How Android could help build a better Peloton Rower (and bike, and treadmill) for everyone
Between declining sales and a drop in subscribers, Peloton has had a rough year. But there’s still a smart way out for Peloton: Ditching hardware lock-in and embracing a software-first approach to fitness.
Currently, Peloton has three products across two lines: two bikes and a treadmill. While Peloton also offers an app with a selection of workouts that don’t require Peloton hardware, that app is also missing many of the things that make Peloton, well, Peloton! You won’t get leaderboards or performance tracking, which are some of the main features Peloton equipment users love.
But what if you could access the whole Peloton experience on almost any kind of connected fitness machine? The upcoming Peloton Rower is a perfect opportunity for the company to branch out with a philosophy (DevOps for devices) we’ll outline below, too. That expansion could just be the beginning — it could easily lead to new products, new partnerships, and new market opportunities.
Peloton is already using Android, so it’s a natural fit
You may not realize this, but the Peloton OS that runs on the company’s bikes and treadmills is actually based on Android. It uses AOSP (the Android Open Source Project), essentially making the Peloton screen a big Android tablet – with strictly limited end user access. Some people even hack their Pelotons so they can add third-party software like Netflix.
Peloton hacks and the inherent security risks of outdated software
Peloton is currently using a platform based on Android version 7.0 (Nougat), which is over five years old. That platform is missing key features that could benefit Peloton, including new Android OS security features that launched years ago (unless Peloton bothers to manually backport them, which is far from straightforward, and may not even be possible in some cases). It also means Peloton is responsible for rolling up its own Android security patches if it wants to fix vulnerabilities, as Google no longer builds them for such an old version of the platform (Google generally provides 3 years of security backporting support in AOSP).
The outdated software is the very thing that allows many users to hack their Pelotons to work in unintended ways, which in itself can pose a severe security risk in some cases.
An updated OS also means updated features
Updating that platform would also create significant opportunities to create a better experience for customers. Android 9 (Pie) supports display notches and cameras, which could seriously level up Peloton’s workout game. Think about it: You’re in an instructor-led class with friends, so you fire up the display’s built-in camera and microphone to see and hear your friends as you work out together! This is a feature other exercise platforms have, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that it’s really cool to feel like you’re not alone; it’s incredibly motivating to watch your friends struggle alongside you. That goes without mentioning Android 9’s improved USB accessory functionality, which could allow users of existing Peloton equipment to add external cameras and microphones to their machines. These features alone could be huge for Peloton.
A custom Android OS is hard, but we can help
At Esper, we understand how challenging it is to build your own OS and roll your own updates. The good news is that we have experience here with Esper Foundation for Android. This is our custom software offering that we can tailor-make for every customer, including a company like Peloton. Foundation is designed to work seamlessly on a variety of hardware and device fleets into the tens of thousands.
Android is versatile, so Peloton could be everywhere
Think about all the hardware we’ve seen Android on — not just phones and tablets, but TVs, handheld scanners, digital signage, cars, and more. Since the underlying platform is so versatile, Peloton could partner with other connected fitness companies and offer itself as a service on their hardware.
For example, let’s say that a major non-smart exercise equipment company wants to build a smart indoor bike, but has no idea where to start on the technology. The vendor could design the bike with its own specifications, then license Peloton’s software and services for the UX. The Peloton All Access Membership ($39/month) would still be required for access to the platform, and Peloton wouldn’t have to focus on its own hardware in this scenario (likely presenting a substantial revenue sharing opportunity for partners).
Take that concept and multiply it by hundreds of companies that could benefit from Peloton access, and you’ve made the service vastly more accessible while simultaneously increasing recurring revenue in a meaningful way. Peloton could, of course, continue to offer its own hardware as the most “premium” experience. This is not unlike what Microsoft does with Windows and Surface devices — Surface offers the premium experience Microsoft wants customers to aspire to, while other PC manufacturers pursue their own Windows device designs.
Peloton could even partner with hardware manufacturers to offer pre-optimized tablets for third-party equipment that could fast-track integration. Then, if a company wants to build a smart indoor bike, treadmill, or rower with direct Peloton access, it could choose one of these pre-optimized Peloton tablets as the display.
But wait, it gets better. Peloton could then use this new open platform to build a system specifically for gyms and hotels, allowing its users to access their accounts, workouts, leaderboards, and more from anywhere. Customers could walk into a gym, log in to their Peloton account (perhaps via NFC, simply tapping their phone on the machine), and start a workout. Your data would sync across the platform and automatically log the user out on workout completion. If Peloton partnered with other fitness hardware makers, like Mirror, it could have a Peloton experience on Mirror that offered a custom pre-ride warm up with active stretching, or some post-ride cooldown yoga. This is the type of highly integrated experience customers are beginning to expect, and Peloton could lead the charge here if it really wanted to. There are already products and services that offer this sort of integration, but Peloton could easily take advantage of its massive brand and springboard the concept into the mainstream.
Sounds cool, but how does Peloton get there?
That’s the big question, right? This may come as a surprise, but Peloton could get there pretty easily by using Esper.
Helping companies leverage the power of Android and DevOps for devices to get to places they’ve never been before is precisely what we do. Peloton already uses Android, so it’s already halfway there. With the power of Esper, it could supercharge its Android experience, bringing it up to speed with much newer versions than it’s currently using, making its devices more secure, performant, and generally capable. We already offer a custom platform based on Android that could simplify Peloton’s platform offering and update strategy. Since we handle the updates for Foundation, Peloton gets the benefit of offering an updated, more secure platform it doesn’t have to build! Win-win? Win-win.
Esper could also help optimize the hardware options we mentioned earlier. With our help, Peloton could build an unparalleled user experience that transcends its current hardware offerings, increases market share, and pushes it into the mainstream like never before. The current cost of ownership for a Peloton product is unattainable for many people, so having the option to offer a similar experience on much more affordable hardware would make the product more accessible across a range of markets and demographics.
And it’s not like this is a new concept for us — we’ve already helped companies like Climbr and Inspire Fitness break out of the mold to offer more agile, versatile, and accessible connected fitness products. We could do the same for Peloton, allowing more end-users entry to the platform on more accessible hardware, all on a more secure, reliable, and updated platform — and no extra work on Peloton’s side. Everyone wins.
So, Peloton, whenever you’re ready, so are we.
Hero image source: united photo studio/Shutterstock.com