Apple Fitness+ review: Two years later, barely treads water

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Apple Fitness+ joined the workout streaming movement in December 2020. It’s a good start, but it barely floats next to shiny, personality-filled competitors in an ever-changing online fitness market.

It took two years for Apple to realize that having to buy an Apple Watch to use Apple Fitness+ wasn’t a clever marketing ploy to encourage people to buy the watch, but an exclusion that caused consumers to find other ways to their fitness goals.

As of October 2022, Apple Fitness+ is now available to all iPhone users, regardless of whether they own an Apple Watch or not.

Apple Fitness+ improvements and growth

Apple Fitness+ has made many improvements since its inception. Besides adding more training modalities, these improvements have to do with subtraction and simplicity rather than addition. Less is more.

When Apple Fitness+ was first introduced, during workouts, the intra-workout interface was busy. The activity rings (red, green and blue) showed the user their calories burned during the day, activity calories burned during exercise and standing hours.

All three rings were shown on the training screen and were distracting.

Only one ring was actually beneficial to display, the red ring — describing the user’s total daily calorie burn. The green intra-workout calorie burn ring would also have been an acceptable choice as The One Ring, but in the interest of keeping users in the app with the goal of closing their daily calorie burn ring, Apple chose to show the red ring and do away with the others.

Now the Apple Fitness training screen is minimalistic. It includes only three elements: a countdown timer that describes how much time is left in the workout, the time left in the current activity (e.g. in kickboxing, the time left in the circuit) and the red ring – showing total daily activity progress in calorie burning.

Apple Fitness+'s training screen is minimalistic

Another subtraction that Apple Fitness+ made that improves the user experience is the burn bar feature. The feature was based on the user’s body mass index (BMI), and compared your calorie burn to other users of a similar height and weight.

Every time a trainer hears “BMI” we cringe.

It is a weak measure of physical fitness and body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. It is inaccurate as it does not take body composition into account.

For example, take Joe and Wayne, who are both 6’2″ and 220 pounds. Joe doesn’t exercise and has a body fat percentage of 30%. However, Wayne is an NHL player and spends 3+ hours in the gym daily, tracks macros with his nutritionist , has 6% body fat (measured by calipers) and much more muscle.

The more muscles we have, the more calories we burn. Apple’s combustible function would consider Joe and Wayne’s composition, and thus calorie burn, to be the same.

Apple's former flammable feature

Apple’s former flammable feature

The burning beam was unreliable.

Another improvement is the addition of more workouts and music. In January 2023, kickboxing was added to the list of forms of exercise. The music is up to date, which is an incredible motivator.

Apple does its best to stay fresh, but still falls short.

How Apple Fitness+ stacks up against the competition

Peloton still reigns supreme in the Western world. But against Peloton, Apple Fitness+ is the cheaper and easier choice.

Getty Images

Getty Images

The Peloton app is proprietary technology, which means you must own Peloton training equipment in order to stream classes. Compared to Apple Fitness+, Peloton’s potential audience is wider.

Peloton doesn’t fall into the Android/Apple divide and offers its technology and gear to anyone with the iOS or Android app.

If you don’t own Peloton gear, you can choose from a handful of Peloton’s other workouts, including outdoor running, HIIT, strength, yoga, walking, stretching, cardio bootcamp, and meditation.

They also offer synchronous, live classes that are motivating and not as “artificial” or “robotic” — terms sometimes used by users to describe Apple Fitness+.

In addition to user-friendly subtractions since 2020, Apple Fitness+ have Made some nice additions.

Apple Fitness+ now supports 12 exercise types, including High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Yoga, Core, Pilates, Strength, Treadmill (Walk or Run), Cycling, Rowing, Dance, Kickboxing and Mindful Cooldown. While they release new classes every week, they only offer asynchronous, pre-recorded classes.

Recording from elite studios in Los Angeles – one of the fitness capitals of the world and home to the muscle beach – you’d think live fitness classes would be an easy addition. Live classes would undermine the “robotic” feel of Apple Fitness+’s workouts.

Having the option of both pre-recorded classes and live classes would be a huge draw.

They could even take a leaf from twitch’s book and open a comment section during training to inspire extra camaraderie and a sense of community, improving user retention.

Perhaps Apple Fitness+’s biggest draw compared to competitors like Peloton is that you can use your own equipment – without the hefty price tag.

Apple Fitness+ is reasonably priced

If you buy an iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad or Apple TV, Apple Fitness+ is free for 3 months. After three months, it’s $9.99 per month. month or $79.99 annually. This is comparable to your favorite show streaming platform – very reasonable.

However, Peloton comes with a boutique fitness class price tag that equates to roughly @250 per person. month Equinox gym. The Peloton Bike alone costs $1,445 including delivery and setup. The monthly membership fees are a hefty $44.00.

If you prefer personal training, you can purchase a Planet Fitness membership for about ten dollars. But if you enjoy the luxury of completing group exercise classes from the comfort of your own home, Apple Fitness+ is well worth the $9.99.

The future of Apple Fitness+

The future of online fitness is not in the hands of Peloton or Apple Fitness+. Online fitness is undergoing a shift that serves and highlights fitness personalities, their followers dependent on trainer-to-client connection and constant visibility.

Apple Fitness+ is battling an extremely cutthroat and malleable workout streaming market. In addition to fitness giants like Peloton, Apple Fitness has an even bigger competitor: thousands of fitness influencers who have their own programs, their own apps, their own flair – and pack big personalities.

Apple uses great accredited trainers, but it’s still not enough. Apple is undoubtedly universal and has built a global empire, but the company is often seen as “robotic” or faceless, with Siri as its voice.

Although Siri sounds more natural over the years with vocal tics like hmm?, we are not fooled. We know she’s a robot.

People seek real connection. We want idols to inspire and motivate us to achieve our goals. We subscribe to our favorite fitness influencer program because, in short, we want to be like them. Just them. Live like them.

TikTok could be the future of online fitness

TikTok could be the future of online fitness

What Apple Fitness+ lacks is personality. Some influencers on TikTok do not have a certification and rely on “bro science”, but subscribers do not care.

They see their bodies and think “that’s what I want to look like!” Subscribers rush to buy their programs and influencers rake in the dough.

These influencers prove to their followers that they’re right every day, sometimes hourly, on social media—highlighting their likes, dislikes, workouts, struggles, triumphs, and distinct personalities. All facets of their lives are displayed for our consumption.

We have no doubt that they are flesh and blood and we feel that we are part of their journey.

What Apple needs here is not just to have good content that is medically sound, but to lean into the fact that they are the authority. And they have to do it with personality.

Apple Fitness+ faces the challenge of moving from below the hardware shadow of the company as a whole to become something more natural and universal. It’s almost there – but not quite.

Apple Fitness+ Pros

  • Easy to fit into a workout anywhere, anytime
  • The subscription price is reasonable
  • Top-of-the-line trainers
  • Large selection of training forms
  • Fitness modalities for body and mind – such as meditation and guided walks
  • Clean interface
  • Apple Fitness+ Cons

  • Only Apple product owners can use the product
  • Not all classes are bodyweight – some equipment must be purchased
  • Classes still feel impersonal. Live classes would be a big plus!
  • You cannot filter training by training equipment
  • Apple Fitness+, two years later score: 3.5 out of 5


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