Sunny Santa Monica, Los Angeles is arguably the fitness capital of the world. Home to legendary Muscle Beach, this neighborhood is home to another fitness giant: the headquarters of Fitness+, Apple’s streaming workout video service.
Tied to the hugely popular Apple Watch, Fitness+ releases weekly workout videos for just about every type of exercise: strength training, high-intensity cardio, rowing and running, dancing, and even meditation sessions. (Users need a watch to activate Fitness+ and can follow guided workouts on the iPhone, iPad or Apple TV, or on the watch itself if on the go). The service launched in December 2020, but until now its headquarters — a Santa Monica landmark that Apple has converted into a fitness factory — has been operating in a COVID-secure bubble. Its doors are finally open to journalists, and Apple couldn’t be happier to show it off.
Inside, Fitness+ HQ looks exactly what you’d expect from Apple: modern, clean, premium, utterly stunning. The tech giant wanted to make sure the space was “beautifully designed, and really organized and designed in such a way that people could tell it was Apple,” said Jay Blahnik, vice-president. President of Apple, Fitness Technologies.
The centerpiece of Fitness+ is the large, warmly lit studio where trainers film their workouts in front of a small army of robot cameras. As I move through the rest of the building, I’m guided through rehearsal spaces where trainers collaborate to perfect their workouts; production suites that support publishing up to 35 new workout videos per week; and a walk-in wardrobe full of neatly labeled Nike gear in every color and design.
If you love fitness, going behind the scenes at Fitness+ is like visiting Disneyland. And if you’re in the business of producing digital content, the scale of this operation is simply amazing. “It’s so much more than trainers and a few cameras,” Apple COO Jeff Williams says in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and age. “[It’s] expertise in many disciplines.
This expertise combines into a valuable service (Fitness+ subscriptions start at $14.99/month) that elevates the Apple Watch above rival smartwatches – Fitbit Premium, arguably Fitness+’s closest competitor, is no match for the scope of its content.
Fitness+’s biggest rival is not another product, but changing lifestyles. Its launch was perfectly timed for the pandemic, when going to a gym was impossible. During Sydney’s lockdown in 2021 I used Fitness+ at home almost every day – its trainers felt like my friends. But my IRL gym is reopened, and now so busy it’s almost impossible to use it at peak times. If Aussies are exercising too much at home, does that bode badly for Fitness+?
Look at other big players in fitness tech, and the future of virtual workouts looks cloudy. Take the state-of-the-art Peloton exercise bike, the pandemic darling whose share price and customer base skyrocketed in 2020. In 2021, it launched in Australia to a hype. In 2022, its value has dropped. The death of Mr Big by Platoon in the sex and the city reboot seemed a harbinger of his fate.