Apple takes on Peloton with Fitness+ service

Apple is moving more aggressively into fitness with its smartwatch at the center.

On Tuesday, Apple announced a new subscription service called Fitness+ that’s compatible with the metrics tracked by the Apple Watch.

The fitness program features a variety of workout videos — from yoga and dance to strength training — that can be accessed from an iPad, iPhone or Apple TV. Many of the classes, which feature Apple Music, won’t require any equipment, and new videos will be added each week. The company emphasized that its workout offerings will include options for people of all abilities, including those just starting out.

The fitness subscription is the latest offering in Apple’s growing services business. It also comes as consumers increasingly turn to digital fitness services due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Health and fitness have been a focus for the Apple Watch in recent years, with new features including blood oxygen monitoring, the ECG app, high heart rate notifications, fall detection and menstrual cycle tracking. Fitness+ marks a significant step into the workout world and into further transforming its smartwatch into a device to help people live healthier.

“This speaks to the much bigger evolution of the company in the health care and fitness space, which is going to be multi-year in nature,” said Daniel Flax, senior research analyst at Neuberger Berman. “When it was first introduced, people wondered well ‘What will we use it for?’ It’s clear there are compelling use cases in the health and fitness arenas.”

Flax also said what differentiates Apple from competitors is its ability to integrate hardware, software and services in a simple and secure way. For example, Apple Watch metrics will show up on your iPhone during a workout. When the trainer says to check your heart rate, those numbers will animate on the screen, too.

Fitness+ will work with Apple Watches and will track metrics including heart rate, calories burned, pace and distance during the workouts. When trainers ask users to check their metrics during the workout, the numbers will automatically get bigger on their watch face.

The service will be available before the end of the year and cost $9.99 per month or $79.99 for a full year. One subscription can be shared with family members. With a new Apple Watch purchase, the company is offering three months of Fitness+ for free.

The virtual fitness space is increasingly crowded, and it remains to be seen how well its offering will stack up against competitors like Peloton or Mirror, which was recently acquired by fitness outfitter Lululemon.

At its investor day on Tuesday, Peloton CEO John Foley said Apple’s fitness announcement is a “legitimization” of this type of content, according to CNBC.

“The biggest thing I will say is it’s quite a legitimization of fitness content, to the extent the biggest company in the word, a $2 trillion company, is coming in and saying fitness content matters. It’s meaningful enough for Apple,” Foley said. He noted that Peloton differentiates itself with its high-tech bikes and treadmills, while Apple isn’t planning any competing fitness hardware.

“We think the special sauce, the magic, is our connected platforms and in order to work out at home you need a stationary bike if you’re going to be biking,” Foley said.

CNN Business’ Clare Duffy and Shannon Liao contributed reporting.