Apple introduces its large-scale gym partnership program, Apple Watch Connected

According to a report from CNBC, Apple this week introduced “Apple Watch Connected,” an initiative that sees the Cupertino company partnering with major gym chains to bring Apple Watch-related technologies and benefits to members of those gyms. Benefits include workout machines that play nice with the Watch, rewards programs based on workout data collected by the Watch, and special deals on products and services.

The first gyms to participate include Orange Theory, Crunch Fitness, YMCA, and Basecamp Fitness, but more may be added later. Apple doesn’t require gyms to pay anything directly to the company to participate, though complying with all the requirements might produce additional expenses for said gyms.

Participating gyms must offer an app for either the iPhone or the Watch that allows members to track their fitness progress or activity, they must accept mobile payments via the tech company’s Apple Pay system, and they have to offer some kind of rewards to members for achieving specific goals using the Watch. Additionally, gyms that make use of certain types of fitness equipment must use fitness that supports Apple’s GymKit API for tracking workouts. Some gyms, like Orange Theory, are not focused on self-directed workout with machines and thus have slightly different requirements to meet with regards to GymKit, though.

The program will be opt-in, meaning the intention is that customers won’t automatically see their data tracked by gyms via Apple’s hardware and services unless they choose to participate.

The initial partners’ participation began today at select locations, and each partner has a timeline for rolling out Apple Watch Connected to more locations in the coming weeks and months. Gyms hope to increase customer retention with the program, and they may also see it as an easy answer to the headaches of an ecosystem of fitness machines and related tech that don’t always play nice together. Apple, of course, is looking to increase the Watch’s footprint with consumers as a leading fitness tracking device.

A few months ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors that he believes “there will be a day in the future that we look back and Apple’s greatest contribution will be to people’s health.” He said it in part referring to the runaway success of the company’s wearables business, which includes both the Apple Watch and AirPods. That part of the business has grown much faster than most other major categories at Apple, especially the relatively slow-moving iPhone.

The company has previously introduced wearable- and health-related initiatives like opportunities for Watch wearers to opt-in to health studies, or benefits and discounts from health insurance companies to customers who use the Apple Watch to record a low-risk, healthy lifestyle. Some gyms and fitness equipment companies already even supported GymKit and the Watch. This is just a major coordinated effort to bring more gyms and customers into the fold.

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