In mobile apps, 2014 is the year of the fitness fanatic

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on June 19, 2014

From The News Desk

A new report out from Flurry, a mobile analytics company that tracks app performance, found that health and fitness apps may have finally come into their own. In the last year, they’ve seen a 62 percent increase in consumer usage at only the mid way point of the year, compared to the percent growth of the overall app market.

Flurry chalks the growth up to the explosion of fitness fanatics -- people who spend three times the average amount of time in health and fitness apps as the rest of the population. Flurry analyzes the data and posits that this group is, “predominantly mothers age 25 to 54 who are sports fans and lead healthy lifestyles.” The analytics company believes this is a new group of mobile consumer, one that doesn’t spent much time on gaming and social apps, but has recently discovered the health apps sector.

Part of the growth also comes from the development of the technology. Cell phone motion trackers, GPS systems, and batteries have progressed to the point where phones can be almost as good of step trackers as wearables like Jawbone’s Up.

Furthermore, fitness apps in the last year have started integrated more creatively with social media, making it easier for the people who use them to share their progress with friends, root each other on, compete, or otherwise turn working out into a public cultural identity via the apps they use. Such integration leads to more viral growth as consumers pick up new health apps from their network.

There was a lot of speculation when Facebook bought up Moves as to the motives. Did Facebook want to own access to all your location data? Did it want to (as some argue) kill innovation where it started a la Oculus Rift? But the answer might be a lot more simple than that: Fitness apps have entered the social age and Facebook wants a piece of the action.

In an April interview with the New York Times, Zuckerberg explained that in the mobile era consumers want discrete app portals to different experiences, not one app that does it all. In the unbundling process of Facebook, which includes new apps like messaging tool Slingshot, Facebook is also investing in new experiences and use cases not previously covered by the social network. Mobile has opened up the rest of the world, so to speak. “You’ll see us exploring new areas that we felt we didn’t have the room to do before,” Zuckerberg says.

The growth in fitness apps is not good news for the comparably expensive fitness wearables market. Particularly with high profile fadeouts like Nike’s FuelBand, the recent manufacturing woes of Jawbone’s Up, and the recalls of Fitbit, it’s starting to look like the wearable fitness market is on the decline. To continue being much use to customers, such companies will need to expand their offerings, creating tracking features that cell phones can’t compete with, like measuring perspiration or heart rate for more fine tuned readings.

As for the fitness apps themselves? Last year the space only grew 49 percent compared to the 115 percent of the general app industry. This year, the tides have turned and they’re finally having their moment in the spotlight.

[illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pando]