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Apple exploring fitness training & sales iPhone app with social elements

Apple has shown interest in creating a digital personal trainer for the iPhone, letting people know when they should go to the gym, what exercises they should do, what they should eat, and even allowing users to compete with their friends and be ranked on their performance.

Apple's potential plans for a "full fitness experience" on the iPhone were revealed this week in a newly published patent application entitled "Systems and Methods for Accessing Personalized Fitness Services Using a Portable Electronic Device." Discovered by AppleInsider, the described software would see Apple partner with local fitness centers and sell memberships and workout equipment through the application.

The described software would accomplish a multitude of fitness-related goals, including finding the nearest gym, determining when an upcoming workout class is scheduled, charting fitness performance and goals, tracking calories consumed, and detailing how to perform certain workouts. Services would be broken into four categories: "New Customers," "Getting There," "In the Gym," and "Post Workout."

Apple's fitness application would also have a social element in the form of a leaderboard, allowing users to compare themselves with their friends and engage in a bit of healthy competition. In one example, the user is notified on their iPhone that "Amanda just ran 1 mile in 6:34 minutes! Can you beat that?" Friends can also use the software to invite one another to go to the gym.

Upon launching the fitness application, new customers would be able to view a list of local health centers and gyms. Here, they would be able to view available classes, services and promotions at each location, and compare options before choosing to enroll via the iPhone.

Once a gym is selected, users can obtain news and updates through the application, including special promotions. Potential "upsells" include advanced classes and personal trainers, workout programs and videos, and how-to guides for equipment.

The application could even drive sales on the iTunes Store, with one proposed revenue creating element selling customers music playlists from standardized group workout classes.

Apple could also partner with other companies to take a cut of "affiliate offers" provided through the iPhone software. The patent application notes that products such as workout attire, exercise equipment, power drinks, power bars and other popular items with gym rats would be ideal to sell to users.

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A big part of Apple's proposed invention is motivation. In addition to the social competition element, the software would provide incentives to users who meet their workout goals, in the form of coupons or free gifts.

And for those who aren't so strict about going to the gym, the application will also serve users reminders that they are not meeting their schedule. These notifications would include quick links for services like booking a training session or adding a workout session to the user's calendar.

The proposed invention, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in October of 2009. It is credited to Stanley Carl Ng and Michael Hailey.

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Apple has consistently shown interest in fitness through its patent filings with the USPTO. Just last year, the company's interest in a "virtual competitor" for fitness enthusiasts was revealed. Such a program would provide new sources of motivation in an effort to push athletes farther.

Since 2006, Apple has also worked closely with Nike to bring a range of fitness-related products and services to its iPod and iPhone devices. The "Nike +" software even comes built in to the iPhone, allowing runners to track their speed and distance with a separately sold pedometer.