I sometimes use my iPad at the gym to watch videos or read iBooks to pass time while exercising with the elliptical or treadmill. The tablet form factor is sleek and doesn’t draw attention to itself, and the iPad usually lays over whatever screen the gym equipment offers.
This works well because I usually ignore the heart rate trackers and progress indicators on exercise equipment and just rely on my Apple Watch for workout data. I glance at my wrist to check my progress and view metrics while using the iPad for entertainment.
Over the weekend I used a hotel gym that offered exercise machines with large screens and an easy-to-use interface, however, that made me think of how the iPad could be used for more…
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The tiled layout on this machine’s display looked sort of like Microsoft’s old Metro design with colorful text boxes and large type to present information. Touch targets were easily tapped and the page scrolled vertically to reveal more information. The first tiles showed active workout data with additional tiles previewed on the right side with news and weather widgets, shortcuts to video and music services, and more.
The fitness tiles weren’t totally populated with my workout data since I wasn’t using the machine’s heart rate sensor, but the rest of the information displayed was useful and presented in an attractive way.
The machines I used appear to be from a company called Technogym, and they’re not cheap. You can buy a basic treadmill without a fancy display for a couple hundred dollars, however, and bring your own display with the iPad you already own.
You could get a best of both worlds experience from iPad if Apple created a Workouts Dashboard experience. iPad could read fitness data from Apple Watch in real-time and present it on the dashboard layout, and quick access to video and news services could populate additional tiles. My colleague Benjamin Mayo likened the concept as I described it to him as CarPlay for workouts, which I like.
Having Apple Watch and iPad talk to each other for the sake of relaying fitness data could open up new roads for creating a whole category of highly interactive workout apps for iPad. There are already health and fitness apps for iPad, and you can do lots of fitness tracking with Apple Watch, but only the iPhone can communicate with the Apple Watch for capturing that health and fitness data for now.
Of course none of this seems too likely to happen this year. iOS on the iPad has other opportunities to improve in ways that make the platform better for productivity, and privacy concerns could be to blame for the missing Health app on iPad already.
Still, I love the idea of tuning the iPad to be a dashboard for Workouts data for the Apple Watch in a way that incorporates how I already use the screen for entertainment while exercising. It sure beats the screens on most gym equipment and the data would surely be more accurate.