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Posts tagged with "fitness plus"

Apple Services Preview: Better Integration, Increased Customization, and Sharing Options

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple’s services have become an increasingly important part of the company’s product lineup, but they didn’t get a lot of time at WWDC this year. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting new features coming with OS releases and beyond. There are a wide variety of updates coming that promise to better integrate services, allow for greater user customization and sharing, plus provide other day-to-day enhancements.

Apple Podcasts

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Perhaps the best example of Apple’s approach to services this year is Apple Podcasts, which will add new software features and act as the glue that integrates other services. My favorite upcoming feature is Podcasts’ new queueing system. Episodes of shows can be added to a listening queue from any list of episodes by long-pressing on an episode or using the More menu and choosing ‘Add to Queue,’ which appends the episode to the bottom of your queue.

Tapping the queue button from the Now Playing screen reveals the Playing Next screen, which includes the current episode at the top, along with any upcoming episodes that you’ve queued for playback with drag handles for reordering the list. If you finish everything in your queue, Podcasts reverts to Up Next, the app’s automatically-generated list of suggested next episodes. The Playing Next screen also includes a triangular disclosure button for revealing chapter titles in podcast episodes that include them. Tapping a chapter title skips to that chapter.

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Apple Announces Time to Run, Fitness+ Collections, Season 3 of Time to Walk, and an Artist Spotlight Workout Series

Apple has announced several new expansions of its Fitness+ content available starting Monday, January 10th.

The first is the addition of Time to Run, which Apple describes as:

a new audio running experience designed to help users become more consistent and better runners, with each episode focused on a popular running route in some of the most notable and iconic locations.

Time to Run joins the Time to Walk, which will debut its third season on Monday too. Time to Run sessions will be led by Fitness+ trainers and feature coaching tips and high-energy music. Three episodes will be available at launch featuring runs in London, Brooklyn, and Miami Beach.

The Fitness app is adding Collections on Monday, too, with six available initially:

  • 30-Day Core Challenge
  • Improve Your Posture with Pilates
  • Perfect Your Yoga Balance Poses
  • Run Your First 5K
  • Strengthen Your Back, Stretch Your Hips
  • Wind Down for a Better Bedtime

Collections are designed as a new entry point into Apple’s catalog of over 2,000 workout sessions, which the company says ‘will include a suggested plan to help users make intentional training choices over the next several days or weeks.’

Finally, Apple is introducing Artist Spotlight, a series of workouts featuring music from Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams, Shakira, and the Beatles. A variety of workout types will be available as part of each series that focuses on the work of just that artist.

As someone who enjoys running, I’m glad to see Time to Run. The temperatures are in the single digits in Chicago this weekend, so it may be a while before I get out to try Time to Run, but I’m eager to give it a go when it gets a little warmer. I like the idea of Collections too. I’ve been dipping into the Fitness+ catalog more often since moving my workouts indoors for the winter, and themed collections of workouts with specific goals should add variety to the service.

Apple Expands Fitness+ Offerings with New Classes Designed for Pregnancy and Older Adults, New Trainers, and Time to Walk with Jane Fonda

Today, Apple announced an expansion of Fitness+ with new workouts for pregnancy and older adults. The company also expanded its existing offerings with new yoga, HIIT, and strength workouts for beginners and said Jane Fonda will be featured in the next episode of Time to Walk.

Ten pregnancy workouts will be added to Fitness+ led by trainer Betina Gozo who will be joined by Emily Fayette and Anja Garcia. Workouts for Older Adults will be led by trainer Molly Fox along with Gregg Cook, Dustin Brown, Bakari Williams, and Jhon Gonzalez. In addition, beginner classes will be added to Fitness+’s Yoga, Strength, and HIIT categories.

Jonelle Lewis is one of Fitness+'s new trainers who will teach Yoga classes.

Jonelle Lewis is one of Fitness+’s new trainers who will teach Yoga classes.

New Fitness+ trainers were announced too, with Jonelle Lewis joining as a Yoga and Mindful Cooldown trainer and existing trainer Anja Garcia joining the service’s group of HIIT trainers. Finally, Apple said that actor Jane Fonda will be featured in the next episode of the Time to Walk to commemorate Earth Day. Time to Walk is the walking workout feature added to the Fitness app in January.

Everything announced today will be available next week, beginning April 19th.

Men’s Health Goes Behind-the-Scenes at Apple’s Fitness+ Studio

Men’s Health was given a behind-the-scenes tour of Apple’s 23,000 square foot Fitness+ studio in Santa Monica, California. The publication also interviewed Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director of fitness for health technologies, and COO Jeff Williams for the story.

