Health and fitness apps will be key selling points for smartwatches

By Jonah Comstock
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Research firm ON World is predicting a fitness tracking capability will be a top consumer requirement for forthcoming smartwatches.

"Some sports and fitness markets will be disrupted by the emergence of new general purpose mobile sensing products such as smartwatches," Mareca Hatler, ON World's research director, said in a statement. “Also, dedicated mobile sensing sports and fitness device manufacturers face intense competition from smartphones/tablets makers and app developers targeting integrated mobile device sensors.”

ON World smartwatchON World did a survey of 1,000 US consumers, asking them what factors they would consider before purchasing a smartwatch. Thirty percent cited fitness as the most important application, more than any other category. Another 18 percent listed health applications as most important. In addition, 20 percent of those consumers interested in buying a smartwatch at all were willing to pay at least $299 for a unit with integrated health and activity sensors.

ON World's report, "Mobile Sensing: Sports and Fitness 2013" on mobile sensing reports that 500 million mobile fitness and health sensors will ship in 2017. Two-thirds of these will be for activity tracking.

When ON World came out with its March prediction that 18.2 million health sensors would ship in 2017, they specifically excluded sports trackers, telling MobiHealthNews the category was large enough to merit its own report.

A recent report from IMS put the number of "sports and fitness monitor" shipments in 2017 at a much smaller 56 million.

ON World's report comes out at a time of big fitness tracker news: Jawbone's recent acquisition of BodyMedia is the first major consolidation in the tracker space, companies like Withings and iHealth Lab continue to add activity trackers to their product lines, and Bluetooth Smart is creating new possibilities for low energy wearable devices.

The report says that 150 million "mobile sensing health and fitness apps" have been downloaded, and by 2017 this number will have increased to 1.4 billion. Global cumulative revenues for mobile sensing apps and subscriptions will reach $975 million by 2017, the firm said.