By Dan Moren
January 12, 2021 8:50 AM PT
Where Apple could improve Fitness+
In some ways, Fitness+ couldn’t have come at a better time. At one point or another, we’ve all probably made that New Year’s resolution to work out more, and with the pandemic forcing many of us to stay in our homes, a friendly exercise option is suddenly much more appealing.
Both my wife and I have spent the last several weeks with Fitness+1, and in general, the service has really impressed us. The trainers are an inclusive, engaging group and the focus on mobility and providing alternative workout options is a marked contrast from many other competitors.
But that’s not to say that there aren’t improvements to be made. Even after just a few weeks, we’ve definitely run into places where the service could be tweaked or offer more. That’s understandable, given that Fitness+ just launched, and no doubt Apple is planning to make changes down the road, especially once it sees how customers are using the service. But just in case Cupertino’s paying attention, here are a few ways we’ve noticed that Fitness+ could use a little more attention.
Get back in the groove
It’s certainly not ideal to have to stop a workout in the middle, but sometimes life gets in the way. The kids need attention, or someone rings the doorbell, or heck, the Fitness+ app crashes. We’ve all grown accustomed, in this modern era, to being able to drop out of something and pick up right where we left off. But Fitness+ has proved to be much touchier about such interrupts. My wife has had her workout prematurely ended a couple times, and thus far the only option is to start all over again, which clearly isn’t ideal.
Certainly, a workout is a little more complicated than a movie, since your Apple Watch is tracking your vitals at the same time, but there should still be an option to easily jump back in where you left off. Right now, you can’t even fast forward through workouts to get back to where you were, which can quickly turn what should have been a positive experience into a frustrating one.
Switch it up
Along those same lines, it should be easier to switch devices mid-workout. If you’re using the Apple TV to do your yoga workout, and somebody else wants to use the TV, you should be able to switch to your iPad without missing a beat. Again, it’s the kind of seamless continuity we expect from other Apple apps. Even trying to use AirPlay from your iPad to your Apple TV and then switch to using the iPad can cause some hiccups in the workout experience, and then it’s back to our previous problem about resuming interrupted workouts.
Filter it out
Currently, Fitness+ lets you filter by three criteria: type of workout (cycling, yoga, strength, etc.), duration, or trainer. That’s all useful, but when you’re trying to do a little more targeted exercise, it would be helpful to have some additional information about workouts. For example, Fitness+ could let you filter by which part of the body a session focuses on (upper body, lower body, core, etc.) or even by the intensity of the workout.
To the latter point, yes, Fitness+ does do a nice job of providing different options within a workout, but some trainers and some sessions can definitely be more strenuous than others, and it would be helpful to have a better idea of what you’re getting into. The Absolute Beginner classes are a great way to start off, but beyond those it would be nice to know whether you’re diving into the deep end or taking a slower ramp up.
Context is king
The integration with the Apple Watch is definitely part of Fitness+’s secret sauce, but it would be nice if those metrics had a little more context to them. For example, Fitness+ shows you your progress through the workout in the corner of the screen, including your current heart rate, but there’s not a great indication of what your heart rate should be.
One useful data point would be whether your heart rate is within the target range for the workout. (Target heart rate is generally based on your age and the kind of workout you’re doing.) That would make it easier for you to adjust on the fly during a workout, taking things up a notch if you’re not quite feeling the burn, or maybe cutting back if you’re going too hard.
One aspect that Fitness+ is kind of light on at present are social features. The only real concession to connecting with other people—aside from the Apple Watch’s built-in competitions and achievements—is the Burn Bar.
The Burn Bar is supposed to give you an idea of how you’re doing compared to other people who’ve done the same workout. The more calories you burn, the better you do on the Burn Bar, which at least gives you some idea of context (see above)—except that the Burn Bar is only available in a small number of workout types: Treadmill, High-Intensity, Rowing, and Cycling.
Now, I get it: I may not want to be focusing on how my calorie burning stacks up to everyone else when I’m doing a relaxing yoga workout, but in some of the others, like Core, or Strength, or even Dance, it would be nice to at least have the option to turn it on.
And if Apple wants to take social features a step further and create ways for you to, say, remotely do a workout with a friend, or otherwise compare performance, that might be fun too—assuming, of course, that they’re purely opt in.
In addition to the above areas, there are a handful of other small improvements that Fitness+ could stand. The Apple TV app could use a way to access workouts you’ve saved to your list (if there is one, I couldn’t find it); likewise, on the Apple TV, it’s impossible to do a workout if you don’t have an Apple Watch, which seems like an unnecessary requirement given that the iPad version doesn’t require it; and it would be useful to have more overarching, holistic guidance if you’re working toward a specific goal—say, running a 5K—rather than relying on the algorithms which seem to suggest workouts based largely on things you’ve already done.
On the whole, despite the potential for improvement, Apple Fitness+ has had a promising start. It’s only a month old at this point, and Apple’s obvious commitment to continually adding new content does provide a solid hook to keep coming back, but it will be intriguing to see where the company goes from a feature standpoint over the next years or so.2
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]
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