GPS Fitness market catches a break with Apple Watch

Sept. 10, 2014, 3:57 a.m.
Patrick Connolly, Principal Analyst

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As expected, the new Apple Watch does not have built in GPS or location capabilities, relying on the iPhone. No doubt there will be a lot about the demise of the fitness wearable market, but that seems a little reactionary-who didn’t see an Apple watch coming? These companies will have been gearing up for this and while there may be attrition there will be success stories also. So does this mean the GPS fitness watches are off the hook? No. Apple’s wearable is going to fit in very well with the emerging nearable (iBeacon) ecosystem that is going to change the connected home, health, retail and payment sectors. These are the killer apps that the tech writers are looking for following the announcement. Here, a converged device is the winner of the masses, but of course this will take time.

For GPS fitness watch OEMs, the key market segment is the serious enthusiast, who is looking to find ways to improve performance. For many, the iWatch is unlikely to meet their needs today, preferring the unique hardware and software features of a dedicated device. This gives these devices room to breathe and grow and establish themselves with the wider public through marketing, advertising and new sales channels. For the first time ever, I noticed advertising for both TomTom and Garmin GPS watches at an electronics store at the weekend. This market is still very nascent with a lot of growth potential. These companies now have some time to establish themselves. Inevitably, the wearables market will be dominated by converged devices, but the growth of the installed base of serious enthusiasts is far greater than the growth of the fitness watch market today.  

BTW, am I the only one that on first impressions thinks the iWatch isn’t nearly as nice as some of the mock-ups I have seen? I am not a watch wearer nor did I get to see it in the flesh and therefore am heavily unqualified, but it lacks that visceral impact that grabs the “I like that, what is it?” part of your brain, creating desire. Something that could never be said about the iPhone or to a lesser extent the iPad. Maybe Marc Newson should have joined earlier? and maybe this is one of the ways companies can differentiate.