GoPro’s next frontier for growth? Smartphone apps

Move over, iMovie, here comes GoPro.

Dinesh Kumar Jayapal / 500px/500Px Unreleased/Getty Images

Action and 360 camera maker GoPro is now eyeing smartphones to help grow its user-base. GoPro founder and CEO Nick Woodman told Pocket Lint in an interview at CES that the company plans to target smartphone users with its software, in the hopes, at least in part, that using it might eventually encourage them to invest in a piece of GoPro hardware.

GoPro’s had a tough few years — Despite singlehandedly creating the action-cam market in the early 2000s, and enjoying outstanding growth for a decade, the last half decade hasn't been kind. The company listed in 2014 and while its share price climbed initially, it plummeted in 2016 after the disastrous launch of its Karma drone, which itself proved alarmingly prone to plummeting.

Since then, the company’s also had to endure fresh competition from the likes of DJI’s Osmo Action and Insta360’s One R, and from smartphones, which with the addition of optical image stabilization and waterproofing, have stopped some would-be GoPro owners from taking the plunge and buying dedicated action cams. Though GoPro's continued to improve its core offerings — and added 360 cameras to the mix — its share price hasn’t recovered. Hoping its apps will bolster it seems optimistic, to say the least.

Do smartphone users even want GoPro's apps? — GoPro makes two mobile apps, its default, namesake app for controlling its cameras, and Quik, a video editing app designed for quickly turning GoPro footage into shareable clips. Quik is pretty solid, and not a bad choice for trimming and adding music to even non-GoPro footage, but where it really shines is when it has sensor data from a GoPro’s accelerometers and altimeter which it can use to detect likely highlights.

Even if they do, will they pay for them? — Assuming GoPro can get people to use its apps, it faces another obstacle: getting them to pay for them. Apple offers iPhone users iMovie for free, and there's a glut of third-party, iOS options out there. Android users are similarly spoilt for choice, from free options that watermark content or limit output resolutions to extremely user-friendly, paid apps, like Adobe's excellent Premiere Rush, which users may already have access to if they pay for Adobe Creative Cloud.

The situation is complicated even further by the likes of Samsung, which has been improving the native video-editing capabilities of its phones with every new release, and added a number of key editing features to its Note 10 series.

If GoPro really wants a place on consumers’ smartphones, it’s going to have to offer potent editing tools, in a compelling and intuitive interface, for free. And it'll have to convince those same users to actually give its app a try, which as any app developer will tell you, can be the hardest part of all.