Apple Fitness+ Review: Either Right on Time or Much Too Late

Welcome to Apple World. That’s what launching an Apple Fitness+ workout is like, stepping into a world of wood-paneled walls, charming accents, and Apple Watches. You can almost smell the eucalyptus towels, except you can’t, because this is a virtual gym beamed through one of your Apple screens.

Apple has just debuted this new subscription fitness service, and it’s either right on time or much too late. A lot of people have been locked down at home this year, looking for ways to stay active and maybe even formulating some fitness plans for the new year (a bold move, considering how 2020 panned out). But companies like Peloton, Nike, and Strava have had years-long head starts, and their apps are sticky. They also offer social networks, which Apple has never quite been able to successfully integrate into its products.

I’ve been using the Apple Fitness+ app since it launched last week. I managed to do eight workouts across different categories (some of the workouts were only 10 to 20 minutes long). I’ve been comparing it primarily to Peloton, both the bike and the mobile app. My WIRED colleagues and I plan to do a comprehensive roundup of popular fitness apps and home gym equipment in the coming months, but that’s going to take a little more time.

 

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Apple Fitness+ is … fine? I signed up for a three-month free trial, so I’ll continue to use it in rotation with other workout activities and apps. It’s one of the finest integrations of fitness and tech I’ve experienced—assuming “integration” is really a thing to want in home fitness. The app doesn’t offer the live classes or coaching for outdoor runs you’ll find on other platforms, and in general the Fitness+ classes lack the entertainment value that Peloton has. Those things could improve over time. The one thing that’s likely not going to change: You’re gonna need a lot of Apple products to use Apple Fitness+.

High Bar

First: You have to have an Apple Watch to use Apple Fitness+. The least expensive version you could buy and still access the necessary software is the $169 Apple Watch Series 3. This means you’ll also need an iPhone, since you can’t set up an Apple Watch without an iPhone. And if you plan to stream Apple Fitness+ classes on your TV, you’ll need an Apple TV box ($149 and up).

The Fitness+ app. 

Photograph: Apple

You can also download the Fitness+ app to your iPad and access classes on the tablet. However, you’ll still need the combination of Apple Watch and iPhone, since you can’t set up an Apple Watch on the iPad. And again, you need an Apple Watch to access Apple Fitness+. It’s not hard to see what Apple’s doing here; the company’s very inclusive fitness program just happens to exclude anyone who has an Android phone or another company’s wearable.

The cost of the Fitness+ subscription is $10 per month, with a few options to consider. For anyone who has purchased an Apple Watch in the past three months, the first three months of Fitness+ are free. You can also pay $80 per year, saving $40 bucks annually. And if you and your family are totally locked into Apple’s ecosystem, you can opt to cough up $30 per month, and then you and five others can access a bundle that includes Apple Music, TV+, Fitness+, News+, and 2 terabytes of iCloud storage.

 

You’ll also likely need some workout basics—ample space, a yoga mat, hand weights if you’re one of the lucky few who has acquired some this year—and a stationary bike if you plan to indulge in Apple’s cycling classes.

Close Your Rings

These are surely first-world problems, but anyone who likes experimenting with fitness technology knows that it’s never get-up-and-go. You’ve got to strap on the smartwatch or arm band, connect it to your phone, program the playlist, find the right yoga video on YouTube, then cast it to your TV, et cetera, et cetera. If you’re using a first-generation Peloton bike (the horror!) you’ll have to hit Start on both the bike and whatever smartwatch you’re using.

Apple has gone to great lengths to remove some of that friction in Fitness+, and it has largely succeeded. I was able to test the app with the full trifecta in place: Apple Watch, iPhone/iPad, and a third-generation Apple TV box. It really was as easy as choosing a class on my phone, sharing it to the living room TV, and pressing Start on the Apple Watch. (The green Start button automatically pops up on your Watch when you select a Fitness+ class.)