Apple has fleshed out its recently launched Fitness+ subscription offering with celebrity-driven audio content that encourages Apple Watch owners to take their device for regular strolls.
Called "Time to Walk," the new feature downloads weekly episodes that range from 25 to 40 minutes in length and play through paired Bluetooth headphones.
These sessions feature musicians, athletes and other celebrities sharing personal stories that the company said range from motivational to thought provoking. These narratives are followed by a short playlist of relevant songs, and all the way through will be backed by a timed photo slide show displayed on the Watch's face.
Word of the feature first came a few weeks back, when a Twitter user spotted menu settings referencing a new walking feature, and 9to5Mac found beta source code suggesting that the guided audio workouts would be included in an upcoming software update.
According to the announcement, Time to Walk is launching with four episodes starring musicians Dolly Parton and Shawn Mendes, NBA player Draymond Green, and actress Uzo Aduba. Apple said it will be adding new episodes until the end of April.
Fitness+ subscribers access the episodes through the Watch's Workout app. Of note, the company also said that device owners who use a wheelchair will instead receive a "Time to Push" version of the feature.
WHY IT MATTERS
When Apple announced Fitness+ as a competitor to Peloton, Fitbit Premium and other device-driven fitness programs back in September, the tech company was clear that tight integration with the Watch and other Apple products would be a major selling point for the service. The company also committed to fueling the offering with custom fitness content, primarily in the form of workout videos led by athletes, dancers and various types of personal trainers.
Time to Walk is a clear example of Apple continuing to execute that strategy. The weekly sessions are download to a subscriber's app automatically, and are delivered via a combination of the Watch's screen and tethered Bluetooth headphones (such as Apple's boutique AirPods). Tapping celebrity guests to headline each session is also a move to distinguish the Fitness+ workout content from that of its competitors.
There's something to be said about the timing of the feature launch. As the COVID-19 pandemic reaches the one-year mark, many consumers will have their eye out for more products addressing their fitness and wellness needs.
“Walking is the most popular physical activity in the world, and one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies. A walk can often be more than just exercise: It can help clear the mind, solve a problem, or welcome a new perspective,” Jay Blahnik, senior director of fitness technologies at Apple, said in a blog post announcing the feature. “Even throughout this challenging period of time, one activity that has remained available to many is walking."
THE LARGER TREND
For Apple and others, the consumer fitness tech market has been a major focus, both before and after the emergence of COVID-19. Peloton has consistently posted record numbers with each of its latest quarterly reports, while ICON (the company behind brands like NordicTrack and Freemotion) raised $200 million in October. Tonal's $110 million round, Tempo's $60 million raise and Hydrow's $25 million round also highlight investors' growing interest in the connected workout space during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the M&A side, connected workout startup Mirror was picked up by Lululemon for half a billion dollars, while Under Armour decided to sell of its MyFitnessPal digital platform to an investment firm for $345 million (a decision it said would clear the way for MapMyFitness, another digital platform it owned).