Startup "Miles" today launched a new iOS app [Direct Link] that grants its users exclusive rewards to use at places like Starbucks and Whole Foods every time they travel in a car, bus, on a bike, or on foot. The company aims for its app to be a ground transportation alternative to frequent flier miles, allowing users to earn discounts over time for travel that they likely perform more frequently than flying on an airplane (via The Verge).

The caveat is that for the full experience, the Miles app requires you to give it constant access to your location, so it can keep up with automatically tracking your movement and converting its "miles" currency into deals and offers. You can opt to choose "only while using the app," but you'll then need to remember to keep Miles open every time you travel in order to gain rewards.

Under Miles' rewards, you'll earn more miles for transportation that is more environmentally friendly: one real-world mile of walking/running grants you 10 reward miles, one mile of biking is worth five reward miles, a mile in a ride share vehicle is worth two, and a mile in a car is equivalent to one reward mile.

miles rewards app
At launch, you'll be able to trade these reward miles in for deals like $5 gift cards to Starbucks, Amazon, and Target, $42 off a first order from Hello Fresh, a complimentary rental on Audi's Silvercar service, and more. Other launch partners include Whole Foods, Canon, Bath & Body Works, and Cole Haan. When you trade in miles for rewards, some deals grant you with a barcode to scan at the physical checkout location (Starbucks), while others provide you with discount codes.

In terms of its tech, Miles works in the iPhone's background to automatically log each trip a user takes from point A to point B. The company says that the app "consumes almost no power" when stationary, and will only "minimally increase battery consumption" when in transit. The app detects drives in a vehicle with special formulas that don't rely solely on GPS for location data, helping to reduce battery consumption.

The app remembers your trips and logs them so you can revisit them later (including time of day, starting location, ending location, and distance) and fix any mistakes it might have made, like incorrectly logging a vehicle trip for a ride share. Additionally, there's a section of the app that The Verge describes as a "Venmo-style feed," showing how other users are earning and redeeming their miles.

In an attempt to get ahead of users worrying about their location data being constantly tracked and stored by a third party, Miles CEO Jigar Shah says that neither the company nor its partners get access to specific location information. Instead, user data that is gathered is more ambiguous, but the app still knows when users travel, how they travel, and what deals they clip -- which is then fed into a "predictive marketing AI platform" to match them with other appropriate deals.

Once more people in an area begin clipping the same coupons, Miles uses this vague user data to predict demand for the most popular rewards. Shah says this prediction of "near-future demand" plays into the creation of future rewards as well, and is the backbone of the entire app:

To better explain how this works, Shah says, imagine there are 50,000 Miles users. 10,000 of those might be within 0.3 miles of a Starbucks. Out of those users, Miles can figure out which ones are most likely to buy a coffee within the next hour based on the history of where and when those people have stopped at coffee shops in the past. From there, Miles can also tell which users are likely to go to Starbucks, which will go somewhere else, and which customers aren’t too picky.

Miles then lets Starbucks tailor different offers to those specific groups. Maybe a Dunkin Donuts loyalist sees a $5 Starbucks gift card show up in the app that’s redeemable for 1,500 miles, instead of the typical 3,000, and decides to break rank. The goal is to get deals in front of customers when they’re “most receptive,” Shah says. “We allow [businesses] to understand their own customers’ near future. What do they need in the next four hours, next four days, and next four weeks? We’re literally making predictions about what their customers need and when they need it.”

The CEO promises that this "anonymously" aggregated information is secure and "nothing of users' data leaves the system." Still, as The Verge points out, the app will essentially be a middleman between businesses and customers, holding the latter's personal data in its hands, which is believed to have been what brought big brands to support Miles at launch in the first place.

Despite promises of personal data privacy and security, Miles is launching in a time when online privacy is at the forefront of many users' awareness when signing up for a new service, or deciding to leave an old one. In the spring, the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, wherein more than 87 million Facebook users had their personal data gathered and used to reportedly influence their votes during the 2016 presidential election.

Another app that heavily relies on user location data also faced a scandal in the spring, with MoviePass coming under fire for CEO Mitch Lowe pointing out that it watches "how you drive from home to the movies" and how the company watches "where you go afterwards." Lowe eventually admitted he was "completely inaccurate" and that the app "has never tracked" users in the background, with the developers removing an "unused app location capability" shortly after the story was shared online.

Just last week, privacy researchers began pointing out that Venmo's publicly viewable feed of money exchanges (which has been around since the app launched), does not sit well in today's privacy-concerned climate. Now, more people have begun questioning why Venmo chose to have the feed's settings default to public sharing, likely resulting in many users who may not know their payment information is available for others to see.

