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When Will GoPro Inc's Karma and Hero 5 Actually Arrive?

By Leo Sun – Feb 8, 2016 at 4:51PM

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The action camera maker still hasn’t revealed solid specs or release dates for its two biggest products of 2016.

Shares of GoPro (GPRO -1.20%) have plunged 80% over the past 12 months due to slowing sales and poorly priced product launches. Last quarter, the action camera maker's sales fell 31% annually to $436.6 million, while its bottom line slipped to a net loss of $34.5 million -- a disappointing reversal following several straight quarters of profitability.

Sales for the full year rose just 16%, down from 41% growth in 2014 and 87% growth in 2013. Looking ahead, analysts expect GoPro's 2016 sales to slide 15%.

Image source: GoPro.

GoPro bulls believe the launch of the Karma drone and the Hero 5 cameras might get the company's sales growth back on track. Unfortunately, GoPro still hasn't provided clear specs or release dates for either device. Let's dig deeper to see what we know so far about both products.

When will the Karma arrive?
During the company's fourth-quarter conference call (as transcribed by Thomson Reuters), CEO Nick Woodman stated that GoPro would discontinue the Hero, Hero+, and Hero+ LCD cameras in April to "simplify" its product line with just three devices -- the Hero 4 Session, Silver, and Black. He then declared that the Karma "will be on store shelves in the first half of 2016."

During CES 2016, Woodman stated that the Karma will be "backwards compatible" with older GoPro devices. That statement indicates that the Karma won't have a built-in camera, and that it will be sold as an accessory to bolster sales of the cameras the company wants to sell. Therefore, GoPro will likely only launch the Karma after it discontinues the three aforementioned devices, which narrows the release window to May or June.

During the conference call, CFO Jack Lazar corrected an analyst who claimed that GoPro President Tony Bates said the Karma would arrive in June. Lazar noted that Bates "didn't mention June, specifically, for the release of Karma" -- indicating that GoPro might try to launch the drone earlier, in May.

When will the Hero 5 arrive?
The release date of the Hero 5 is harder to pin down. During the conference call, Woodman simply stated: "Later this year, we will introduce the most connected and convenient GoPro we have ever made, Hero 5."

However, current rumors suggest that GoPro will launch its new Hero 5 devices in October, ahead of the 2016 holiday season. Other rumors claim the device will record 8K videos, capture 3D images with a dual-lens setup, and be powered by an A10 processor and a 2,800 mAh battery. That would be a significant upgrade from the Hero 4 devices, which are powered by A9 processors and smaller 1,120 mAh batteries. The Hero 5 is expected to share the same "ice cube" form factor as the Session.

Woodman's labeling of the Hero 5 as a "connected" device could be troubling for Ambarella (AMBA -2.41%) investors. Ambarella supplies GoPro with its image application processors, but Qualcomm (QCOM -1.62%) recently entered the same market with its mobile SoCs. Qualcomm won several 4G action camera designs last year, and Morgan Stanley analysts noted that Qualcomm's SoCs could be more cost-effective than Ambarella's in stand-alone connected cameras. If GoPro wants to make the Hero 5 a stand-alone 4G device, it might start talking to Qualcomm instead of Ambarella.

4GEE's Qualcomm-powered action camera. Image source: 4GEE.

Year-over-year comparisons could be brutal
GoPro expects its sales to fall 50% to 56% annually during the current quarter (which ends on March 31) due to a lack of new devices and weak demand for its existing ones. The company also stated that it would stop issuing quarterly sales guidance in future quarters.

In the second quarter, GoPro will discontinue its three low to mid-range cameras to persuade customers to buy its three Hero 4 devices. During last quarter's conference call, Lazar stated that GoPro's premium Hero 4 Silver and Black devices generated "over 50%" of its revenue. But that also means the other devices accounted for the rest, so axing the three cheaper devices could backfire if customers refuse to buy the $200 Session. Sales might get a lift near the end of the quarter on June 31, when the Karma arrives, but it's still unclear how well the drone will fare in an increasingly crowded market.

Things might look better in the second half of 2016, after the Karma officially takes off and GoPro expands its VR efforts with the Omni six-camera rig. But things still look bleak for the next two quarters, and the company's lack of clarity regarding the Karma and Hero 5 devices certainly isn't helping.

Leo Sun owns shares of Qualcomm. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ambarella, GoPro, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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QUALCOMM Incorporated Stock Quote
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GoPro, Inc.
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