But research firm IHS says we’re only at the beginning of a market set to explode. The company predicts mobile apps used for sports and fitness activities will grow a whopping 63% from 2012 to 2017 with added potential to generate strong demand for wearable health devices such as heart-rate monitors (HRMs).
In total, IHS expects installations of sports and fitness apps will grow to 248 million in 2017 – that’s up from 156 million in 2012.
That all translates to a lot of paid and free apps being downloaded as well as device purchases.
“Sports and fitness apps have become an integral part in the daily lives of millions of mobile users, allowing them to use their smartphones to do everything from tracking running distances, to recording their strength training sessions, to monitoring their heart rates,” said Shane Walker, senior manager for consumer & digital health research at IHS.
Walker said in an IHS consumer survey, 62% of those interested in using sports and fitness apps said they were also prepared to purchase hardware that enhances the functionality of the software.
“For makers of sports and fitness sensors and monitoring and devices like HRMs, this means a built-in audience exists for products that can work with fitness apps,” said Walker.
Apps that have the best shot of succeeding
IHS says the health and fitness apps that have the best shot of catching on will be those able to interface with external sensors and monitors using wireless technology. Such apps also will be able to present information received from the sensors to users in a meaningful way. Another important feature is that these apps are able to share fitness information on social networks.
While there are thousands of different sports and fitness-related apps, IHS says the top 20 free apps falling under the sports, fitness and health category accounted for a cumulative total of 231 million installations as of April.
Top names including Runtastic, Azumio, RunKeeper, Endomondo and MapMyFitness. And while a lot of these apps are free, some app developers—such as Endomondo and Runtastic—have been able to upgrade users to premium services that use external sensors.