On-device Heart Rate Monitoring is the Number One Feature of Activity Trackers

In Q2 2016 more than 44 percent of activity trackers owned in the U.S. included a heart monitor, up from just 12 percent a year ago, according to NPD Connected Intelligence

Port Washington, NY, September 22, 2016 – While overall activity tracker ownership continues to see growth, up more than 11 million devices in Q2 2016 compared to the year prior, the most substantial growth in the category can be seen in the number of devices that now include built-in heart rate monitors. In fact, by Q2 2016 the number of owned activity trackers that included heart rate monitors grew to nearly half (over 44 percent), from just 12 percent a year prior, according to The NPD Group Connected Intelligence Wearables Industry Overview and Forecast.

The new report examines the current view of U.S. activity tracker ownership and sales, including features of these devices that are most widely adopted currently. The report also forecasts future ownership numbers for both the activity tracker and smartwatch segments through Q2 2018.

While it’s clear that heart rate monitors have emerged as the must-have feature in high-end and mid-tier activity trackers, on-device GPS is also beginning to experience slightly stronger growth – albeit at much lower numbers than heart rate monitors. As of Q2 2016, just seven percent of activity tracker ownership was made up of devices that featured on-device GPS or on-device GPS with heart rate monitoring. This lower lever of adoption is driven in part by the cost of adding more hardware features, but more importantly by the fact that many activity tracker owners can access GPS by tethering their device to their smartphone. This capability has made on-device GPS much less important than heart rate monitoring to-date; however, the addition of on-device GPS in the new Apple Watch Series 2 will likely drive activity tracker and smartwatch vendors to include this feature in more models over the next year.

“Much like heart rate monitoring functionality became a must-have for the mass market consumer, we expect that on-device GPS capabilities will follow,” said Weston Henderek, director, Connected Intelligence. “With the recent addition of GPS on devices like the Apple Watch Series 2, consumers will come to expect this convenience and we will see over time the addition of GPS to more mid-tier devices.”  

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