Last year, Apple introduced Activity Trends, a new feature to track your workouts over time. Trends complemented Apple Watch’s classic Activity rings feature, and found the home next to the rings in the iOS Activity app.
Activity rings are binary calculations: did you meet or did not meet your goal to move, exercise or stand today? Trends, on the other hand, track your past year of activity through rolling 90-day windows, informing you whether you are improving or declining. If necessary, Trends suggests improvements such as walking a little more than usual every day or standing a little longer every hour. Together, Activity Trends and the classic Activity Rings seek to help you develop and maintain a healthy healthy lifestyle across a handful of monitored calculations.
Last year, Trends got its own tab in the Activity app together with the four tabs that had existed before: History, training sessions, prices and sharing. These categories always felt a bit sparsely populated for my liking, and it seems that Apple agreed. In iOS 1
On the name
The renaming of this app from Activity to Training tells an interesting story. This may seem partly due to the (in my opinion misleading) fact that Apple has always referred to the Apple Watch calling feature as ‘Activity’, unmodified. This is why the old tab with all the call data was called History: The activity app originally existed only to display data from the activity function – which was limited to rings. Assignments and sharing are both based entirely on ring data, which made last year’s addition of Activity Trends the first instance of non-ring data entered into the Activity app. This would have made perfect sense to users, since everything in the app was still related to ‘activity’, but for Apple it was actually an example of scooping a non-related feature to a very specific app whose name just happened to be a generic term .
In my opinion, the right solution to this problem would have been to rename the meaningless wide “Activity” feature to “Activity Rings”, which would fit quite naturally with “Activity Trends.” Instead, it seems that Apple is determined to refer to the rings with the general function name ‘Activity’, and has changed the name of the app itself to ‘Fitness’ to account for this discrepancy. At the very least, it could be part of this change.
The elephant in the room here arrived along with the recent rumor from Mark Gurman that Apple is working on a new subscription. If it turns out to be true, having an app called ‘Fitness’ would be a very convenient place to find such a feature. It will also help you understand why the sharing tab is still there instead of just removing all the tabs for a summary screen, but we’ll get to that a little later.
The fitness app has all the same information as the old Activity app, but the new design is far better suited to display this data. The aspect that is very lacking from the old version was an overview of the dashboard that could give a quick high level look at the current state of your activity. It always felt cumbersome to switch between three different tabs to see your latest results in Activity Rings, Trends and Prices. Then there was another tab to look at your recent workouts, and another to see your shared friends’ activity. Five are too many tabs just to get a general overview of everything the Apple Watch tracks for your workout. With the new Fitness app, Apple has collapsed things into just two tabs: Summary and Sharing.
The summary tab is exactly the view I was hoping for. The History, Trends, Training and Prices tabs in last year’s Activity app have all been merged into this single dashboard with short summaries for each of these sections. The activity summary shows the status of your rings for today, and pressing it opens the detailed view that was the History section of the old activity app. You can see your summary of call results over time as a weekly or monthly view, and tapping any day opens a detailed summary of your activity.
Back in the main tab Summary The training session summary shows the last three training sessions. You can press the ‘Show more’ button to get a drop-down list of all your previous workouts. At the top of each month in the list is a composition of the month’s total number of workouts, in addition to the total workout and the total calorie burn. From the top right corner, you can filter the list to see only workouts of a particular type.
Pressing an individual workout from Summary or View Multiple Views opens a detail page that includes a heart rate graph, a map showing the workout location, and the weather for that day. The heart rate graph flips horizontally between your heart rate during your workout and your heart rate for recovery, measured after you complete your workout. Unlike the graphs in other areas of the Fitness app, you can’t tap and hold the heart rate graph to see the exact individual measurements taken. The graph during training shows the average BPM for the training at the bottom, although this calculation is also shown directly above the graph.
The Trends section of the Summary tab shows the current averages for eight different trends. These are the same eight trends that debuted with the feature last year, and I’m a little disappointed that Apple has not added any new ones this time. Maybe they’m waiting for new hardware, but it seems that watchOS 7’s new sleep tracking feature can at least be tracked here. I guess sleep is not considered to be related to fitness.
The trends sections show all eight trends, even if you have no calculations for any of them. Personally, I do not track running or walking, because I get my cardio activity from playing football, and I do not use my watch during games. As a result, my trends for Cardio Fitness, Walking Pace and Running Pace are empty. Despite this, they still show up on the Summary page of the Fitness app for me. This does not make much sense, and I hope to see Apple filter out unused trends in the future. If they did, users could still see these trends (and all the others) by pressing the Show More button in the section, which opens the same view we are used to from the Trends tab of the previous activity app.
Finally, the Awards section shows the three most relevant awards. Show more opens the old display of prices, and pressing a single price opens a description display for it. As someone who has never found the award system particularly motivating, I appreciate the surface of relevant awards in the Summary view. In the previous activity app, I did not really bother to open the Awards category, but now as I check the general development of the training, I can quickly look at what awards I can be close to or recently achieved.
I’m not sure exactly how the three summary prices are chosen from the rest, but they do not feel so far away from what I want. At the time of writing, for example, my summary of excellence shows the August Challenge Award, for which I have achieved 20 of the 21 required requirements. It also shows that I achieved a perfect week for my Stand-ring last week, and that I received the World Environment Day Challenge award in June. The last of these feels a bit outdated to still be among the top three, but since I do not really play the prize game, I am not surprised that I have not picked up many newer ones. Everyone likes to feel that they have achieved something, so since the August Challenge is so close to completion, I will probably take steps to make sure I really check it out.
The sharing tab in the Fitness app is largely unchanged from last year. There is a simple drop-down list of days with the results of the activity ring for you and each of your friends who have shared their activity with you. As I mentioned earlier, it seems out of place that Sharing still has its own tab. Maybe Apple wants the Summary tab to be about yours personal fitness, and thus do not think shared results fit the theme. In my opinion, the Sharing tab suffers from the same problem as every single tab did last year: there is just not enough information to be specifically deserved for an entire tab. I would rather see a brief summary of the activities of my shared friends while I enjoy the rest of the training results in the main view.
I only have a handful of shared friends, so Apple may not think that a summary can be scaled well for people with many friends who share activity. I think it would be easy enough to select a small group from that list in the same way that they pick a small group of prices to show in the price list. It can only be friends whose current activity is closest to yours, or perhaps only those with whom you have an active competition. I think the issue can be resolved and the Sharing tab removed. The result would be a training app without tabs where the main view is a summary of your entire Apple Watch-led training life, and you can quickly take advantage of any section for more information.
If the rumored training subscription is genuine, it can also receive its own tab. It may make Sharing feel less out of place, but we can not judge the app’s current design on a possible future feature.
No matter what disagreements I have with the name and category Sharing, the new Fitness app is a huge improvement over last year’s Activity app. Being able to take a quick summary of my activity is all I want from the app most of the time, and the new design allows me to do it quickly and get back to my life. When I want to dig into the data, the same level of detail I could get before is one push away for any section.
I still want to see Apple do more with the Activity Trends feature that they introduced last year, but it’s nice to be able to see each trend more easily this time. Personally, I want the Trends Summary section to be above the Workouts summary, which makes me think that the sections should only be made user-sortable, so that everyone can order them as they wish. Meanwhile, there is only a small amount of scrolling to see all the summarized data.
I like that Apple is still taking the time to re-evaluate old app designs, and I hope to see them continue to be afraid to rethink apps across the entire system. Especially for Fitness, it’s great to see Apple keep an eye on the ball with enhanced Apple Watch activity tracking features.
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