GymKit has been around for a couple of years at this point, but we rarely hear anything about it. Occasionally there will be a news story about a hotel chain adding a few thousand compatible treadmills, but that’s about it.
If you aren’t familiar with GymKit, it was introduced with watchOS 4.1 in 2017. It enables syncing between Apple Watch and compatible cardio machines. While the Apple Watch excels in outdoor tracking, GymKit was meant to provide more accurate Apple Watch data for tracking indoor workouts. The problem with GymKit is that it requires new hardware, and hotels and gyms don’t generally overhaul their entire fleet every year.
There’s a lot to like about GymKit if you use an Apple Watch. Pairing your watch is as easy as using Apple Pay, and then all of the data from your workout is stored as an activity on the Watch activity App. The problem for GymKit is that it’s only been on super-high-end commercial equipment, and they are hard to find.
GymKit might be about to have its moment if the rumors of Peloton adding support for it in an upcoming product are correct. It’s no secret that Apple has strong ambitions in the health industry with Apple Watch, and if Peloton continues to grow in popularity, then getting GymKit built in would a big win for Apple. Apple and Peloton might seem like competitors, but they are two companies whose customer base overlaps quite heavily. If Apple Watch users know that Peloton is one of the only at-home fitness tools that support GymKit, they’ll be more likely to purchase a Peloton and pay for its monthly subscription. If Apple knows that Peloton users want deep integration with their wearable of choice with their bike, it would be terrible for Apple if Peloton had deeper integration with Fitbit than Apple Watch. Both brands are strong with fitness enthusiasts, so it’s a perfect pairing.
9to5Mac has found evidence in iOS 14 of something called “GymKit Express,” alongside assets for Peloton integration. Peloton’s integration with Apple Watch could tap into this new “GymKit Express” system. The inclusion of these assets could mean that this partnership has been in the works for some time.
What makes 2020 unique is that Apple doesn’t have to convince countless manufacturers that GymKit technology will make a difference in equipment sales. They’ve been trying to do that for a couple of years, and it’s not worked. The truth is that no one stays at a particular hotel or joins a particular gym because of GymKit support in cardio equipment. 2020 might be known for many things, but one of the good things will be the growth of at-home-connected fitness. Apple can now work with manufacturers who already believe in connected fitness, and customers will see GymKit as a selling point. They might buy a particular product because of GymKit support. Apple excels when it can appeal directly to its customers. By working with commercial cardio vendors, they will be working with people who sell to hotels and gyms. By working with Peloton, they know that Peloton sells directly to the end user, and that’s very beneficial for Apple.
Earlier this year, Apple announced a rewards program called Apple Watch Connected where users could get discounts on gym membership fees, Nike and Apple gift cards, charitable donations, etc. A modified version of this program would be interesting to rethink with an Apple and Peloton partnership.