From the story’s photographs and description of the studio, it’s clear that Apple has put a lot of effort and money behind the Fitness+ classes:

“We want these workouts to be magical. We’re creating a piece of art, a piece of inspiration, a piece of motivation,” says Blahnik. “Many people might not think about the importance of lighting a cycling class differently than a yoga class, but we think it makes a difference.” Blahnik’s worked in fitness for more than 30 years. He developed fitness devices and apps at Nike in the mid-2000s, and he’s also a rowing instructor. “Fitness+ creates incredible workout experiences that are also beautiful.”

Classes are shot with a sophisticated setup that allows Apple to create videos tailored to each type of workout:

Seven cameras and three trainers might seem like overkill, but there’s a method to this muscle-building moviemaking. Apple shoots with high-end Super 35–format cinema cameras, in high definition. Mounting the cameras on robotic arms enables smooth movement, creating an elegant and intimate feel. “We built the studio in a way that would allow shooting all the angles to make the right choices to show just the right angle at just the right time,” says Blahnik.

There are a lot of interesting insights about how the classes are created by Apple’s team of instructors and fitness experts, too, so be sure to check out the full article.


Apple Celebrates Black History Month with Features Across Its Products

February is Black History Month, and Apple has announced a long list of ways it is celebrating across its products and services. In a press release the company said:

Apple is bringing customers a variety of new and updated collections and exclusive content that highlight and amplify Black creators, artists, developers, and businesses. From curated features across the App Store, Apple Music, the Apple TV app, Apple Books, and Apple Podcasts, to new Apple Maps Guides, the Apple Watch Black Unity Collection, Today at Apple sessions, and more, here is a look at what is in store across Apple’s products and services this February.

In the App Store, Apple is featuring stories with Black developers and highlighting social justice apps along with entertainment and gaming apps. The month-long feature extends to other services too:

  • Music will feature Black musicians and include related content like playlists, essays, videos, and custom artwork
  • Maps Guides, which has seen many updates recently, will feature Black-owned businesses in collaboration with EatOkra
  • The Apple TV App will include ‘Essential: Stories That Honor Black Families,’ plus two free episodes of The Oprah Conversation featuring ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ by author Isabel Wilkerson
  • Apple News will have curated topic groups and Apple Books will showcase a collection of relevant books and audiobooks
  • The Podcasts app will highlight Black voices including Michelle Obama, Joe Budden, Phoebe Robinson, and Baratunde Thurston, plus an extended promotion of shows featuring relevant topics
  • Fitness+ will spotlight songs from Black artists, and the first Time to Walk episode for February will feature author Ibram X. Kendi who will discuss racial justice and resiliency
  • Today at Apple will feature virtual sessions and tutorials moderated by Kimberly Drew with Black artists including typographer Tré Seals, creative director, filmmaker, and photographer Joshua Kissi, and visual artist, photographer, and educator Shan Wallace
  • Shot on iPhone will feature 30 Black photographers
Apple's Black Unity Collection limited-edition Watch, Sports Band, and watch face.

Apple’s Black Unity Collection limited-edition Watch, Sports Band, and watch face.

On the product side, Apple has introduced the Black Unity Collection that includes a limited-edition Apple Watch 6, a Black Unity Sport Band, and a Unity watch face. Apple is also supporting six groups dedicated to promoting and achieving equality and civil rights in the US and around the world. The Watch and Sports Band will be available beginning February 1st and the watch face will debut with watchOS 7.3, which Apple says will be out later today.

The Black Unity Sports Band and Unity watch face, which changes dynamically as the Watch moves, include the green, red, and black colors of the Pan-African flag, and the Sports Band has ‘Truth. Power. Solidarity’ laser etched on the inside of the band’s fastening pin. Similarly, the limited-edition Watch has ‘Black Unity’ etched in the Watch’s crystal back. Apple will also kick off a special month-long Unity Activity Challenge on February 1st that is achieved by closing Move ring at least seven days in a row.

Apple Unveils ‘Time to Walk’ for Fitness+

As rumors suggested earlier this month, Apple has launched a new Fitness+ feature called ‘Time to Walk,’ which the company’s press release describes as “an inspiring new audio walking experience on Apple Watch for Fitness+ subscribers.”

Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director of Fitness Technologies, explains that:

“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. Even throughout this challenging period of time, one activity that has remained available to many is walking. With Time to Walk, we’re bringing weekly original content to Apple Watch in Fitness+ that includes some of the most diverse, fascinating, and celebrated guests offering inspiration and entertainment to help our users keep moving through the power of walking.”

The workouts will be downloaded automatically to your Apple Watch and can be accessed there and from the Fitness+ tab of the iPhone’s Fitness app. Each workout is around 25-40 minutes long and includes stories told by well-known guests who tell inspirational and entertaining stories about their lives. The stories, which were recorded while the guests walked, are coupled with images that automatically play on the Apple Watch and a short playlist of songs at the end of each story that is meaningful to the guest. Also, as soon as you start playing a Time to Walk story, your Watch will begin a walking workout. If you use a wheelchair, Time to Walk changes to Time to Push and starts a Wheelchair Walk Pace workout.

