Strava, the athletics app for Android and iOS, got a new premium safety feature on Wednesday. Runners and riders can now send out a “beacon” that lets up to three friends and family members track you on a map. If you went for a run at 5 p.m., and it’s been five hours and it’s getting dark, contacts can look at the map and see if they need to check if you’re okay.
When starting a new ride or run, users will be able to tap the Beacon icon in the lower right corner. The runner chooses three contacts, and ahead of the run, they’ll all receive a text message with a web link to track the runner’s location. Beacon has to send a text before every run to keep the link up to date, but the benefit of this method is that contacts don’t need to download any apps to track progress.
“Let’s say it’s 3:30, you said you’d be home at 3:00 and you’re not moving towards home,” said Ethan Hollinshead, senior product manager, in a statement. “That’s a good indication that they should reach out to you and see what’s up. Maybe you stopped for a coffee, or maybe you got a flat tire. Where it’s really designed to help the cyclist or runner is in that peace of mind scenario – to keep people from unnecessarily worrying about you.”
As a premium feature, Beacon is reserved for those able to cough up the subscription fee. That amounts to $6 per month, or $59 per year. Alongside Beacon, subscribers get personalized coaching, real-time feedback, and more advanced performance metrics.
The new selling point may push more users to jump to premium, as Strava claims the community has been asking for a Beacon-like feature. “We started by surveying our athletes to find out what types of features they would be most interested in and safety ranked highest,” said Rayleen Hsu, director of product marketing, in a statement.
There are other apps that include runner safety features, like RunSafe for Android. This app has a “panic feature” that can record audio, flash a strobe light, and send out a distress message to contacts. Glympse, an app that shares location data with a contact for a set time, can also pair with a running app to provide friends with peace of mind. Then there’s Apple’s Find My Friends, which has a switch to turn on and off location sharing with close contacts as needed.
Strava isn’t the first running app to include a safety feature, but it is one of the more high profile. A March 2015 analysis by blogger Mark Slavonia found that Strava had around 8.2 million users, of which 192,000 are premium users. Strava was among the first Apple Watch apps publicized by Apple prior to the device’s launch.