One of the more exciting additions to watchOS 4 that Apple announced back at WWDC 2017 was GymKit. It's a new technological platform that allows your Apple Watch to take advantage of its NFC chip for something other than Apple Pay.
Basically, you'll be able to tap your Apple Watch to a compatible piece of gym equipment, sharing a whole bunch of information between the two devices and allowing you to get a more detailed, accurate look at your workouts.
Essential reading: 5 things we've learned from watchOS 4
While GymKit and watchOS 4 are a still a couple months away, there are plenty of questions remaining. Which equipment will it work on? When will gyms receive these equipment? What information is being shared? Come, my gym-loving friends, let's find out together.
Tap and sync
If you've used any of the cardio equipment at a gym with your Apple Watch, or other wearable devices, you know that your data is often extremely confusing. Your wearable will tell you your heart rate is 132, while your Watch will insist its at 120. Or maybe the treadmill thinks you've burned 432 calories, while your Watch is in the 300 range.
It can be frustrating, which is the entire reason for this massive collaboration. Basically, a whole bunch of cardio equipment will be equipped with NFC readers that can talk to your Apple Watch. When you tap your Watch to the NFC reader, they'll sync data. Your Watch will send the equipment your heart rate, while your equipment will send over the workout data. Together, they'll be able to give you a more accurate picture of how you're working out.
For their part, manufacturers like Life Fitness are pretty excited about making using their equipment much easier. "There are over 700 million workouts per year on our cardio machines across the globe, and we know that exercisers want personalized workouts with easy data tracking," Life Fitness president Jaime Irick said in a statement sent to Wareable.
A lot of that excitement may be derived from the fact that manufacturers have tried this before in a couple different ways. Life Fitness, for example, has the LFConnect app, which allows you to sync your iPhone or Android to its gym equipment. You'll get all your workout information, and you can even combine it with outdoor workouts if you'd like. Similarly, TechnoGym has its Mywellness ecosystem and compatible app.
And then there's wearable compatibility. Garmin has been the leader here, using ANT+, a wireless technology that lets devices speak to each other, to connect to several pieces of gym equipment. There are only three compatible brands, however: Star Trac, Nautilus and Woodway, and a handful of compatible fitness centers, like Equinox and the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.
The compatible equipment
While Garmin's lineup of compatible devices is fairly thin, Apple has managed to wrangle up the biggest gym equipment manufacturers in the world to support GymKit. They ship 80% of the gym equipment used in gyms, and include the likes of TechnoGym and Matrix Fitness, in addition to Life Fitness and Core Health and Fitness, who include well-known brands like Cybex, SCIFIT, StairMaster, Star Trac, Schwinn and Nautilus in their portfolios.
The first GymKit-compatible equipment will start rolling out this September alongside watchOS 4. Core Health and Fitness says it'll add GymKit compatibly to its OpenHub series of cardio consoles for its Star Trac, StairMaster machines, as well as its Schwinn cycling equipment.
Life Fitness will be rolling out compatibly with its Elevation Series cardio line, which includes ellipticals, treadmills, stair machines, and cycles. Specifically, it'll come with the Discover SE3 HD consoles. Only the Life Fitness-branded machines will be GymKit compatible at the start. Other machines in the brand, like those from Cybex and SCIFIT, will arrive in the future.
Matrix Fitness will add Apple Watch compatibility to its 7xi and 7xe consoles, which are used for treadmills, ascent trainers, ellipticals, climb mills, and upright, recumbent and hybrid exercise bikes. TechnoGym, on the other hand, says it'll roll out compatibility to "favorite equipment", which'll include treadmills, ellipticals, indoor bikes and stair steppers.
In the gym
Once watchOS 4 is rolled out and gym equipment has compatibility ready and waiting for your taps, there's still the issue of actually rolling the machines out to places where people go to workout.
Because gyms would need to replace their older equipment - whether it be consoles or full machines - with brand new equipment, it could take a while for Apple Watch-compatible machines to make its way into your local gym. Thus far, gyms have been non-specific about when you can expect new equipment to hit your gym.
An Equinox representative, for instance, told Wareable, the gym is aware of the technology and plans to utilize it in the "near future." Other major gym chains in the US, like Planet Fitness and LA Fitness, have not yet responded as to when users can expect new equipment rollouts to begin. Gyms typically change up cardio equipment every couple of years, but it's unclear whether they would break their cycle for Apple and gym manufacturers itching to get Watch users in the habit of syncing their workouts.
As we get closer to official rollout, and gym chains start finalizing their rollout plans - if they have any - we'll make sure to update this story with all the information you need to know.