Time to Walk episodes start a walking workout automatically and include photos too.

Time to Walk episodes start a walking workout automatically and include photos too.

Apple says new guest stories will be introduced each Monday through April. The first four episodes include singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes, country music star Dolly Parton, NBA player Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors, and actor Uzo Aduba who starred in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.

Walking is a great time to listen to audio. I look forward to trying Time to Walk, which have not yet appeared on my Apple Watch or iPhone. The integration with Fitness+ and the Workout app is nice, reducing the number of apps you need to visit before starting a walk while listening to something. I don’t expect Time to Walk will replace my music and podcast listening when I go for a walk, but the chance to hear interesting stories from well-known guests is a welcome alternative to those other mainstays of my workout routine.

Time to Walk should be available soon and is part of a Fitness+ subscription.

Apple Recaps Its 2020 Services, Including the App Store’s Record-Breaking Holiday Season

In a press release today, Apple provided an update on its services. According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services:

Now more than ever before, customers around the world have found inspiration and value in the breadth and quality of Apple’s services, which have impacted their lives in big and small ways every day. We’re incredibly optimistic about where we’re headed, and we believe that the opportunities for developers and the creative community are endless, as are the positive and meaningful benefits to our customers.

Among the highlights Apple shared are App Store revenue numbers for the 2020 holiday season, which were greater than 2019 for the same period and once again set an all-time record for single-day sales on New Year’s Day:

The trend continued over the holiday season, with App Store customers spending $1.8 billion on digital goods and services over the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, driven largely by spending on games. Customers ushered in 2021 by setting a new single-day spending record of over $540 million on New Year’s Day.

Apple also noted that developers have earned more than $200 billion since the inception of the App Store in 2008 and that it kicked off the App Store Small Business Program at the end of 2020.

In addition to apps, Apple recapped its other services:

  • Apple Music, which added several new features in 2020 that Apple says have been used by more than 90% of iOS 14 users
  • The Apple TV App, which debuted on new smart TVs and videogame consoles in 2020 and is now available on over 1 billion screens in more than 100 countries
  • TV+, which gained a dedicated tab in the TV app and was nominated for 159 awards, receiving 45
  • Apple News, which added local news for certain cities, included special coverage of the pandemic, the racial justice movement, and the US election, and added audio to News+ in 2020
  • Fitness+, which debuted just before the New Year
  • Apple Pay, which Apple says is accepted by more than 90% of US stores, 85% of UK stores, and 99% of Australian stores
  • Apple Arcade, which now has more than 140 games with games that have received more than 50 award nominations
  • Apple Books, which has over 90 million monthly active users
  • Apple Podcasts, which is available in 175 countries and 100 languages
  • iCloud, 85% of whose users have enabled two-factor authentication

Every year I’m struck that the App Store continues to set holiday season records for sales. The success of the App Store has been nothing short of remarkable, but as Apple’s press release demonstrates, Apple’s current services story today extends far beyond apps.

The Wall Street Journal Interviews Apple’s Jay Blahnik on Fitness+

The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Vanderbilt nabbed an interview this week with Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director of fitness technologies. The two discussed the strategy for Fitness+, Apple’s new subscription workout service which is launching next week. From the article:

“Metrics is motivation,” says Blahnik, who in the early 2000s helped launch Nike’s connected running program. “The metrics react to the things the trainer says and the things that you do. We believe that makes it much more immersive than simply following content that’s available anywhere else.” Portability, he says, is also key. A Fitness+ workout is meant to be done anywhere, on any screen, on any machine, from a gym to a hotel room to—more than ever—at home.

This is an insightful look into the kind of content which Fitness+ will hold. Workouts (at least at launch) will likely be highly accessible due to not requiring advanced gym equipment. There will also be a personalized suggestion engine designed to encourage cross-training for a well-rounded fitness routine:

Another innovation, says Blahnik, is the system’s personalization engines, which will suggest workouts from a growing library based on your history—both inside and outside of Fitness+. “We always say: It shouldn’t take 20 minutes to find a 20-minute workout.” That doesn’t mean simply guiding cyclists to ever more cycling workouts; rather, as Apple says, “it looks for a way to gently encourage you to cross-train.” As Blahnik notes, “We have a carousel called ‘Try Something New.’ So if you tend to do more linear workouts, like running or cycling, you would be suggested things like HIIT [high-intensity interval training] or yoga, that would move your body in different directions.”

The whole article is worth a read, although most of it is behind the Wall Street Journal’s paywall if you aren’t a subscriber.