I Tried Apple Fitness+ for a Month and It’s Fine
When Apple Fitness+ launched in mid-December, I immediately signed up for the free trial. I’d been looking forward to subscribing to the company’s $10 a month service that includes guided workouts and integration with Apple Watch. I knew that if I liked the service, it might finally convince me to sign up for Apple One, the bundle of services that didn’t quite do it for me without Apple Fitness+.
After using Apple Fitness+ four days a week for almost a month, I’ve already developed a love/hate relationship with the service that I will most definitely continue paying for after my free month is up on January 18. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than anything else I’ve tried.
What is Apple Fitness+?
Apple Fitness+ is an app that appears on your iPhone when you update to iOS 14.3 or higher. You need an Apple Watch to set up Fitness+, but you can play the workouts without one. If you do have an Apple Watch, you can connect it to your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV via Bluetooth. As you exercise along with the recorded sessions, you’ll see your live stats, including the number of calories you’re burning, your heart rate, whether you’re in the middle or the front of the pack (based on others who’ve done that particular workout), and how quickly you’re closing your Apple Watch rings.
Your subscription to Fitness+ includes strength, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), core, dance, yoga, treadmill, cycling, and rowing workouts, all led by very upbeat trainers performing the moves at different levels in case you need modifications. New workouts come out every week, they vary in intensity and duration, and all include real music. If you’ve spent any time with free YouTube workouts or other subscription workout apps, you know that working out to royalty-free music isn’t quite the same as working out to Chumbawamba or Lil Wayne or Skrillex or Joan Jett or whoever else does it for you.
Connection lost. Time to drink wine!
Not everyone exercises in the same way. Writing in Debugger last month, Lance Ulanoff describes his experience with Apple Fitness+ as someone who’s pretty happy with his current workout program that’s never involved a trainer, a gym, or a group exercise class. Still, he was pleasantly surprised with what Fitness+ had to offer. Up until the pandemic, I’ve been exercising with trainers, gyms, and group exercise classes, as well as on the treadmill in my garage, so I thought I would be even more excited to use Fitness+.
And I do love using it. When it works. But for the first few weeks that I used Fitness+, I regularly had trouble connecting my Apple Watch to my Apple TV. Often it took several tries, or I had to toggle Bluetooth on and off on my watch to get it to connect. On some workouts, my watch connected and showed my heart rate on the screen, but not the calories I was burning. Even more annoying was that the TV regularly lost connection to my watch in the middle of the workout and wouldn’t let me resume where it had stopped. I had to start over from the beginning, which is frustrating because you can’t fast-forward to the spot where the app disconnected since fast-forward and rewind features aren’t available on Fitness+. I tweeted about this and found that I wasn’t the only one.
Last week I called Apple and had a very pleasant and very long conversation with two support techs. They ran some remote diagnostics and then had me update and restart my watch, TV, and phone. They surmised that the problem was my older television that doesn’t even support 1080p screen resolution. They said they were surprised to know that the Apple Fitness+ worked on my 12-year-old TV at all. Looking at it that way, I should be amazed at what the technology can do, not disappointed about what it can’t.
That’s the funny thing about today’s tech. We can either spend our time marveling that the device we carry around in our pockets is more powerful than a vintage supercomputer, or we can complain that the battery never lasts until the end of the day. I do a bit of both. Sometimes when I wash my hands, I’m amazed that the audio and motion sensors inside my Apple Watch detect what I’m doing and my watch counts down from 20 seconds for me. But each time I wash my hands and it doesn’t start counting, I curse it. Imagine a person getting frustrated when the computer on their wrist isn’t doing something for them that they’ve been doing themselves since kindergarten? I am this person.
Is Apple Fitness+ better than the Peloton app?
If you’ve already made an investment in the pricey Peloton equipment, I’m assuming the Peloton app would be better than Fitness+ for you. Many people use the Peloton app without any equipment, which makes it pretty similar to Fitness+. At $12.99 a month, the Peloton app is $3 more than Fitness+, but aside from integration with the Peloton bike and treadmill, the only thing that it seems to offer that Fitness+ doesn’t is guided outdoor runs.
People seem to love the Peloton app, but I’ve never tried it. I’m sure it’s fine, but there’s no way that it integrates more seamlessly with my Apple Watch than Fitness+ does. And isn’t this always Apple’s trick? Yes, there are beautiful and powerful Android phones that cost a lot less than my iPhone, but I still can’t pair them with my Apple Watch. Will the new AirPods Max connect with an Android phone? Absolutely, but not seamlessly. Oh, and don’t even think of trying to AirPlay the Fitness+ workouts from an iPhone or an iPad without an Apple TV, because you can’t.
It’s free for a month so there’s no reason not to try it for yourself
Apple is offering a free month of Fitness+ and three free months if you buy a new Apple Watch Series 3 or later. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, why not try it? It’s cheaper and less risky to your health than a gym membership right now. A digital trainer is not for everyone, but you might as well try it to see if it works for you.
I’ve only lost Bluetooth connection between my watch and TV once since the day I talked to Apple support, so maybe they mostly fixed that problem. Some days it still takes several tries to convince my watch to connect to my TV. I’ll keep using Apple Fitness+ after the trial is over even if it does keep disconnecting from my old television. And it’s up to me to decide whether this is a frustratingly flawed service or a marvel of modern technology.