Pebble smartwatch gets its first app partner: RunKeeper

When I talked to the man behind the Pebble smartwatch, which has become the biggest Kickstarter project ever, he said what excited him about all the success was the ability to turn Pebble into an app platform. Now, Pebble is getting its first app partner and it’s a well-known name among fitness fans: RunKeeper.

RunKeeper is announcing with Pebble that when the watch become available this fall, it will have RunKeeper integrated into the watch. That means users will be able to start their RunKeeper runs, monitor their progress and stop their activity, all from their watch with their smartphone tucked away. The phone will talk to the Pebble watch over Bluetooth.

Jason Jacobs, RunKeeper’s CEO told me that Pebble’s founder Eric Migicovsky first reached out to him four to five months ago before the watch raised close to $8 million on Kickstarter. The two stayed in touch and after the success of the Kickstarter campaign, they talked about how RunKeeper could get early access to Pebble’s SDK. Now, RunKeeper will work with the Pebble team to get the app integrated for launch, which is expected in September.

While RunKeeper has integrated with more than 65 devices and apps, Pebble is its first smartwatch partnership. Jacobs said RunKeeper users have been pushing for the integration in the company’s support forum.

“This is the first smartwatch that harnesses the full power of the smartphone but in a form factor that’s much more conducive to inactivity training,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said he’s interested to see how the first integration works and he’s open to going even further potentially building a standalone app for Pebble that doesn’t rely on a smartphone. That would likely take improved hardware from Pebble because the watch currently doesn’t include GPS.

The RunKeeper integration validates Migicovsky’s plans to turn Pebble into an app platform. And getting a well known name like RunKeeper should attract more developers interested in the opportunity.

Migicovsky told me a couple a weeks ago that the company is working on Pebble’s open SDK and expects to have it out by August, a month before launch. He said at the time that there were already 32,000 visitors to the developer forum in its first week. With all the extra funding coming through Kickstarter, he said there was an opportunity to make the SDK even more robust, which could in turn attract even more developers. With more than 53,000 watches pre-sold through the Kickstarter campaign, it’s likely other developers will also want to get in on the action.