Apple Inc., Cupertino, California, announced on Jan. 23 the launch of Apple Watch Connected, a program designed to promote connectivity, enhance user experience and offer rewards within health clubs and studios via the Apple Watch. The flagship adopters of Apple's new program include select locations of Crunch, New York; Orangetheory Fitness, Boca Raton, Florida; Basecamp Fitness, Woodbury, Minnesota; and YMCA Twin Cities, Minneapolis.
Apple Watch Connected was conceptualized after the 2017 launch of GymKit, Apple Watch's mobile operating system feature that allows watch owners to sync directly with select fitness equipment. The idea behind the Apple Watch Connected program is to leverage the Apple Watch's user base to incentivize club and studio operators to make their facilities easier to access and use, Jay Blahnik, Apple's senior director of fitness technologies, told Club Industry. This may include watch-enabled check-ins and class registrations, in addition to the incorporation of Apple Pay services and GymKit-enabled equipment within a club.
Furthermore, Connected's customizable Earn with Watch rewards system allows club operators to set goals for members who, in turn, may receive gift cards, membership discounts or earn back the value of their Apple Watch. Clubs can also reward members for their tracked activities that occur outside of the facilities' four walls. These kinds of perks are customizable and can vary by club.
Blahnik said Apple was inspired to develop the program, in part, because of positive feedback from operators of GymKit-ready clubs who wanted to better engage their members and ensure a more seamless member experience inside and outside of their clubs. This aligns with Apple’s mission to make everyday experiences—such as workouts—easier and more fun through the careful application of technology, he said.
“We’re thrilled innovative and progressive health clubs and gyms are putting Apple Watch at the center of their digital ecosystem through the new Apple Watch Connected program," Blahnik said. "Apple Watch continues to help people live a better day by being more active, and this deep integration with the device offers members an unparalleled gym-going experience.”
There are no up-front fees to become an Apple Watch Connected facility, Blahnik said. The only barrier to entry is that facilities must have a quality, working app that is available in the Apple App Store. Apple's developer relations team will then work with facilities on an individual basis to ensure the app is ready to support the Apple Watch Connected program.
“Crunch is thrilled these New York locations are part of the Apple Watch Connected program,” Chad Waetzig, executive vice president of marketing and branding at Crunch, said in a media release. “An overwhelming majority of our members choose iOS as their mobile platform of choice, and we’re seeing widespread adoption of Apple Watch by members in our club. With the convenience and great fitness and activity tracking features of Apple Watch, we feel we’re able to bring our members next level integration by building an entire experience around this device. And we’re fully intending to expand the Apple Watch Connected program across more Crunch Signature and Crunch Fitness gyms in 2020 and beyond.”
Apple Watch Connected launched on Jan. 23 at the following locations:
- Orangetheory’s Astor Place and Soho locations in New York, with plans to launch at nearly 1,200 nationwide locations throughout 2020;
- Basecamp’s six California studios and all future studios;
- YMCA Twin Cities’ St. Paul Midway location in St. Paul, Minnesota, with plans to launch at the Y’s 21 other regional locations;
- Crunch’s Signature locations at 83rd Street and FiDi in New York, with plans to launch at the remaining 28 New York Signature locations and, eventually, nationwide.
The Apple Watch was first released in 2015 and has since gone through five iterations, the most recent of which released in September 2019. The Apple Watch Series 5 has a starting price of $399.
In 2018, the Apple Watch Series 4 received attention within the fitness and healthcare industries for its support of an electrocardiography (ECG) app and a fall-detection system. Both technologies were approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, categorizing the watch as an official class 2 medical device.
In December 2019, Orangetheory released OTbeat Link, a small, custom-designed device worn on an Apple Watch band that allows members to sync their Apple Watch directly with the in-studio heart rate monitoring system within Orangetheory studios.