Workout and Activity App

My wish list for Apple’s Workout and Activity apps

by

With the release of the Apple Watch Series 2, Apple has reconfirmed its focus on Fitness. Not surprisingly, watchOS 3.0 and (to a lesser extent) iOS 10 feature improved Workout and Activity apps. But there is still a lot of room for improvement, and in this article, I present you my wish list for Apple’s Workout and Activity apps.

A note up front: I’m aware that there are third-party apps that have all the features listed below. Runtastic, Map My Run, and others come to mind. Before Apple released watchOS 3.0, third-party apps could not access certain features of the Apple Watch, such as the heart rate sensor. As a result, they were pretty much unusable, in my humble opinion. Now that Apple has opened up watchOS even more, I shall give those third-party apps a try.

My wish list for the native Workout and Activity apps

Cross-platform availability

Apple offers the Activity app for both iOS and watchOS. As of iOS 10, you can start a workout from your iPhone, if you have an Apple Watch. But the Workout app is only available for watchOS. So if you don’t own an Apple Watch, there is no native workout app offered by Apple. That’s a bummer, and I wish Apple would make the Workout app available to iOS as well.

Activity Sharing

Another feature that’s limited to owners of Apple Watch is the ability to receive Activity Sharing invitations. In the past, I was not a huge fan of fitness challenges and sharing my workouts and activities. But that had changed when my brother started sharing his run activities on Twitter. I figured it would be fun if we could challenge each other and thus be both more active. With watchOS 3, Apple enabled Activity Sharing. I tried to add my brother using the Activity app on my Apple Watch but was referred the iPhone. When I tried to send the invitation, the Activity app told me that I could only share Activity with people who also have an Apple Watch.

To start sharing you Activity, use the Activity app on your iPhone.

On the bright side, iOS suggested another friend, who owns an Apple Watch. Unfortunately, she is not a fitness enthusiast…yet. Yeni: Do you want to challenge me?

The good news is, my brother Christoph will soon get an Apple Watch at which point, we will challenge each other! I would like for Apple to make Activity Sharing more widely accessible to all iPhone users.

Audio feedback

During a workout with the Apple Watch, the only feedback you get is haptic and visual. The new Apple Watch Series 2 has a very bright screen that you can easily read, even in bright daylight. But I would like to get audio (spoken) feedback when working out if a headset is paired with the Apple Watch.

During my recent trip to Las Vegas for SAP TechEd, I ran a 5k race. I ran as fast as I could and would have appreciated an update on how much longer I had during the last kilometer or so. I had tunnel vision at that point and was not capable anymore of converting the miles my Apple Watch was displaying into kilometers. In that it would have been nice to have Siri say something like: “Stop whining Mike, you have only 800 meters to go. Now is not the time to drag your feet!”

Here are some examples of audio feedback I’d like to hear, especially during runs:

  • Current pace, distance, heart rate
  • Deviation from goals: pace, heart rate
  • Goals: How much longer, how much farther, how many more calories

Quickly switch from miles to metrics

There does not seem to be an easy and intuitive way to change from miles to kilometers. I usually pick “open goal” workouts, especially for outdoor runs. The Workout app on Apple Watch does not offer the ability to change the display to kilometers. There doesn’t appear to be a setting on the iOS Watch app either. The only workaround I have found is this:

  • Open Workout app
  • Select Outdoor Run
  • Swipe to distance goal
  • Force touch on screen
  • Switch to kilometers
  • Define distance goal
  • Start workout
  • Stop workout

Once you have performed the steps above, all subsequent workouts are tracked and displayed in kilometers – even if you select “open goal”.

I think there should be an easier way to switch back and forth – even during a workout.

Performance tracking

What I’m missing in the Activity app are extra performance metrics, such as highest and lowest heart rate during a workout. I’d also like to know if I’m getting better over time and warnings if I’m less active than the I was the week or the month before. Apple does offer some Activity notifications, but they are static and don’t provide comparisons.

Workout and Activity App
Static Activity notifications

Improved music playback

I like to listen to music while running using my Plantronics BackBeat FIT headphones. So before going for a run, I do the following:

  • Turn on headphones (automatically connects them to my Apple Watch)
  • Open Music App on Apple Watch to switch audio source from iPhone to Apple Watch
  • Select playlist
  • Press play
  • Start workout via Workout app

I think watchOS should be smart enough to automatically offer me my workout playlist if my headphones are connected. That’s a no-brainer that would save me a ton of clicks.

Conclusion

Apple is heading in the right direction and continually improves upon the fitness capabilities of iPhone and Apple Watch. But there is certainly room for improvement. Ultimately, I would prefer to stay within the Apple ecosystem when it comes to tracking my activity, fitness and health data. I trust Apple more with my data than I trust third-parties.

3 Responses to "My wish list for Apple’s Workout and Activity apps"
  1. Nice list but missing the one key differentiator of Strava: geo-segments and associated leaderboards. Once you use that feature it’s almost a complete lock-in and other fitness apps just won’t cut it (specifically for cycling and running, not walking).

  2. Hi Mike,
    Did you find a way to do interval training with the Apple Watch ? Even with a third party app (but without the need of the iPhone) ?

    This is my most wanted feature.

    Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Win a $25 Amazon gift card

Enter your email address for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and receive weekly updates to this blog.

Register to win Amazon Gift Card!