When I first got a taste of the Tempo Move last year, I was thrilled. Here was a smart $495 gym that would not only fit in my tiny apartment, but wouldn’t look out of place. It used the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera technology to track your movements, the classes were great, and the design was so clever I was stunned. And if there weren’t any annoying connectivity issues, the Tempo Move might have been my favorite connected fitness gadget I’ve tested over the past year.
When it comes to home gym, most players in this space struggle with price and size. The most recognizable gadgets – like the Peloton Bike Plus or Tonal – will run you thousands of dollars and they are impossible to hide in your house. That is not the case with the Tempo Move. It looks like a side table straight out of West Elm, or if you have the black version as I tested, a slim subwoofer. Usually I have to rearrange my furniture to fit bigger fitness gadgets in my New York City apartment, but this time I didn’t have to do that at all. In addition, it took several months for my husband to notice that the Move was there.
The design is stylish, but also incredibly functional. The top lifts so you can store the smart dumbbells of the Tempo Move. And while you can place the Core — the piece you dock your iPhone in — on top of the Move, it also comes with a puck to cover the hole if you want to place the Core elsewhere (or take it with you on the go). If you open the fabric cover at the front, you will find a storage rack for the different weight plates that come with the Move. The organizational geek in me loves the fact that all the accessories are so easy to hide. In terms of design, the only “downside” is that my cat thinks the fabric cover is his personal scratching post.
Tempo’s smartly adjustable dumbbells are also impressive. The brightly colored weight plates are cute, well constructed and safe. You get 50 pounds of weights included with the Move, and you can buy additional plates if needed. The “smart” part of these dumbbells is neat too. They are equipped with a sensor mount that can detect how much weight you are using based on the color of the plates. That is then communicated to the Core so that you can see on the screen how much you lift while taking lessons and automatically record this in the app. Tempo provides weight recommendations in its classes, and it can see in real time when you’ve added or removed weight. Finally, the barbell “rotates” while lifting, which is intended to reduce torque and wrist strain.
Lessons make or break connected fitness platforms. On that note, Tempo’s app makes it easy to search for classes and stay on track. There are over a thousand classes in a wide variety of activities, including strength training, boxing, yoga, core, prenatal workouts and yoga. As a runner, I appreciated having a collection of strength training workouts focused on the sport. There are also opportunities for people who play golf or tennis. Another thing I appreciated is that you can find classes based on goals like gaining strength, improving range of motion, and mastering the basics. Most fitness apps tend to lump classes together based on muscle group and time (which is what Tempo does). That’s fine, but that approach can also be limiting for beginners looking to build strength for a specific purpose.
The only possible downside is that the Tempo instructors are much more down to earth. Sure, they sprinkle with jokes and motivational cues, but nowhere near the level you get in Peloton. They also won’t give you soft reassurance like in Apple’s Fitness Plus. That can be disappointing if you rely on spirited instructors to get you through the workout. For me I didn’t mind and appreciated the change of pace.
One thing that sets the Move apart from competitors like the Peloton Guide is form feedback. It’s not perfect, but the device gives useful tips based on your movements. For example, when I leaned back too far during a deadlift, I saw that appear on the screen. If you have it too easy, you may also get a tip for gaining weight. Given how important form is to avoid injury, I wish more strength training systems would do the same.
The Move also automatically counts your reps, but occasionally drops the ball. That could be because my practice space was a little tight and the Move needs about two feet away for best results. Another complaint I had was music. With Tempo you select a music station, so that the workouts themselves are not set to a specific playlist. This won’t bother everyone, but music is a huge motivator for me. Nothing helps me push through a tough circuit like a well-timed bass drop. If you’re anything like me, that’s something to think about – especially when there are so many other services out there to do make music a central part of the experience.
Speaking of complaints, the Tempo Move currently only works with the iPhone. You also need to have a relatively newer iPhone — the XS/XR or newer — with at least iOS 14. Android users are out of luck. When I spoke to Tempo CEO and co-founder Moawia Eldeeb during a demo, he noted that part of the reason is that not every Android phone has lidar or camera technology on par with Apple’s TrueDepth technology. Eldeeb didn’t rule out Android support, but there’s no telling if or when that will happen.
Those are all minor issues that I can overlook. My biggest issues with the Move were that it took up an HDMI port and connectivity. The HDMI port isn’t a big deal if you’re not a fan of gadgets. However, I live in a technically maximalist house filled with soundbars, streaming boxes and multiple game consoles. That meant buying an HDMI splitter to use the Move without disrupting my husband’s precious TV setup. (Even then, I still had to put up with him complaining every time I forgot to switch back to the PS5 after a workout.) If you too live in a house full of gadgets with a precise setup that’s tricky to tweak, then you’re must be willing to dive into the tangle of cords to make the necessary adjustments.
As for connectivity, the Tempo Move was unreliable for me. I understand this could be due to my complicated TV setup or my iPhone. But during my testing, there were several times when I went to work out and couldn’t play the Move in a lesson. Or, if I got a lesson going, it would randomly crash or buffer to the point where I lost momentum. I also got errors that the Core could not connect to the Tempo server.
When I contacted Tempo for troubleshooting, I was given a long list of steps, but the only thing that really helped was power cycling. Basically, I had to completely unplug the Core from the TV and power source, wait 30 seconds, and then plug everything back in. (That’s why I feel like the whole HDMI splitter situation may have exacerbated the problem.) That almost always helped. , but it’s a hassle when you’re trying to cram a quick workout. Nor was it a permanent solution. I had to do it over and over – sometimes two or three times in the same day. It wasn’t an internet problem either. We have gigabit internet and a sturdy, sturdy router. Plus, I’ve never had this problem with similar devices.
The only other thing I can think of is that my iPhone 12 Pro Max may not have connected properly to the Core. I noticed my class dropped out if my phone moved a bit. For whatever reason, my iPhone never seemed particularly secure when plugged in. I tried connecting both with and without my phone case but it didn’t seem to make any difference.
These connectivity issues did not always occur either. In the past few months of testing, I had no issues for several weeks while other weeks passed into troubleshooting. The fear of not being able to predict how a training session would go ultimately led me to prefer other options. I loved the Tempo Move when it worked. I just never knew when it would work.
I can’t say if this will affect everyone who gets a Tempo Move. I have reviewer friends who didn’t have this problem at all. On the other hand, I’ve seen several users reporting connectivity issues in subreddits. For what it’s worth, Tempo’s support staff have always responded to me and other customers have reported finding reliable solutions. Technically, I also have a good solution for power cycling. But if you pay Tempo’s $39 monthly plan, you should get a gadget that works reliably without all the troubleshooting.
I agree with the vast majority of what the Tempo Move has to offer. If this connection problem didn’t exist, I’d have to scrape all the time to find things to complain about. That’s how strong the design, classes and overall concept behind the Move are. But this problem exists, and I can’t overlook it. I wanted so badly to love the Move, but until Tempo finds a solution, this is another gadget whose concept was better than execution in the end.
Photography by Victoria Song / Media Today Chronicle