Top Rated Comments

lolkthxbai Avatar
34 months ago
lol what? no way, this is literally turning the customer into the product
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AKDub Avatar
34 months ago
I wonder how long it will be until a company is just honest and says "Install our app, it has no features but we will track you and at the end of every month you get a $10 iTunes voucher"
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
brian3uk Avatar
34 months ago
There a bunch of apps that do this sorta thing. None of them have ever been worth it. Why/how is this one different?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dannyyankou Avatar
34 months ago
Cool, I got a 2,000 mile sign up bonus and can immediately redeem a $5 Starbucks gift card.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
I7guy Avatar
34 months ago
Next thing you know, advertisers will be posting billboards along certain routes people travel and making coupons available in newspapers, magazines, and online, and credit cards will be able to track your location and shopping habits by knowing where you use their card. That’s just simply crazy if those things happen!

How is this "news?" Or am I late to the game in that app developers can buy advertising in the form of news articles? I wonder how much it would cost for me to run an advertisement news article to peddle my feelings on how iOS UIx has degraded ever since iOS7 and that Jony Ive is not nearly as good a designer as he's imagined himself to be, in his quest towards thin, unserviceable, modifiable and generally weak-performing laptops compared to the competition? :)
Like how you managed to get a dig in at ios and Ive. Well done.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Zorn Avatar
34 months ago
Download it, sign up with a burner email, grant it location only while using the app, then as soon as you redeem the $5 gift card log out of the app and delete it from your device. Easy stuff and got a Starbucks gift card instantly.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

microsoft edge ios android

Bill Gates Says His Preference for Android Over iPhone is Due to Pre-Installed Software

Friday February 26, 2021 3:35 am PST by
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week participated in his first meeting on Clubhouse, the increasingly popular invite-only conversation app, where he fielded a range of questions as part of an ongoing book tour. Gates was interviewed by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and given that the Clubhouse app is currently only available on iOS, naturally one of the questions that came up was...
Top Stories 47 Feature copy

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, and AirPods Rumors, macOS 11.2.2, MagSafe Wallet Revisited

Saturday February 27, 2021 6:00 am PST by
March is right around the corner, and that means our first good opportunity for Apple product launches in 2021 as the company frequently has significant launches in March or April each year. We're hearing rumors about MacBook Pro, iMac, AirPods, and more, although many of these will be coming out at different times over the course of the year. This week also saw a macOS update to address a ...
iphone 6 in hand

Apple Faces Another iPhone Lawsuit Over 'Programmed Obsolescence'

Monday March 1, 2021 6:44 am PST by
Apple faces a new class-action lawsuit that accuses it of deliberately releasing iOS updates that slowly reduce the performance of an iPhone, forcing customers to upgrade their devices. The lawsuit comes from the Portuguese Consumer Protection Agency, Deco Proteste (via Marketeer), which in a statement says that it will proceed with a case against the Cupertino tech giant because it...
maxresdefault

HomeKit Essentials Worth Checking Out

Saturday February 27, 2021 7:05 am PST by
HomeKit was slow to take off after its 2014 launch, but now that it's been around for seven years, there are hundreds of HomeKit products available, ranging from doorbells and speakers to TVs, lights, and cameras. In our latest YouTube video, we rounded up some of our favorite HomeKit products that we find most useful. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. HomePod...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
iphone 12 pro display video

iPhone 13 to Include 1TB Storage Option and LiDAR Across the Board, Says Wedbush Analyst

Monday March 1, 2021 4:00 am PST by
Apple's forthcoming iPhone 13 could include a 1TB storage option for some models and LiDAR Scanners across the entire lineup, according to a report from Wedbush analysts. In a new note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said that initial Asian supply chain checks gave the firm "increased confidence" that Apple's 5G-driven product cycle would extend well into 2022,...
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
mac mini developer transition kit photo feature

Apple Requiring Developers to Return DTK Mac Minis by March 31

Friday February 26, 2021 3:57 pm PST by
Apple today sent out emails to developers who are in possession of a Developer Transition Kit, asking them to return the machines by March 31. The Developer Transition Kits are Mac minis with A12Z chips that Apple provided for development purposes ahead of the release of the M1 Macs. Apple in the emails provided developers with shipping instructions, and plans to begin collecting the DTKs...
iphone 12 120hz thumbnail feature

Kuo: iPhone 13 Lineup to Feature Smaller Notch and Larger Batteries, 120Hz Display for Pro Models, and More

Monday March 1, 2021 7:50 am PST by
iPhone 13 models will all feature a smaller notch, while the two Pro models will be equipped with low-power LTPO display technology for a 120Hz refresh rate, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Several other sources have previously claimed that some iPhone 13 models will support a 120Hz refresh rate, including display industry analyst Ross Young, leakers ...
unc0ver version 6 release

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 6.0.0 Released With iOS 14.3 Compatibility

Sunday February 28, 2021 9:26 am PST by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 6.0.0 of its software, which can allegedly be used to jailbreak any device running iOS 11.0 through iOS 14.3 using a kernel vulnerability. The unc0ver website describes how the tool has been extensively tested across a range of iOS devices running various software versions, including an iPhone 12 Pro Max running iOS ...