Written by Josh Costine, January 2016
Action cameras are like tablets. Lots of people want ONE. But very few need to constantly update to the latest model.
I suspect this is why GoPro’s sales are slowing, it’s reduced sales forecasts, and it had to lay off 7% of its employees this week. It’s hitting market saturation. Many of the people likely to buy a GoPro already have one and don’t need another.
Their first one is probably already gathering dust for 11 months a year. Face it. We’re not all extreme sports champions. We go skiing or surfing or biking occasionally. We want something to capture those experiences. Any GoPro will do.
Our friends will be impressed and we’ll get to relive the memories even if the photos and videos aren’t shot at cutting edge resolution. Even if the battery ran low and we couldn’t choose from the entire day’s activity. Even if it was a little bulkier in our pocket.
An action camera does what none of our other devices do. But upgrading to this year’s version doesn’t do much more. It’s not your phone, that you use all day every day and that every one sees. It’s not a status object.
It’s not your laptop, where slightly better specs can make your life or work less annoying. It’s not a fundamental tool. An older, used GoPro or a cheap knockoff is fine.
An action camera is like a tablet. It’s nice to sometimes read or watch movies or play games on at tablet. But my years old iPad is fine. When I bought it, I bought the newest one. But since then I’ve never even considered buying another. This, combined with growing phone screens has led to tablet sales to plateau, and I believe the same is happening with action cameras.
Sure, there are adrenaline junkies and adventure photographers who will want the best action cam they can get. And GoPro’s own drones and virtual reality rigs could unlock new functionality that spur sales.
But GoPro’s stock is down 15% today and around 77% over the past year. To thrive, the company will need to do something truly innovative. Otherwise there’s little reason for people to buy the newest GoPro. The one they already threw in a drawer is good enough.