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Move It Or Lose It: Apple, Amazon And Other Big Tech Rivals Square Up In Connected Fitness Smackdown

In the midst of the concurrent holiday gifting and eating season, some of the world’s biggest tech companies are squaring off in hopes of dominating a new market: connected fitness. Whether it’s a Bluetooth-connected smart treadmill, a wearable calorie and step counter or something entirely new and different, the “battle of the bulge” ahead of an annual surge in the New Year’s weight-loss resolutions is set to reap billions.

Here, PYMNTS takes a look at five things to watch in the connected fitness space.

  1. Apple’s Fitness+ Arrives

For $10 a month, Apple’s newest multi-platform Fitness+ offering promises a “new kind of fitness experience” that is “like no other workout in the world,” including 10 types of training, ranging from cycling and dance to core strength and yoga. By integrating their personal stats and metrics with (or without) their Apple Watch and favorite music, Fitness+ users can do on-screen workouts alongside some of the world’s best trainers.

And if that’s not enough motivation, the new service offers periodic bursts of digital stats “at key moments” to keep you chugging along. Apple calls this animated celebration of your effort the “perfect blend of information and inspiration, right when you need it.” If the thought of another monthly subscription is troubling you, so far at least one major health insurer, United Healthcare, has said it will pick up the tab for five additional months of Fitness+ service after completion of the free trial.

  1. Amazon’s Halo Looks for Traction

After being introduced on a limited, invite-only basis earlier this year, Amazon’s Halo fitness band is now being sold to all takers for $100 plus a $4 per month service fee in a year-end holiday blitz of connected fitness. Touting traditional fitness features that track things like steps, pace, activity and sleep, the Halo also goes where no other device has before by analyzing tone of voice and providing 3D images of your body fat.

Certainly, some consumers will embrace the new frontier of health technology, as well as the competitive price point. However, a recent gadget review in The Washington Post (which is also owned by Jeff Bezos) called the Halo the most invasive tech it has ever tested. “The Halo Band asks you to strip down and strap on a microphone so it can make 3-D scans of your body fat and monitor your tone of voice,” the columnist said.

Currently rated 3-stars by users and tagged as the “#1 Best Seller” in Amazon’s formidable stable of wearable tech, the world’s largest online retailer is clearly moving units of Halo out the door. “If people look at the product page or read a little,” a happy Halo customer wrote, “they will realize the reviews and complaints are misleading.”

  1. Peloton – Hot But Humbled

As the early and extended holiday shopping season got underway in October, one of the hottest – and priciest – connected fitness device makers began to face a bit of an uprising within its legion of loyal users over shipping delays. While certainly not the only company facing a fulfillment bottleneck this year, the affluent buyers of Peloton’s $1,895 bikes and newest $4,300 Tread+ treadmills have the means and mindset to take their money elsewhere within the high-end fitness device market.

And yet the popularity of Peloton rolls on, as the company still cannot manufacture its goods fast enough. “Due to increased demand, bike delivery times are four to nine weeks, and may take longer in some areas,” the Peloton chatbot replied to an online inquiry on Tuesday (Dec. 15). Even a year ago, Peloton was facing the “worth the money” question, to which many reviewers said yes.

“It’s comfortable, easy, and the technology behind it surpasses any workout machine on the market,” Elle magazine said.

  1. Google – Fitbit Combination Finally Gets a Look

Thirteen months after Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit, the original mass-scale fitness tracker, the deal is still waiting on approval from European regulators. While reportedly getting close to an agreement, any plans Google has to ramp up the Fitbit product line with better tech or new analytics will clearly have to wait till next Christmas. In the meantime, reports say that several conditions need to be met by Google, including not using user data collected through Fitbit and Google wearables for Google’s advertising purposes for 10 years, maintaining access for third parties like health and fitness apps, and maintaining access to Android APIs that enable interoperability between third-party wearables and Android smartphones.

In the meantime, Fitbit continues to sell a full line of smartwatches and trackers, all of which focus on the company’s core health and fitness ethos.

  1. Nike Gets Ready for Earnings

No matter what category they play in, it’s always smart to watch Nike. While the company’s bread and butter is still shoes and apparel, the company’s recent decision to pull its store from Amazon and sell directly to consumers has seen an increase in traffic and digital sales, which are expected to be affirmed when it reports earnings this Friday. In the meantime, although still small, the company’s connected fitness accessories appear to be doing well, with several variations of the Nike-emblazoned Apple Watch currently listed as “sold out.” Nike’s connected fitness offerings during the pandemic have centered around the Nike Training Club app, which it started giving away for free as lockdowns took hold. “Nike has two unique strengths that differentiate them from competitors in digital fitness: a massive product catalog and the best athletes in the world,” said fitness blog GoodBetterBest. “Leveraging these assets, Nike can build a differentiated product that will drive members deeper into its ecosystem, power personalized commerce experiences and cultivate stronger brand loyalty than ever.”

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