Shipments of dedicated sport and fitness hardware such as Suunto GPS watches, Garmin cycling computers, and GPS golf rangefinders are suffering from the recession. But smartphone fitness applications such as MotionX-GPS are booming, with 1.2 million downloads in 2009. Continued application market growth will contribute to an annual growth rate of 34% through 2014, according to ABI Research.
“Garmin’s recent announcement that its outdoor/fitness division’s revenues slipped into negative territory highlights the vulnerability of its premium Forerunner GPS watch and Edge cycling ranges,” says ABI Research practice director Dominique Bonte. “The economic downturn is the major factor, but the availability of affordable converged solutions has also played a role. However, in the longer term there is still a bright future for optimized sport and fitness devices offering unique advantages in reliability, size, features, robustness, and GPS accuracy.”
While serious sport and fitness practitioners will continue to prefer optimized devices, recreational users are discovering smartphone applications such as the remarkably successful MotionX-GPS, GolfLogix and Golfshot iPhone applications, with real-time sharing of statistics a major driver. The free Nokia Sports Tracker has been downloaded by millions of users. Nokia has also announced the N79 Active package including a Polar heart rate monitor.
While Trimble Outdoors’ AllSportGPS and BonesInMotion’s BIM Active solutions are available for a monthly fee from US carriers, most software on application stores is available for a one-off payment (also an option for AllSportGPS) illustrating the business model shift that is sidelining carriers. Moreover, many free fitness applications are on offer.
Both dedicated and converged GPS fitness technology vendors continue to face the double challenge of integrating high-sensitivity, low-power GPS receivers in small form factors, and of developing affordable wireless sensor accessories, with standardized Low Energy Bluetooth (BLE) expected to challenge the Garmin-owned ANT proprietary protocol.