Apple is trying to give you another big reason to use the Apple Watch at the gym, and it's further evidence that it's becoming a force in the fitness industry
- Apple is launching a new program called Apple Watch Connected, in which gyms will commit to offering incentives for tracking workouts with the Apple Watch, supporting Apple Pay, offering iPhone and Apple Watch apps, and supporting GymKit when applicable.
- Apple is launching the program with Orangetheory Fitness, Crunch Fitness, Basecamp, and the YMCA.
- The program is yet another sign that Apple is pushing more aggressively into areas such as health and fitness, digital services, and wearable technology as these verticals become an increasingly important part of its business.
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Apple is expanding its presence in the fitness space with a new program that will further incorporate the Apple Watch into the gym experience, a move that underscores the company's burgeoning ambitions in health, wearable technology, and digital services.
The new initiative, called Apple Watch Connected, is a program that enables participating gyms to offer incentives such as money towards membership costs to those who track their workouts with the Apple Watch.
As part of the program, gyms will commit to offering an iOS and Apple Watch app, launching a rewards program called Earn with Watch, supporting Apple Pay in their facilities, and implementing its GymKit platform in exercise machines when applicable. The incentive program gives Apple Watch wearers certain bonuses for meeting fitness goals, but the program varies depending on the gym.
Orangetheory, for instance, is launching a new membership tier that allows members to earn gift cards to Nike, Apple, and other brands for meeting workout goals. Boutique fitness studio Basecamp is also rolling out a new type of membership that allows members to earn back the cost of a non-cellular Apple Watch Series 5, the price of which is initially built into the membership, by attending three classes per week over the course of a year. And the YMCA lets you earn donations that are used to fund community programs, while Crunch will let you earn money to be put toward your monthly membership.
Apple Watch wearers don't have to actually work out at the gym to get these rewards, however. Any form of exercise, whether it happens at the gym or during a long walk home or an outdoor run, will count toward the program's fitness goals.
Most of Apple's early partners are launching the program on a small scale before offering it more broadly. Orangetheory, for example, is launching at two New York City locations at Astor Place and in the SoHo neighborhood before expanding to its other 1,200 gyms in the United States. The YMCA is launching at the St. Paul Midway location in Minnesota before expanding to 21 other facilities in the Twin Cities area. Crunch is launching Apple Watch Connected in two New York City locations, one in the Financial District and another on 83rd St., and plans to expand it to 28 other signature locations in the city.
It's another sign that Apple has become a growing presence in the health and fitness industry. Apple emerged as the market leader in the wearable technology industry at the end of last year, with the International Data Corporation reporting that it held the position in terms of market share as of the third quarter of 2019. Cook has also said that he believes Apple's "greatest contribution" will involve health.
"I believe, if you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, 'What was Apple's greatest contribution to mankind?' it will be about health," the Apple CEO told CNBC's Jim Cramer in early 2019.
The launch is also very telling of the company's strategy when it comes to the Apple Watch, which has gradually become one of its most important products as revenue from its wearables business has helped offset slowing iPhone sales over the past year. Although it probably won't have a major impact on Apple Watch sales, tying its smartwatch to a user's gym of choice would probably make it more difficult for competitors like Samsung and Fitbit to lure Apple users over to their respective platforms.
It also gives Apple another way to boost its growing services business, which generated $12.5 billion in revenue in the company's fiscal fourth quarter, since it involves a commitment from gym chains to offer Apple Pay.
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