Tempo Move review: A great idea with terrible connectivity

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When I first got a glimpse of the Tempo Move last year, I was thrilled. Here’s a $495 smart gym that would not only fit in my small apartment, but also wouldn’t look out of place. It used the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera technology to track your movements, the lessons were excellent, and the design was so clever I was amazed. And, if it hadn’t been for the annoying connectivity issues, the Tempo Move might have been my favorite connected fitness gadget I tested last year.

When it comes to home gyms, most players in this space struggle with price and size. The most recognizable gadgets – like the Peloton Bike Plus or Tonal – will set you back thousands of dollars and they are impossible to disguise in your home. This is not the case with Tempo Move. It looks like a side table straight out of West Elm, or if you have the black version as I tested, a sleek subwoofer. I usually have to rearrange my furniture to fit bigger fitness gadgets in my NYC apartment, but this time I didn’t have to at all. Also, it took my husband several months to notice the Move was even there.

The design is sleek, but it’s also incredibly functional. The top lifts off so you can store the Tempo Move’s smart dumbbells. And while you can place the Core – the part where you connect your iPhone – on top of the Move, it also comes with a washer to cover the hole if you want to place the Core elsewhere (or take it on the go). If you open the fabric front cover, you will find a storage rack for the various weight plates that come with the Move. The organization nerd in me is thrilled that all the accessories are so easy to hide. Design-wise, the only “downside” is that my cat thinks the fabric cover is her personal scratching post.

Tempo’s smart adjustable dumbbells are also impressive. The brightly colored weight plates are cute, well constructed and secure. You get 50 pounds of weights included with the Move, and you can purchase additional plates if needed. The “smart” part of these dumbbells is also neat. They are equipped with a sensor that can detect the weight you are using based on the color of the plates. This is then communicated to the Core so that when you take classes you can see how much you are lifting on screen and automatically save it to the app. Tempo provides weight recommendations in its classes, and it can actually tell in real time when you’ve added or removed weight. Finally, the dumbbell “spins” when you lift it, which is supposed to help reduce torque and wrist strain.

The fabric cover opens to reveal weight plate storage.

Dumbbell storage is built in.

Classes make or break connected fitness platforms. On that front, Tempo’s app makes it easy to find courses and stay on track. There are over a thousand classes in a wide variety of activities, like bodybuilding, boxing, yoga, core, prenatal workouts, and yoga. As a runner, I appreciated that there was a collection of sports-focused strength training exercises. There are also options for people who play golf or tennis. Another thing I liked 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 group classes by muscle group and time (which Tempo does too). That’s fine, but this approach can also be limiting for beginners who want to build strength for a purpose.

The only potential downside is that Tempo instructors are much more hands-on. Sure, they sprinkle in jokes and motivational cues, but nowhere near the degree you get in Peloton. They also won’t give you sweet reassurances like in Apple’s Fitness Plus. It can be disappointing if you rely on spirited instructors to guide you through the workout. For me, it didn’t bother me that much and I enjoyed 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 meaningful guidance based on your movements. For example, when I leaned too far back during a deadlift, I saw this window appear on the screen. If you’re having it too easy, you might also be tipped for gaining weight. Given how important form is to injury avoidance, I wish more weight systems would do the same.

The Move will also automatically count your reps, but it will occasionally drop the ball. Maybe it’s because my exercise space was a bit cramped and the Move requires about six feet of distance to get the best results. Another complaint I had was the music. With Tempo, you select a music station, so the workouts themselves aren’t set to a specific playlist. Not everyone will mind, but music is a huge motivator for me. Nothing gets me through a tough circuit like a well-timed bass drop. If you’re like me, this is something to consider – especially when so many other services do making music a central part of the experience.

While we’re talking gripes, the Tempo Move currently only works with the iPhone. You also need to have a relatively new iPhone – the XS/XR or later – running at least iOS 14. Android users are out of luck. When I spoke with Tempo CEO and co-founder Moawia Eldeeb during a demo, he noted that part of the reason isn’t that all Android phones have lidar technology or camera similar to Apple’s TrueDepth technology. Eldeeb hasn’t ruled out Android support down the line, but it’s unclear if or when that will happen.

The Tempo Move is powered by the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera technology.

These are all minor issues that I can ignore. My main issues with the Move were that it took up one HDMI port and connectivity. The HDMI port is not a big problem if you use few gadgets. However, I live in a maximalist tech house filled with soundbars, streaming boxes and several game consoles. This meant I had to buy an HDMI splitter to use the Move without disrupting my husband’s precious TV setup. . (Even then, I still had to put up with it 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 a pain to edit, you’ve got to be prepared to delve into the jumble of cords to make the necessary adjustments.

As for connectivity, the Tempo Move was unreliable for me. I guess it may be the result of my complicated TV setup or my iPhone. But, in my testing, there were several times when I went for a workout and couldn’t get the Move to play a class. Or, if I launched a course, it would randomly crash or dab to the point where I lost momentum. I also received error messages stating that the Core could not connect to the Tempo server.

When I contacted Tempo to troubleshoot I was given a long list of steps, but the one thing that really helped was the power cycle. Basically, I had to completely unplug the Core from the TV and power source, wait 30 seconds, then plug everything back in. (That’s why my hunch is that the whole HDMI splitter situation could have exacerbated the problem.) This has almost always helped, but it’s a problem when trying to get a quick workout. Nor was it a permanent solution. I had to do it again and again, sometimes two or three times in the same day. It wasn’t an internet problem either. We have gigabit internet and a beefy, beefy router. Also, I’ve never had this problem with similar devices.

I’m a big fan of dumbbells.

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 that my class would cut out whenever my phone moved slightly. For some reason, my iPhone never felt particularly secure when plugged in. I tried connecting with and without my phone case, but it didn’t seem to make a difference.

These connectivity issues didn’t always happen either. Over the last few months of testing, some weeks I had no issues, while other weeks turned into a troubleshooting bonanza. The anxiety of not being able to predict how a workout would turn out eventually led me to favor other options. I loved the Tempo Move when it worked. I never knew when it would work.

I can’t say if this will impact everyone who gets a Tempo Move. I have reviewer friends who haven’t had this problem at all. Again, I’ve seen multiple 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 fixes. Technically I also have a decent solution in the power cycle. But, if you pay Tempo’s $39 monthly subscription, you should get a reliably working gadget without all the troubleshooting.

I agree with the vast majority of what the Tempo Move offers. If this connectivity issue didn’t exist, I’d have to scratch the barrel for things to complain about. That’s how solid the design, classes, and overall concept behind the Move. But this problem exists and I cannot ignore it. I wanted to love the Move so badly, but until Tempo came up with a fix, it’s another gadget where the concept ended up being better than the execution.

Photography by Victoria Song / The Verge

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