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Why Apple is now decoupling the fitness service from its watch

The end of the corona lockdowns has not led to a decrease in the use of Apple's fitness service Fitness.

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Why Apple is now decoupling the fitness service from its watch

The end of the corona lockdowns has not led to a decrease in the use of Apple's fitness service Fitness. "We have not noticed a decrease, but a change in use," says Jay Blahnik, head of the fitness division at the iPhone group, in an interview with WELT. "While users initially only exercised at home, they are now increasingly using fitness in health clubs and when traveling." Apple usually does not make any statements about the use of its services.

With Fitness, Apple offers a media library with training videos in high 4K resolution and with a length of five to 45 minutes. Almost 4000 videos in different categories such as strength training, yoga, dance, cycling and rowing are available for retrieval. In connection with an Apple Watch, users can watch the videos on their iPhone, iPad or TV and at the same time, for example, track their heart rate and calorie consumption superimposed on the image.

The group launched its fitness service in the USA in December 2020, at which time many fitness clubs were still completely closed due to the corona pandemic. Fitness has also been available in Germany for about a year. Apple keeps the number of users a secret. "But we are enthusiastic about the success," assures Blahnik. Apple charges a monthly fee of ten euros for fitness or an annual fee of 80 euros. Apple's head of fitness doesn't say how profitable fitness is either. "Basically, each of our services must be able to stand on its own."

In fact, few services make as much effort as Apple. The group has built its own studio in Santa Monica, just a few kilometers from Los Angeles, for its subscription service – not least because the group already had its Apple Music and Apple TV branches there. The studio is equipped with 13 cameras controlled by a robotic system from a control room. Each workout is recorded from seven different perspectives and cut together accordingly. Several dozen new videos are added every Monday.

Up to now, the use of fitness was only linked to the Apple Watch, without which the service was not available. This restriction was lifted a few weeks ago, so that owners of iPhones and iPads can also subscribe to the service without the Apple watch. This multiplies the number of possible users. That should also be Apple's hope.

The group does not rule out an expansion to Android smartphones. "There is nothing we want to announce now," says Blahnik when asked. "But we always want to make our services more inclusive." Offering its services on competing devices would be nothing new for Apple. There is also an Apple Music app for Android smartphones.

If you only use fitness on the iPhone and without an Apple Watch, you have to live with minor restrictions. For example, the calorie consumption displayed in the image is roughly estimated and the heart rate is not displayed at all.

There are now a variety of providers in the market that offer subscription fitness services, including Peloton, Fitbit, Les Mills, and Bowflex with JRNY. "The market is still growing," says Apple manager Blahnik. Many of the providers also link their services to fitness equipment. For example, Peloton and Bowflex sell treadmills and spinning bikes. Apple has so far stayed out of this market. "We don't think much about it," it says.

So far, fitness is nothing more than a large video library. The service suggests certain videos, for which Apple takes into account the music and trainer preferences of the users, for example. But there are no personalized workouts. Competitors like Bowflex go a step further here.

In its JRNY service, Bowflex analyzes user performance in order to offer them, for example, workouts that adapt to user performance in connection with the group's spinning bikes. According to the company, it uses artificial intelligence for this and collects 500,000 pieces of data on the wheels within 30 minutes, which it processes.

Fitness boss Blahnik does not reveal how far Apple is here. "Personalization is a good idea," he says. “We think it could be very exciting to use the data on the device to make more personalized offers.” Apple is at the beginning of a longer journey with fitness. So far, the group has made sure that every fitness workout is suitable for every training level.

In fact, Apple doesn't differentiate between beginners, advanced and professionals in its videos. In most workouts, other trainers in the background also show easier variants of the respective exercises.

So far, all workouts are only offered in English. There are subtitles for six languages, including German. The Apple manager does not want to rule out the possibility of local content being added at a later date. “We are open to expanding the team with trainers who also speak other languages.” The trainers already learn sign language for an hour a week, which they incorporate into their videos so that people with hearing impairments or hearing impairments can also understand the explanations.

Apple also makes sure to offer fitness for people who do not do competitive sports. This includes workouts for older adults who have trouble keeping their balance, for example, and meditation. Or audio workouts, which Apple calls "time to go", in which celebrities such as singer Chaka Khan or the British heir to the throne Prince William take a walk, tell stories and send photos to the users on the Apple Watch and play music.

Basically, Apple relies on a dual strategy for its services. On the one hand, the group wants to make itself more independent of pure iPhone sales. Apple smartphones are still responsible for about half of sales. On the other hand, the services should bind users more closely to the devices and prevent them from switching to the competition.

"Everything on shares" is the daily stock exchange shot from the WELT business editorial team. Every morning from 5 a.m. with the financial journalists from WELT. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.

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