Last week JB Hi Fi rolled out a major marketing campaign for the all-new 360 Fly camera a product that is already stripping sales away from Go Pro the one time “darling” product for consumer electronics retailers.
At $645 the Fly 360 is the Rolls Royce in 360-degree image capture and very soon there will be a 4K version followed up by a stick that allows two 360 degree cameras to be stitched together to create 720-degree capture, also coming is a 360-degree drone.
Two years ago Go Pro was flying high, then they got greedy resulting in their overpriced new Go Pro Session failing to take off, at the same time consumers were turning to a new generation of smartphones.
Now Go Pro sales are in free fall with sales falling 17% this year alone.
Even Go Pro accessories are overpriced and there is a real risk that 360-degree camera makers could face the same problem as smartphone makers move to deliver 360 degree cameras that can be easily managed via their smartphone.
This year Go Pro, who has not launched a 360-degree competitor for retailers, is tipped to report a $222M Loss this year after reporting profits of $48M last year.
“The vision for GoPro was never just to be in extreme sports,” GoPro President Tony Bates told the Wall Street Journal recently “There are only so many base jumpers in the world.” he said/
GoPro’s challenge illustrates the problem independent hardware makers face when competing against do-it-all smartphones from companies such as Apple. and Samsung Electronics. Fitness trackers Fitbit. and AliphCom’s Jawbone have lost market share to the Apple Watch, which integrates with iPhones.
Australian retailers are currently being bombarded with 360-degree camera offerings. According to JB Hi Fi executives there is point ranging budget 360 degree cameras as the market is still in it’s infancy. Among the 360 degree cameras that could soon be seen in Australian stores is a device from IC Real Tech who has partnered with Google to integrate YouTube 360 livestreaming capabilities into its ALLie Camera, which makes its debut at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show in Las Vegas last week.
Consumers will also be able to use the US$500 camera to share 360-degree videos on Facebook’s 360 video platform. And the camera will support all existing virtual reality headsets, including Google Cardboard and Facebook’s Oculus Rift.
IC Real Tech recently launched a new virtual reality division called ALLie Home Camera to market and sell this camera which several distributors are currently chasing for the Australian market.
ALLie will face a crowded, and growing, home 360 camera market with Samsung Gear 360, LG 360 Cam, Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4K, Human Eye Technologies’ Vuze, Ricoh Theta, Giroptic 360 Cam, and 360Fly just some of the new entrants that are set to hit retailer shelves.
As to the future of Go Pro analysts are sceptical that the Company will survive flogging their current camera offering.
“Is the person who was going to buy a GoPro to take pictures of their baby going to, now that they can use their iPhone? Probably not,” says Charles Anderson, senior research analyst with Dougherty & Co. “Smartphones have caught up with the video quality that GoPro cameras had.”
When GoPro started selling its first camera system in 2004, mobile cameras also were beginning to hit the market, but they weren’t very good.
GoPro’s sales took off in 2010 with its first big hit, the HD Hero, which packaged high-definition filming in a palm-sized waterproof device, perfect for users from surfers to skiers. It became a best seller, capturing roughly 70% of the Australian market, according to market-research firm NPD Group. More than 20 million cameras were sold.
Last July, GoPro launched the Hero4 Session, a stripped-down ice cube-sized camera with two buttons it bombed because it was overpriced and poorly designed.
It also meant that consumers had to go out and buy yet more proprietary accessories.
Desperate to drive sales GoPro slashed the Session’s price in half, first to $399 in September, then to $299 in December.
In the US Go Pro was so desperate to drive sales that Chief Executive Nick Woodman went on home-shopping network QVC Inc in December to boost the Session’s sluggish sales, the Wall Street Journal said.
He pitched the camera at its new price and threw in a tripod and other accessories free.
During the 20-minute segment, GoPro sold about 5,000 units, according to company spokesman Jeff Brown. GoPro sold more cameras on QVC than it had during the three days of the Black Friday shopping period, he noted.
As to the future of Go Pro?
GoPro’s core clientele could represent sales of 4 million cameras a year, says analyst Charles Anderson. “They could probably build a very profitable company around it,” he said. “It would probably be a very unexciting public company, like Canon or Nikon.”
One observer summed up the smartphone Vs Go Pro battle claiming “The difference is you aren’t going to cry if your GoPro gets trashed by a rogue rock. But if your Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge gets trashed taking an adrenaline shot – with all your digital life on your phone – you are going to be crying something fierce”.