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Fitness apps | Smartphone devices | dominating trendsLeft: Notch — a chip that captures motion in 3D. Right: Stretchsense — lightweight, heavy duty fabric sensors that can be sewn, glued or clipped into clothing to measure body motion.
March 2015

How smartphones and apps change the industry

Smartphone and smartwatch enabled devices like fitness apps, wearable fitness tracking technologies, the use of cellphones for shopping, and innovative uses of electronic devices in sport and outdoor, are among the trends that are predicted to dominate in 2015, reports RHIANAH RHODE

Smartphones are contributing to the growth of fitness-related products and changing consumers’ lifestyle and shopping habits. People are constantly connected and the one item that is common among the majority of consumers is the cellphone.

Companies have caught on to this and are developing more and more products that work with smartphones to assist the consumer with achieving their fitness goals … and to make it easier for consumers to part with their money.

Revenue generated from electronic health and fitness devices is expected to reach $1.8-bn this year, reports the US Consumer Electronics Sales and Forecasts report from the Consumer Electronics Association.

Worldwide sales of wearable devices to active people are expected to reach 30.9-m and generate $5.1-bn in revenue. These include activity bands, other health and fitness devices, smart eyewear, as well as smart watches, which are expected to sell 10.8-m units and generate $3.1-bn in revenue.

Consumers are even expecting digital devices such as smartphones and wearable technologies to help them lose weight in 2015, reveals a survey by Instant.ly (a consumer insights platform). Almost a quarter (21%) of respondents are already using a wearable fitness band or application to help track weight loss, while more than 20% of respondents indicated that they intend to start using a digital device to track their weight in the near future.

Wearable technology is also becoming a growing trend in sport and fitness, with new fitness technologies designed to improve athlete performance. This product category was making headlines at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) recently held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Among the innovative products on show was Nixie, a wrist-controlled drone, which can be steered from the wrist like a digital falcon to take pictures. Sony is taking on GoPro and hoping to achieve a similar success with their 4Action Camera. The Zepp racket sensor allows tennis players to monitor their drive speed, sweet spot, hit accuracy and serve speed. This sensor is also available for baseball and golf players.

Wearable technologies often rely on smartphones to convey data to the user — because smartphones tend to form part of everyday activities it has become easier to incorporate fitness technologies such as, for example, activity trackers into everyday life.

The Mobile Health & Fitness trend has also been identified by leading trade shows such as ISPO Munich, which had a dedicated Health & Fitness hall this year. Lectures and discussions on topics such as the use of wearables in performance sports and the use of social health programs were presented in February at this year’s ISPO in Germany.

The Wearable Technologies (WT) Conference took place in Munich just before ISPO, on 2 February. During the conference, the winners of the WT World Cup were announced. Over 500 entries were received.

The Stretch Sensing Technology StretchSense, was the winner of the Sports & Fitness category this year. The lightweight, heavy duty fabric sensors can be sewn, glued or clipped into clothing and are used to provide accurate body motion measurement during sport movement. Information is sent to a mobile app via Bluetooth.

Among the finalists in this category were Heddoko, a sports garment with embedded sensors that monitor the user’s body movements during activity to ensure that he is moving correctly. The app suggests how he can adjust his movements to optimise performance and prevent injury.

The Mio FUSE wristband, a heart rate activity tracker, can help the wearer reach his fitness goals without the need for a chest strap. Mio FUSE can be synced with various devices, and has already won the PC Mag’s Editor’s Choice Award.

Myovolt is a soft, pliable, wearable module that sends targeted vibration energy to muscles and soft tissue to help improve sports performance. It increases muscle power and offers other physiological benefits.

Notch is a chip that captures motion in 3D, which is analysed via an app on the user’s smartphone. Notch is designed to easily attach to mounts or clothing, with options for any body type or activity.

The WT Conference also presented a special prize in the Smart Clothing category to Sensoria Fitness Socks, which gives runners real-time audio and visual feedback on how fast, how far, and how well they run. Each sock has three textile-based pressure sensors underneath the plantar area of the foot, which detect activity type and impact forces. A detachable anklet connects to the sock and data is transmitted to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

Mobile online shopping on the rise

In 2014 mobile usage in the US was dominated by shopping apps, according to a study conducted by Flurry Analytics. The use of cellphones in the Lifestyle & Shopping category grew 174% in 2014, compared to the previous year (when messaging dominated), the report revealed.

On Android alone, the category grew by 220%. The Health & Fitness app category grew by 89% and the Sports app category by 74%.

The busiest app usage time is between 09:00-12:00 and again late at night around 20:00, the report reveals. For more information, visit Flurry Analytics (www.flurry.com).

Over the festive season almost 60% of the Amazon.com customers purchased items via mobile devices, which increased as the season progressed. This season the online retailer had 10 times more same-day deliveries than in 2013 and delivered products to more than 180 countries. The sales made via the Amazon app also doubled over the period.

Asics, Columbia and Timberland were among the best-selling apparel and footwear brands sold through Amazon.com over the holiday season. Columbia’s Steens Mountain full zip 2.0 fleece jacket and Levi’s 501 Original Fit jean were popular men’s apparel products while Clarks’ Bushacre 2 Desert boots, Asics’ GEL-Kayano 20 running shoes and Timberland’s White Ledge waterproof boots were popular footwear purchases.

In the women’s apparel category, Columbia’s Benton Springs full-zip fleece jacket and Playtex’s 18-Hour Original Comfort-Strap bra #4693 sold well. Popular women’s shoes purchases included Dr. Martens’ 1460 Originals Eight-Eye lace-up boots, Minnetonka’s Cally faux fur slippers and Asics’ GEL-Kayano 20 running shoes.

The Lifestraw Personal Water Filter was rated the best-selling outdoor product for the online retailer, which sold more than 1.3-m. Some of their top selling sporting goods included the SKLZ Pro Mini Hoop and Mini Hoop XL, Spalding NBA Street Basketballs and Wilson NFL MVP Footballs.

Mobile taking over

Mobile will not only be the means of shopping in 2015, but will also become the primary way of accessing the internet in established markets, says fashion trend predictor WGSN.

According to Flurry Analytics, time spent on mobile devices by the average US consumer increased by 9.3% (from two hours and 42 minutes to two hours and 57 minutes) in the first nine months of last year. This closely follows time spent watching television, which remained flat at two hours and 48 minutes daily, according to data from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics.

Mobile payments are becoming mainstream due to digital wallets such as payment-enabling banking technologies. Restaurants and stores, for example, are adding digital options for customers to pay for their products and services.

Not only do consumers want to use their phones to pay for things — they also want to use it to make sure their friends contribute their share. Almost half (45%) of young adults in the US and UK want to use their mobiles as a means of splitting restaurant bills with friends, it was revealed in a study by JWT Intelligence. The digital wallet app Venmo, that allows one to pay and request money from friends, has had a 50% ($700-m) increase in payment volume from April-September 2014.


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