Wear It Well

Apple Watch Connected turns calorie burn into currency

Last week, Apple launched Apple Watch Connected, a programme that involves partnerships with several fitness chains and sees the Apple Watch becoming the centre of a build-out of the company’s healthcare and well-being ecosystem.

Apple Watch Connected is essentially a rewards programme in which the Apple Watch is used to track and store fitness activity. At launch, four fitness chains, namely Basecamp Fitness, Crunch Fitness, Orangetheory Fitness and YMCA, are participating in the initiative. They will begin rolling out support for the programme at various paces, with most starting in larger metropolitan areas.

There’s no charge for participating gyms, but they must have compatible machines and a supporting app where members can log in to the gym and track their activity. The gyms must also accept Apple Pay and offer some sort of reward for reaching certain activity goals. The incentives vary by gym, but can comprise credits of $3 or $4 per week toward gym membership or gift cards for Apple or Nike products. Furthermore, the gym’s equipment must also support Apple’s GymKit, which enables users to pair fitness equipment with their Apple Watch through NFC; users simply tap their watch to select a gym machine and activate the connection when they’re exercising.

For Apple, this is another move into health and well-being, with its Watch becoming an enabler for keeping additional formal records of activity. The company is firmly establishing its healthcare ecosystem by embedding its APIs into fitness hardware. We expect makers of fitness equipment, which are well aware that Apple has the largest installed base of smartwatches, to be eager participants in this build-out.

Just like it has done with Apple Pay, Apple is proactively creating uses for its wearables rather than depending on third parties to do so. Although the roll-out of Apple Watch Connected will take time, the company will almost certainly find a way to reach critical mass. We expect gyms to introduce extensive marketing campaigns boasting of support for the programme, and supporting facilities to receive special status among users.

Apple is the dominant player in the market for smartwatches, and particularly in the market for cellular-connected wearables. Its latest move is a clever play by the company to encourage more active use, which boosts engagement with its products, potentially supports an accelerated upgrade cycle for the devices and spurs an even stronger network effect for its Apple Watch.

Apple has already teamed up with several major healthcare providers, with the Apple Watch becoming a tool to track activity and basic fitness levels. Its new programme might just be an example of goodwill gamesmanship, but the Apple Watch ecosystem is clearly gaining recognition and evolving into a real-world tool in the healthcare sector.