When the Apple Watch first launched, it wasn’t entirely clear what type of users Apple was trying to target. In fact, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that even Apple itself wasn’t sure which type of demographic would find its newfangled wearable most appealing. On the one hand, Apple seemed to be going after tech-oriented consumers who would enjoy features like checking and responding to texts directly from their watch. On the other hand, Apple also made a point of touting the device’s fitness-oriented features. All the while, Apple also positioned the device as a high-end fashion accessory, a strategy exemplified by the $17,000 Apple Watch Edition.
Now that the Apple Watch has been around for more than two years, it’s become clear that the device’s fitness-oriented features are perhaps more important to buyers than anything else. In turn, Apple has slowly but surely transformed the device into a compelling fitness product in its own right thanks to the addition of GPS, improved water resistance and more. Further, the Apple Watch has become an indispensable device for users interested in tracking their steps, long-distance runs, and even their swimming.
In light of that, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Apple has specialized athletic facilities that it uses to calibrate and enhance the Apple Watch’s ability to monitor various types of physical activities. That said, Apple recently granted Men’s Health unprecedented access into the exercise labs it uses to keep the Apple Watch optimized for all types of physical activities. Not surprisingly, Apple seemingly spared no expense in getting the facility up and running.
On a recent morning, about 40 employees are sweating away on different contraptions—rowers, treadmills, cable machines—as 13 exercise physiologists and 29 nurses and medics monitor data. Many of the exercisers are hooked up to a metabolic cart and ECG and are wearing a $40,000 mask apparatus that analyzes their calorie burn, oxygen consumption, and VO2 max. Down one hall there’s a studio for group fitness; behind another white door an endless pool; and over there, three chambers where temperatures can be set to mimic Arctic conditions (subfreezing) to Saharan heat (100°F-plus). At Apple every room has a name, and these climate-controlled chambers are called Higher, Faster, and Stronger.
One of the more intriguing tidbits of information comes from Apple’s fitness guru Jay Blahnik who notes that Apple over the last five years has “logged 33,000 sessions with over 66,000 hours of data, involving more than 10,000 unique participants.”
If you’re the least bit interested in a behind-the-scenes peek at how the Apple Watch’s fitness features are developed and fine-tuned, you’ll definitely want to check out the full profile over at Men’s Health which includes a number of interesting photos.