Apple announced this month that all iPhone users would be getting the option to subscribe to Apple Fitness Plus, even if they don’t have an Apple Watch. What’s more, if you buy a new iPhone, Watch or Apple TV, you’ll now be able to get three months of the service totally free. It’s a tried-and-tested strategy used by competitors such as Fitbit and could breathe some life into the Fitness+ service.
Apple remains tight-lipped over exactly how many subscribers they have to Fitness Plus. Other on-demand at-home fitness services are floundering post-pandemic: Peloton, for example, has axed nearly 4,000 jobs this year alone. It seems people don’t want to stay inside and work out anymore: they want to go for runs, hit the gym, and do all the things we couldn’t do in 2020. It's not hard to imagine Fitness Plus isn't the surefire hit it was a couple of years ago.
As a result, Apple has shifted focus slightly with its latest batch of content, stressing its audio-only Time to Run and Time to Walk programs which encourage users to get out into the open air. Even the new at-home fitness program, Yoga For Runners with legendary ultra-runner Scott Jurek, is in support of outdoor activities.
iPhone users everywhere will now be able to take their classes in the gym, or the park, and go through the movements there. Apple has clearly felt the way the wind is blowing and is acting to make sure Fitness+ won’t suffer the same fate as other purely at-home fitness services by supporting your health endeavors elsewhere.
According to Statista, 240 million iPhones were sold in 2022. Getting three months of the service free will add millions of people to the Fitness Plus ecosystem, and while the majority will not renew subscriptions after the free trial is over, some will choose to stay on. The “Fitbit Premium” model of a longer free trial to get people integrated into the service, and then following up with a subscription, will be a boon to Fitness Plus and help it earn its keep.
When each workout uses heavily licensed music and is shot in cinematic style in a 4K studio, Fitness Plus has clearly had a significant amount of money thrown at it. Apple's decision to open up Fitness Plus to more users is a way to ensure the platform continues paying for itself. After all, the last thing Apple wants is for its fitness service to become a redundant chain around its neck.
Of course, you don’t quite get the same experience when using Fitness Plus without an Apple Watch, as a big draw to the service is the ability to see stats such as your heart rate on-screen live, during the workout. Instead, you get a singular Move ring on your iPhone, which estimates your calorie burn and activity stats based on the average of someone of your height, weight, and gender.
It’s not as good, obviously, but for those who don’t have a Watch, it gives them a good indication of what they can expect from Fitness Plus. And what they can expect these days is a fitness subscription service in support of an active lifestyle elsewhere, rather than chaining yourself to an Apple TV screen in your front room.
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Matt is TechRadar's expert on all things fitness, wellness and wearable tech. A former staffer at Men's Health, he holds a Master's Degree in journalism from Cardiff and has written for brands like Runner's World, Women's Health, Men's Fitness, LiveScience and Fit&Well on everything fitness tech, exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing.
Matt's a keen runner, ex-kickboxer, not averse to the odd yoga flow, and insists everyone should stretch every morning. When he’s not training or writing about health and fitness, he can be found reading doorstop-thick fantasy books with lots of fictional maps in them.