When GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) launched the Karma Drone, I wrote that the product was "good enough" to make a splash in the drone market. And it didn't take long for industry leader DJI to answer GoPro's entrance with a drone -- called Mavic Pro -- that's better in almost every way.
But DJI hasn't made the Karma Drone obsolete altogether. GoPro still has a product customers will find attractive for a number of reasons. Here's how Karma stacks up to Mavic Pro and who will be interested in both products.
The pick for drone experts
There's no doubt that the Mavic Pro drone is better than the Karma drone when it comes to flying. It has obstacle avoidance and a follow me mode, which Karma doesn't have at all. It also has a range of 4.3 miles, flying time of 27 minutes (Karma lasts 20 minutes), and is smaller than Karma.
The automatic flying features like tapping on the remote screen to go to a location are simply better than Karma's simplistic design. But that doesn't mean Karma will be a flop when it hits the market.
Karma has an audience
If all you want to do is fly a drone, Mavic Pro is for you. But for $799 the Karma Drone includes a backpack and a removable stabilizer, which attaches to your GoPro and the company's multitude of accessories. The price also beats Mavic Pro's $999 price tag, although Karma doesn't include a camera ($199 more to include a Hero5 Session).
The remote also appears to be simpler, not requiring a separate smartphone like the Mavic Pro does. Karma's remote folds up into a protective shell and has a built-in screen with easy to use operations.
What really separates Karma is the removable Karma Grip. This is a stabilizer that can be attached to the backpack or other GoPro mounts. Grip really makes the Karma far more than a drone; it's an image capture ecosystem of products.
DJI's drone versus Karma's ecosystem
If you only want a drone, DJI's Mavic Pro is the product for you. It's small and has all of the latest features that make drones great accessories for your next adventure.
But if the drone is just part of the package of products you find attractive from GoPro, then Karma can be a compelling option. Many consumers will probably use the Karma Grip more than the drone itself because it can be used by hand in everyday settings. Drones are far more specialized in their applications.
What you're seeing is the difference in how DJI and GoPro view their value add to customers. DJI is trying to make the best drone for great flying images. GoPro is trying to become an image capture ecosystem that includes a drone. But the drone is more like an accessory than the center of the show.
Depending on what you're using action cameras and drones for, either product could be an attractive option. And that could lead to both products being successful as we head into the 2016 holiday season. It's unknown if it's enough to hit investors' rising expectations for GoPro now that the stock is up nearly 60% over the past three months. And we'll have to wait until fourth-quarter results come out to get a full picture because Karma still hasn't hit the market (coming Oct. 23).