In late 2020, Peloton quietly snapped up a few startups specializing in wearable and fitness technology, sparking speculation that perhaps the connected fitness company was mulling a wearable of its own. Now, a Bloomberg report claims that Peloton is working on an armband that measures heart rate.
Technically speaking, this wouldn’t be Peloton’s first wearable heart rate monitor. It already sells a $49 chest strap. However, Bloomberg says it found code in Peloton’s iPhone and iPad app that allude to the device, which will come in two sizes and pair wirelessly with both Peloton hardware and other gadgets. Supposedly, it’ll have an adjustable strap as well as a tiny screen that displays battery levels. The armband will also purportedly be capable of receiving software updates, meaning it may not be intended to just read heart rate. Keeping the door open for new features would be a smarter move since these days you can find heart rate monitoring on nearly every single smartwatch and fitness tracker.
“Track the intensity of your workouts from Zone 1 (lowest effort) to Zone 5 (maximum capacity),” Bloomberg reports the code as saying. “Using the adjustable strap, wear the Peloton Heart Rate monitor snug on your forearm to accurately monitor your effort during workouts.”
The armband form factor isn’t all that revolutionary. Polar has one, and Whoop’s tracker can also be worn on the arm. It’s also likely an armband would use optical heart rate monitors, making it slightly less accurate than traditional chest straps that use electrodes to measure your heart rate. As for why Polar might be willing to make that compromise, the fact is chest straps can be polarizing. Even though they’re commonly viewed to be more accurate, they’re not always comfortable and may require a more finicky setup. For instance, with the Polar H10, you have to wet the electrode before each workout. That can be annoying when you’re just trying to get going.
Peloton moving into wearables would be a Big Move, as its fans are not only incredibly loyal but highly engaged. The company has only grown more popular during the pandemic, and a device that flawlessly transmits heart rate data to Peloton bikes and treadmills might be an attractive option for the Peloton faithful.
Case in point, the company recently scaled back its GymKit integration on the Bike+ to cycling workouts only. The decision angered some Peloton fans who had invested in Apple Watches, as the smartwatch was touted as a compatible device with the Bike+. The move wasn’t a sign that Peloton and Apple had a falling out, however. It was a technical issue as GymKit is for single workouts, and isn’t designed to handle activities that combine multiple workout types like Peloton’s Bike Bootcamps. Peloton creating its own heart rate monitor in a more comfortable form might be its solution to that GymKit limitation—while also gaining a few more bucks on the side.
It also opens Peloton to more users as it expands its commercial ambitions. Peloton also announced yesterday it’s getting into corporate wellness programs to offer reduced or free subscriptions, and possibly special prices on hardware. Its $420 million Precor acquisition also gives it an extensive commercial network of hotels, corporate campuses, colleges, and apartment complexes—all good venues to hook new users to Peloton. Those that aren’t inclined to shell out for their own bikes might be more amenable to buying a cheaper, Peloton-compatible armband, however.
While breaking into wearables would make sense given Peloton’s recent acquisitions, it’s also not a done deal. This armband may exist in the Peloton app’s code, but it’s also something that the company could scrap before it ever goes to market. Regardless of whether it does, it’s clear the company’s gearing up to make some money moves.