For years Apple Watch customers have been walking and running to meet step counts just for the satisfaction of meeting their goals. Now Apple is giving them better reasons to get sweaty.
Apple is embedding itself more deeply with fitness brands through a new rewards program called Apple Watch Connected. Starting Thursday, members of Crunch Fitness, greater Twin Cities YMCA, BaseCamp, and Orangetheory who own Apple Watches will be able to accrue gift cards and discounts.
Last year, Apple Watch launched integrations with Peloton and Orangetheory so that members could monitor their heart rate while they worked out. It also quietly launched a rewards program with Crunch Fitness that allowed the latter to offer its patrons $3 per week for completing fitness goals. Now, Apple Watch Connected will allow any fitness entity to integrate with the Apple Watch so members can track their health and earn rewards.
To participate in Apple Watch Connected, gyms must have equipment enabled with GymKit, a platform that lets users sync their Watch to cardio machines and collect their workout data. GymKit first launched two years ago, and since then Apple has worked with manufacturers like Technogym, Life Fitness, and Octane Fitness to incorporate hardware and GymFit code into their treadmills, stair climbers, and other equipment. It works like this: Users can scan their watch against an NFC reader on a piece of equipment anytime during their workout to capture their progress and send it to their Watch. It’s particularly useful for garnering metrics the Watch might have a hard time calculating on its own, like how many steps were taken on a stair climber, for example, where a person stays static in space.
The Apple Watch Connected platform pulls in the data from GymKit and pipes it into the fitness brand’s Watch and iPhone app, where members can then view and plan their workout schedule. For instance, through the Crunch Apple Watch app, users can now sign up for classes and log their workouts. Through the Apple Watch Connected integration, fitness studios will also be able to offer prizes based on member activity. Since Apple Watch can give studios insight into how active its members are wherever they are, the programs launching today will give out points to members whether they go for a run outside or do yoga in the studio (as long as they get their heart rate up).
Each reward program is designed by the fitness brand. At BaseCamp, a small, nine-location boutique, when members sign up for the Apple Watch program ($33.25 per month in addition to their monthly membership), they receive a fifth-generation Apple Watch with GPS. Every month, the BaseCamp app will have an opportunity to reduce that fee by completing challenges. These challenges are designed to be achievable, but do get more difficult as time goes on (just like Apple’s activity rings). The promise of this program is that if a person works out enough they can essentially earn a free Apple Watch.
At Crunch Fitness, goals are set each week and members can earn credits toward their membership—as much as $15 a month. The new program will start at 17 locations with plans to encompass all 350 locations nationwide by the end of the year. Going forward, Crunch Fitness will only purchase new cardio equipment that has GymKit as part of its offering, so that eventually all of its cardio equipment has that feature.
Gyms do not have to pay to join Apple Watch Connected. Apple says it is primarily interested in helping its users be active. But there may be another incentive for the company. In addition to giving Apple Watch wearers a more seamless experience at the gym, the new program may prove a boon for Apple Pay. Fitness centers that hook into Apple Watch Connected must accept Apple Pay at their studios to participate. Having Apple Pay accepted at more fitness studios gives Apple more opportunity to cash in on transaction fees, a growing source of revenue for the company. Last year, CEO Tim Cook said there were more than 3 billion Apple Pay transactions made during the fourth quarter.
Initially, the Connected Watch program will only be available at select locations for all of its brands, but will slowly be expanding throughout 2020.