New App Takes on Traditional Activity Trackers: Market Disruptor?

2-19-2013 10-30-48 AM

Sales of GPS devices have plummeted in the past several years as consumers adopt smartphone-based alternatives that allow them to carry one less device. The same story is true for iPod sales, and point-and-click digital cameras. Sales have steadily declined for these devices as smartphone proliferation increases. There is a consistent lesson being communicated from consumers here: do more with less. End users consistently migrate toward technology options that allow them to consolidate the number of devices they must carry.

What does this mean for activity trackers? A new app, Moves, available on iTunes aims to test the bounds of this economic principal as it leverages components within a smartphone to compete head on with traditional activity trackers in the self-tracking market.

2-19-2013 7-23-31 PM

The app tracks time and energy spent walking, running. The app, comes from startup ProtoGeo, which hopes to intercept the majority of smartphone users who report being self-trackers, but do not utilize an activity tracker. As a free alternative to expensive wearable activity trackers, it would be foolish to bet against them.

Google also recently re-entered the mobile health market recently with a similar offering for Android devices. Dubbed Google Now, the Google solution offers the same level of tracking, free of charge, for smartphone users.

At this point, the question market leaders like Fitbit, Body Media, and Jawbone need to evaluate is the threat these devices present. Will app-driven alternatives lead $100 activity trackers down the same road as GPS devices, and iPods? Or will the freeware apps drive up interest in activity tracking, which has struggled to build significant public adoption, and act as a sales catalyst?

The answer to that question lies within the future generations of smartphones themselves. At this point, components within smartphones are not capable of accurately measuring user activity to the same level that traditional activity trackers can. Furthermore, the battery life of a smartphone pales in comparison to that of an activity tracker. Simply put: limited by the components of a smartphone, apps cannot compete with activity trackers yet. If activity trackers are in danger of being replaced by smartphones, a path so many devices have gone in the past, it wont be with current smartphone models.

This is not to say that the future of activity trackers is safe. Device manufacturers like Samsung and Apple may well pursue integration of higher caliber components in the future. Should that time come, traditional activity trackers will have a very legitimate threat to their business model to address.

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