, listen to music, and, most importantly, run with your friends. Kinda.

If there's anything that our smartphone-addicted society has taught us, it's that interacting with a friend's profile picture and a few lines of code are just as good as – or better than – the real thing. Yog is taking that principle and applying it to fitness by allowing users to run around with their friends, even if they happen to live halfway around the world.

Basically, users download the app, sign up via Facebook or email, and then find their friends by syncing their contacts list with Yog's servers. Once they've done that they can start "Runs" with their friends, specifying the time, date, and distance that they would like to go ahead and get their joggin' on.

Once their friends have joined a run, Yog uses the iPhone's GPS to keep track of how far each person has run and then synchronizes that against everyone else. While users won't be able to trip or talk to their friends like they would if their friends were right next to them, they will be able to get a social interaction by proxy. (Is there any other form these days?)

Of course, a full half of you probably read "uses the iPhone's GPS" and started wondering whether or not Yog will kill your battery. It will. Yog, like just about every other service that relies on constant or near-constant GPS usage, is still a slave to battery drain. The company is currently trying to figure out a way around the issue, but for now it's probably not a good idea to go for a long run on a low battery.

Yog is currently free to download, but it hides the non-friend-related features (calorie tracking, distance ran – the usual) behind a 99-cent paywall. Though this might be frustrating to users who want to have all of their data right from the get-go, this might allow Yog to strike the balance between "we made our app free and now we don't know how to make money!" and "yeah, we charged too much and nobody downloaded the app." If you want the extra features, pony up; if you don't, don't.

The company plans on releasing new versions of its app, including a Web version (pictured above) and an Android version, and says that it will continue to refine the product (and maybe fix the damned GPS problem). For now, however, the service is limited to those people who are fine with strapping an iPhone to their arm and taking off.

Yog's main conceit – that people want to run together, even if they can't physically be together – is almost painfully obvious. It's the next step beyond Fitocracy's plan of building a social network based around fitness: Why talk to someone else about your workout when they can actively participate?