Squeezed between the announcements of the new Apple Watch and iPad models was Apple’s “How can we be of service?” pitch. Services such as the App Store and Apple Music are an increasing part of the company’s revenue, and Apple is doubling the concept with two new initiatives: Apple Fitness + and the Apple One service packages.
Apple Fitness +
In recent years, Apple has realized that for many people, the Apple Watch is about fitness. So much, in fact, that in watchOS 7, the Activity app has been renamed Fitness across Apple’s entire line.
But it’s more on the go than a name change – Apple is introducing Apple Fitness +, a “training experience” that combines calculations from an Apple Watch Series 3 or later with studio-style workouts that you watch on an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. Apple says it has hired world-class coaches to provide the classes, and the workouts are scored to motivational music curated by the coaches. (And if you subscribe to Apple Music, you can save the playlists.)
Types of exercise include cycling, treadmill, rowing, HIIT, strength, yoga, dance, core and mindful cooling. If you have never done any training classes before, there is also an Absolute Beginner program that helps train beginners through the basics of movement and training. Many of the workouts, apart from cycling, treadmill and rowing, can be done without equipment at all, and a set of manuals will help some of the others. Treadmills that support Apple GymKit will ask users to connect to the Apple Watch so that the calculations are synchronized.
When we talk about calculations, these are not just the canned virtual workouts that so many people have become accustomed to during the pandemic. Apple Fitness + works across multiple Apple devices, so if you start exercising on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, the right type of exercise will automatically start on your Apple Watch (Series 3 or later). While exercising, heart rate and training time are displayed on the screen, and can even be emphasized when the trainer asks participants to check their heart rate or start a countdown timer. There is also a Burn Bar that allows users to compare their current efforts against people who have completed training in the past. And finally, the familiar rings of the Apple Watch also appear on the screen to provide feedback and motivation.
Apple promises that coaches will post new workouts each week with a variety of lengths, disciplines and music genres. The choices will include the latest hits, chill vibes, pure dance, hip-hop / R & B, Latin grooves, rock, upbeat anthems and top country – it did not sound like it would be jazz or classical alternatives. I hope the music is optional because I often do not like the choices.
Even though I am a runner, I have a knowledge of the training world, and at first glance it seems that Apple has done a good job with Apple Fitness +. Cross-device integration and the ease of starting workouts and tracking progress are welcome, and timing is especially useful these days to get stuck at home due to pandemics and fires causing air quality issues.
At launch, which Apple says will come before the end of 2020, Apple Fitness + will only be available in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US. I suspect it’s mostly a language issue due to having English speaking coaches, but I’m sure Apple’s trying to figure out how best to deliver the content in many other languages.
Apple Fitness + costs $ 9.99 per month or $ 79.99 per year. Everyone can try Fitness + for free for 1 month. If you buy a new Apple Watch after today, you get a free trial of 3 months; buy it from Best Buy and you will get 6 months for free. You can also share a Fitness + subscription with up to five others in your family with Family Sharing. CVS Health offers special access to Fitness + for its customers, clients and employees – the details are still evolving.
Quick quiz: how many subscription services does Apple offer now, and how much does each cost per month? The answer is six:
- Apple Music: $ 9.99 individual, $ 14.99 family, $ 4.99 student
- Apple TV +: $ 4.99 (but 1 year free with the purchase of an Apple device)
- Apple Arcade: $ 4.99
- Apple News +: $ 9.99
- Apple Fitness +: $ 9.99
- iCloud (extra storage): $ 0.99 (50 GB), $ 2.99 (200 GB), $ 9.99 (2 TB)
If you were to put together all the services (including the Apple Music family plan and the highest level of iCloud storage), it would cost $ 54.94 per month. Few are likely to pay, but Apple wants to encourage more loyalty to the Apple ecosystem by bundling some of the services.
Despite the Apple One name, there are actually three discounted service packages:
- Apple One Individual: For $ 14.95 per month, you get Apple Music, Apple TV +, Apple Arcade and 50GB of iCloud storage. Before Apple One, it costs $ 20.96, so you will save $ 6.01 per month.
- Apple One Family: For $ 19.95 per month for up to six family members, you get Apple Music, Apple TV +, Apple Arcade and 200 GB of iCloud storage. Before Apple One, it costs $ 27.96, so you will save $ 8.01 per month.
- Apple One Premier: For $ 29.95 per month, you get it all: Apple Music, Apple TV +, Apple Arcade, Apple News +, Apple Fitness + and 2TB of iCloud storage, all of which can be shared between six family members. With the price before Apple One of $ 54.94, you save $ 24.95 per month.
These discounts are completely legitimate. The only problem is that the packages may not fit what you want. For example, Tonya, Tristan and I currently share the Apple Music family plan and pay for 200 GB of iCloud storage. We also get Apple TV + for free because we have bought new Apple devices, even though we have only seen two show episodes from it so far and have not continued with any of the shows. So we are currently paying $ 17.94, while the Apple One Family plan will cost us an additional $ 2.01 each month and only provide one additional service – Apple Arcade – that we have already tried and thrown away. And the Apple One Premier plan costs $ 12.05 more per month, making it worthwhile only if we need more than 200GB of iCloud storage (unlikely in the near future) and wanted to subscribe to Apple Fitness + (not unthinkable) – we have already tried and dropped Apple News +.
Our problem is lack of free time. If we had a lot more of it, we might be interested in reading some of the magazines available through Apple News + or playing some Apple Arcade games. But as it stands, our days are booked solid from morning to night, and there is simply no more time to spend on additional services. Maybe we are unusual, but I do not think so – lack of time is a common complaint among people we know.
Apple says the Apple One Individual and Family plans will be available “starting this fall,” in more than 100 countries and regions. However, the Premier plan will only be available in Australia (where it does not fall), Canada, the UK and the US, where Apple News + is available now, and Apple Fitness + will join later this year. Sorry New Zealanders who get Apple Fitness + but do not get Apple News +.
One last note. Interestingly, Apple offers an annual alternative to Apple Fitness + because it has not done so for any other service. I wonder if it is because fitness memberships are traditionally sold on an annual basis, which in turn is often the case because gyms know that many people do not actually come in as often and thus can oversell their place. More charitable, gyms and Apple may think that if people sign up a year in advance, they will be more likely to stick to an exercise program. Still, it’s an option we want to see Apple offer for all of its services, including Apple One bundles, if not just to reduce the monthly accounting effort for those of us who track our spending.
What about you? Are you going to give the Apple Fitness + test a try? Will one of the Apple One packages save you enough money to make it worthwhile? Let us know in the comments.