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GoPro Shouldn't Fear Google's Clips Camera

By Travis Hoium – Oct 5, 2017 at 5:03PM

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The market thinks Google's new camera will take a bite out of GoPro, but that's due to a misunderstanding of GoPro itself.

Shares of GoPro Inc (GPRO 3.64%) have dropped 8% since the close of trading on Tuesday, apparently in response to Alphabet's (GOOG 2.70%) (GOOGL 2.62%) new Clips camera from Google. The $249 smart camera is designed to passively collect photos as you go about your day, capturing images of people or pets as it "learns" who is important to you. 

On the surface, the camera will be a competitor to GoPro this holiday season. But that fails to take into account who GoPro's customers are and how its cameras are used. 

GoPro's line of cameras.

Image source: GoPro.

GoPro is an action sports company

The Hero line of cameras at GoPro are built for action sports. They're waterproof, durable, and connect to everything from helmets to drones. That's not a market Google Clips is even pretending to enter. Clips is meant to be worn around the house or be stationary, not be hurled down a mountain or thrown out of a plane, like a GoPro. 

From a spec standpoint, these cameras aren't comparable, either. Clips can take a 12-megapixel burst at 15 frames per second when it sees someone it recognizes. It doesn't take video and is fairly limited in how it can be used. 

By comparison, GoPro's Hero 5 Session, which sells for $299, can capture 4K video at up to 30 frames per second, and images are 10 megapixels with burst rates up to 30 frames per second. And that's the bottom end of GoPro's lineup, so the specs improve from there. Cameras can be controlled manually, remotely with an app or remote, or even voice controlled. 

Even after you consider that Google's target market is different from GoPro's, it's pretty clear that GoPro's camera has much better specs. The one feature consumers might like is the facial recognition, which takes the work out of capturing images, making it more of a family-friendly product. 

Google Clips is built for families

Clips is meant to be worn or set in a location for hours, taking pictures along the way that the device thinks you'll like. If you're a parent, like me, that can take the work out of taking pictures all day, which can be difficult with kids running around. 

To safeguard this data, Google says Clips can work without an internet connection and the machine learning is all on-device. But I'm not sure that will ease all privacy concerns consumers will have. Knowing that Google is literally analyzing pictures of you whenever the Clips camera is on is a little unsettling to me as a parent. 

For these reasons, I question how big of a product Clips will be. Most people already have a camera in our pocket, do we need another passive one monitoring us at all times? 

GoPro won't be impacted by Google Clips

The market may think GoPro has another new competitor in Google Clips, but I think that's far from the case. GoPro's use case is completely different and it's a better product overall. 

Once the market turns its attention to GoPro's new line of cameras like Hero 6 and Fusion, I think the stock will start to recover. For now, investors are just speculating on each new competitor, even though Google Clips will operate in a completely different niche from GoPro. 

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Travis Hoium owns shares of GoPro. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and GoPro. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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