The Apple Watch will be offered at a discount by Aetna, a U.S.-based health insurer, to some of its customers. This is the first deal of its kind that the tech giant has made with an insurer for its devices.

Apple Watch
Photo by fancycrave1 (Pixabay)

Aetna to subsidize Apple Watch

On Tuesday, the health insurer said it will also give away the Apple Watch for free to its employees — nearly 50,000 watches in total. This deal will help boost the appeal of Apple’s watch to potential customers as the company aims to lure health- and fitness-conscious users with its new device.

Aetna will discount a significant portion of the cost, and its users will be permitted to pay off the remaining amount under monthly payment options. In the U.S., Aetna has 23 million members. Aetna spokesman Ethan Slavin said the discounts on the devices will vary for the customers.

Also Aetna is developing health apps for Apple’s devices that will serve purposes like reminding users to take their medications, ordering refills for prescriptions and contacting doctors through a phone call or message. The customers will be able to pay their bills using Apple Wallet through these apps, which will become available next year.

It is possible that some customers will be unwilling to sign up for apps that report back to a health insurer. But a spokesman from Aetna clarified that the company strictly adheres to its existing privacy policies and follows all appropriate regulations regarding the protection of personal health information, said Fortune.

Will it help against Fitbit?

Apple’s wearable hit the market in April 2015, and since then, it has been struggling to get good sales. The company revamped the device and software this year, offering more fitness and health tracking features. This will help Apple’s watch to become a more direct competitor to Fitbit, the leading seller of health- and fitness-focused smart devices.

Some analysts believe the Apple Watch will remain a niche offering, as the reaction to its second edition has been muted since its launch earlier this month. Research firm IDC says that in the second quarter, the iPhone maker shipped 1.6 million units of the original Apple Watch, down by 56.7% from last year. In comparison, Fitbit shipped 5.7 million units in the period.

Vibhanshu Abhishek, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon, told Fortune, “These kinds of devices have the potential to really affect how people make decisions to lead healthier lives.”

Companies are adding more sophisticated sensors to the devices to make them more accurate, and hence, their value in healthcare is increasing.

Abhishek said, “You could help the doctor diagnose your real issues, capture a very accurate picture of what you’re really going through.”

However, a recent study published last week, in JAMA stated that people who used a crude fitness tracker to measure the amount they exercised lost less weight over two years than a similar group of people who self-reported their exercise, noted Fortune.

On Tuesday, Apple shares closed up 0.19% at $113.09. Year to date, the stock is up more than 5%, while in the last year, it is down more than 1%.