After a good few months’ wait since its September announcement and vague roll-out date of “late 2020”, Apple has finally launched Fitness+ - the tech giant’s brand new workout subscription service.
Bound to have the likes of Peloton, Fiit and Wondercise shaking in their gym socks, Fitness+ promises to not disappoint with an interactive fitness experience powered by the Apple Watch. This means that the platform can integrate personal metrics - like calories burned, heart rate, and Activity ring progress - which are beamed from your wrist right into your workout on the screen. Clearly, Apple’s goal is to dominate the fitness space and own the booming home workout industry by making remote exercise more immersive than just following some drab ‘fitfluencer’s’ YouTube clip.
This is the first time Apple has built a fitness-based streaming platform, but - as the owner of the world’s most popular smartwatch - will it have what it takes to sway those already embedded in one of the other millions of fitness apps out there?
APPLE FITNESS+: PRICE & AVAILABILITY
Fitness+ is available now for all Apple Watch users and is purchased as a subscription service for $9.99 / £9.99 / A$14.99 per month or $79.99 / £79.99 / A$119.99, which is a pretty good deal, if you ask me. The app can be accessed under the Fitness+ tab within the Fitness app on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV (once these devices have been updated to the latest software versions).
Existing Apple Watch customers signing up for the first time will get one month of Fitness+ included for free. However, if you’ve just bought one brand new (Series 3 or later, that is), Apple extends this to three months. I’d hurry if you want to take advantage of this extended trial though as it’s only available for a limited time. Oh, and those who own an Apple One Premier plan, Fitness+ is already included.
APPLE FITNESS+: SETUP
Before you can dive head first into a sweaty workout, you’ll need to make sure all of your Apple devices and apps have been updated to the latest versions. You’ll need iOS14.3, iPadOS 14.3, WatchOS 7.2, and/or tvOS 14.3 for it to work as it’s this version of the operating system, which adds the Fitness+ platform to the Fitness app app.
These updates can take a bit of time and once done, I found that my iPhone was unable to find my Apple Watch for the first few attempts of starting a workout after trying to connect them. However, this it seems - was a one-off occurrence.
Set-up probably took around an hour or so, including the time required to figure out how everything worked as well as hunting for a workout that I deemed well-suited.
APPLE FITNESS+: LAYOUT AND UI
My favourite thing about Fitness+ has to be how epically premium everything looks. The app is really nicely laid out with everything clearly labelled so you can easily find what you’re looking for and not feel overwhelmed. The fitness genres appear in a bar across the top, which once tapped will give you a list of the different workouts available.
You’ve also got plenty of ways to browse the classes to find one best suited to you, with workouts that are ‘New This Week’ towards the top, followed by ‘Beginners’ workouts next, then ‘Popular’ workouts, ‘Trainers’, and ‘Simple and Quick’ exercises at the bottom. There is no search option, probably because there aren’t enough workouts on the platform to warrant it just yet. You can, however, sort by music preference, class duration and trainer.
The studios used to capture the fitness content and the quality of the content itself is absolutely top notch. There has been no expense spared. Beamed to a large 4K display via AppleTV will offer impressive visuals that make you feel like the trainer is right in your living room, working out alongside you. During a class, each trainer will perform with two back up trainers alongside them who demonstrate alternative exercises, such as more advanced or simplified options, which is a nice touch.
APPLE FITNESS+: FEATURES AND PERFORMANCE
In terms of features, the Fitness+ platform includes roughly 10 different workout types, including High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Strength, Yoga, Dance, Core, Cycling, Treadmill (for running and walking), Rowing and Mindful Cooldown. For the moment these are brought to you by 21 different (and mostly American) instructors, with some British accents thrown in there for good measure. It’s also great to see the diversity of the trainers on this platform, with people of all races represented.
The most impressive thing about Fitness+, though, is the way it seamlessly beams live data from your wrist live onto your display. You’ll see metrics like heart rate and calories burned displayed right on the screen, which means you don’t have to glance down at your Apple Watch and can stay focused on the trainer’s instructions as you get that blood pumping. This also includes fun onscreen animations like a celebration animation when your activity rings are closed. These can be switched off, too, if you find having your stats glaring at you throughout exercise is a little off-putting.
On some workouts - usually the more cardio based ones - there’s also a Burn Bar. This lets you see how you are doing compared to everyone else who has done this workout before you. Shown as calories burned, it’s based on your rolling two-minute effort during the workout so the harder you move around like a maniac, the more you move up in the pecking order. When your workout is complete, your final position on the Burn Bar is an average of your effort across the whole class. This is a nice touch; gamifying your workouts to help keep you motivated.
While all the most popular types of fitness are covered on the platform, I do feel there could be a slightly better choice of workout types, or at least more diversity within each category. There also feels like there’s a lack of really challenging workouts, for those weirdos (like me) who don't like to do things by half. There are no 60 or 90 minutes yoga classes, for example, and not that many different types of yoga on offer within that category. For example, there’s around 20 yoga classes available in the Yoga section right now but the only thing that differentiates each class is the trainer taking them, the accompanying music playlist and the duration. This - as a self-confessed yogi - I found rather disappointing. Where’s the ‘Power Yoga’, ‘Ashtanga’, ‘Rocket Yoga’, or even ‘Yin’?
This, along with the general vibe of the app, this does lead me to believe that Fitness+ is aimed more toward the ‘beginners’/mainstream end of the fitness market; for those who perhaps don’t work out that often as opposed to athletes and the like (not that I’m calling myself an athlete by any means!). Still, it is very early days and I presume Apple will be expanding its portfolio of workout types and styles before long if Fitness+ proves successful (which, I am sure, it will).
APPLE FITNESS+: VERDICT
Apple Fitness+ is an incredibly well-built fitness platform that utilises the Apple Watch seamlessly to offer up a cunning and immersive workout experience that no-one can deny is of incredibly high-quality.
Setup can take a while if you’ve still not updated your devices, and I did come across a few teething problems like the Fitness+ not finding out Apple Watch right away, but this only happened once. Generally - as you’d expect from Apple - everything runs like clockwork in Fitness+ once you’ve got it going. It syncs everything between iPhone, Watch and/or Apple TV effortlessly, with zero lag between devices.
While you’ll find the basics, there’s still not an awful lot of variety there in terms of workout type. I am a little disappointed that there’s still not any one-hour yoga classes, for instance. Overall though, Apple Fitness+ is impressive, and will only get better as Apple updates its handsome and engaging platform in the coming months and years.