One of our biggest gripes with Apple’s new Fitness+ service when it launched was that it didn’t support AirPlay, which means you couldn’t stream workouts from your iPhone, for instance, to your (non-Apple) TV. It was a baffling choice, because Apple Watch and iPhone owners without an Apple TV were forced to stream workouts on a tiny, tiny screen. Users were also none too pleased. But, rejoice! It looks like Apple is also adding the ability to cast Fitness+ workouts to any AirPlay-enabled TV.
The new feature was spotted in today’s developer update for watchOS 7.4 and iOS 14.5, which have not yet rolled out to the public. Adding AirPlay 2 compatibility is not only convenient, but it’s a step in the right direction. While Fitness+ is relatively affordable at $10 per month, it does require a steep hardware investment to get the best experience. While you could get away with just an Apple Watch and iPhone, it’s much better if you have an iPad and Apple TV as well. (Because of course it is.) Allowing users to cast to an AirPlay-enabled TV opens the service to a much wider swath of users.
There is a catch, however. According to TechCrunch, it appears that while you’ll be able to cast both audio and video via AirPlay, you’ll lose out on on-screen metrics. In Fitness+, a big draw is that you get to see your Activity rings right up on the screen, along with your heart rate, calories burned, and time remaining in a workout. For certain cardio workouts, you can also see a “Burn Bar,” which is a visual representation of how you stack up to everyone else who has previously done the workout. Those metrics were likely why Fitness+ didn’t initially launch with AirPlay compatibility, as the Watch sends those metrics to Apple’s devices over Bluetooth.
That’s kind of a bummer, but at the same time, the most important part is seeing the workout video itself. You can always glance at your wrist to see heart rate, calories burned, and how far along you are in the workout. A bigger question is whether your ability to control workouts (e.g., pausing and starting) from the wrist will be impacted over AirPlay. In any case, it is encouraging to see that Apple’s not waiting to add updates to Fitness+. Just last week it added a new Time to Walk feature, and now this.
That’s not the only update we can expect. The iOS 14.5 developer beta also appears to include a new feature called Unlock iPhone with Apple Watch. So long as you have an unlocked Apple Watch, you can use FaceID on your iPhone. This would be massively helpful in situations where you can’t remove your mask and still need to unlock your phone or use a verification feature—for example, if you’re at the grocery store and want to use Apple Pay.
Again, this is Apple. Using this feature would require you to have an Apple Watch, and leaves non-Apple Watch users without a good option. But as always, this isn’t the final iteration of these features. While it’s more than likely they’ll eventually make their way to consumers, it’s possible they’ll take a slightly different form after getting some developer feedback. In any case, both updates are very welcome solutions to some major pet peeves.