February isn't traditionally a big time for GoPro news, but this year's been an exception thanks to the action-cam king's recent earnings call. Unusually, GoPro made some big predictions about its plans for the year ahead – including a pledge to branch out into new "types" of action camera.
In a revealing earnings call, transcribed by financial website The Motley Fool (opens in new tab), GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said that "at the end of 2022, we plan to increase our hardware offering from the two product types we have today, Hero and Max, to four distinct camera products". That won't be the end of the growth either, with Woodman adding that "we expect to expand that further by the end of 2023".
So which new GoPro cameras can we expect to see? Naturally, the company didn't reveal any specific details, but it did drop a few vague hints. Woodman contrasted GoPro's new approach with its previous one, which it called "good, better, best". The latter led to the creation of three variations on the same concept – the Hero 7 Black, Hero 7 Silver and Hero 7 White – which offered different price points but appealed to the same kind of user.
This year will be very different, it seems. Woodman explained in the earnings call that "we think it’s important to build very differentiated specialized solutions for different use cases to appeal to entirely new groups of users". This would help GoPro avoid the current Hero problem: Potential customers looking at the one-size-fits-all action cam find it's "more than they need, or not enough of what they need”.
As Woodman explained. GoPro already makes "a Swiss Army knife" that can be adapted for extreme sports, vlogging or scuba diving. But that versatility also means its Hero cameras come with "a lack of specialization that some tip-of-spear customers really need or desire". Alternatively "for other users, it doesn't do enough".
These honest assessments, and GoPro's conclusion that it "needs a broadened product offering, a broader portfolio, more tools for more people", have sparked lots of speculation about what it could have up its wingsuit sleeves for this year. So we've rounded up the most likely contenders for those "four distinct camera products", and added our thoughts on how likely they are.
(Note: All of the model names below are purely speculative and placeholders for products we think could materialize, based on GoPro's comments during its recent earnings call).
GoPro Hero 10 Session
- Likelihood rating: 3/5
When GoPro talks about new form factors, it's hard not to immediately think about a revival of its Hero Session from 2015. The little cube-shaped camera came with the tagline 'GoPro Performance, Simplified' and was designed to fit into nooks and crannies that standard GoPros couldn't squeeze into.
But we're not convinced this is the kind of camera GoPro has in mind when it talks about "specialized knives" to complement its Swiss Army knife flagship. First, the Hero Session range – which was discontinued in 2018 – was still aimed at the same non-specialist audience as the standard Hero series. Also, as our GoPro Hero 5 Session review remarked, it was "fiddly to use" with a "poor battery life".
Still, it's possible that GoPro might be able to overcome those issues and make a more premium DJI Action 2 rival. If so, we reckon it'd be tailored to a more specific use case, though, most likely FPV drone fliers, rather than the average action cam fan.
- Likelihood rating: 4/5
A pro-level GoPro seems the most likely candidate for one of the four product categories that the action maker talked about in its earnings call. CEO Nick Woodman said "we're going after developing premium solutions" and that "I think it sometimes gets missed that GoPros are used by professionals the world over, whether it's for film, television, their own commercial purposes, their own research purposes".
Indeed, Ridley Scott used GoPros to make The Martian (opens in new tab), with the director stating that the cameras “became a character in the movie; they were mounted on the astronauts; Matt’s character actually records all of his video logs on them in the habitat." But despite these occasional starring roles, there's no doubt that a more specialized GoPro in the vein of a Sony RX0 II would go down well with filmmakers.
That doesn't necessarily mean a 1-inch sensor, like the RX0 II, as GoPro would likely want to maintain its excellent electronic stabilization. But pro-friendly features like 10-bit video recording and time-code syncing would be, even if the GoPro Cinema (or whatever it's ultimately called) is twice as expensive as the GoPro Hero 10 Black.
- Likelihood rating: 3/5
On paper, GoPros seem like ideal dash cameras – they're small, have wide-angle lenses and take great stabilized video. But in practice, their limited battery lives, overheating tendencies and lack of tailored software means they can't quite compete with the best dash cams.
So could GoPro be prepping a car-friendly take on its Hero range? It's certainly possible; GoPro has talked about adding dash cam-like features to its GoPro Labs software, like adding start/stop capture when the camera detects USB power (opens in new tab). And it would fit the CEO's observation that it needs to do things that "for years we just can't get done with a Hero camera due to certain physics constraints".
But GoPro would have some considerable ground to make up on the likes of Nextbase. And it may just be a leap too far, considering the company was previously burned by over-stretching into specialist sectors like drones that it had no heritage in.
- Likelihood rating: 3/5
One of the more interesting action cam concepts we've seen lately is the Apeman Seeker R1 – it's effectively an all-in-one safety system for cyclists, including a camera for monitoring and recording the road behind. Could GoPro create something similar for your bike?
GoPro certainly has the camera tech already, but there aren't currently any accessories in its ecosystem that add a 50-lumen tail-light or an anti-collision laser bike lane, like Apeman's new creation.
This tech certainly isn't beyond GoPro's reach, but the bigger question is how big the market is for an all-in-one system like this. We reckon it's slightly too niche for a dedicated GoPro camera, but perhaps the company has spotted a portable safety solution that'd also tie in nicely with the growing e-scooter boom.
- Likelihood rating: 4/5
The traditional camera giants are falling over themselves to become the default choice for streamers and vloggers, a market that already numbers 50 million people (and counting) according to data analysts SignalFire (opens in new tab). And it's certainly not impossible that one of the "professional" use cases that GoPro has in mind is Twitch and YouTube streamers.
You can already live-stream directly to the likes of Twitch with any GoPro from the Hero 7 Black onwards, while those with a GoPro Subscription can also stream directly to their audience via a private link. But GoPro's current live-streaming limitations mean there could be a gap for a dedicated device.
There's currently no way to raise the low bit-rate of GoPro cameras when you're live-streaming, and they still lack the finesse and feature set of a dedicated choice like the Elgato Facecam, which offers an excellent 1080/60p output. But there could be a gap for a premium GoPro alternative, particularly for home-streamers who want something that's just as comfortable venturing outdoors.
Analysis: GoPro prepares to spread its wings again
The rise of smartphones has forced all camera manufacturers to think outside the box of their traditional offerings, and GoPro is no different. The GoPro Hero 9 Black launch seemed like a big evolution for action cameras because its GoPro Labs software opened up new paths beyond the usual dirt trails. Now it seems GoPro is preparing to build on that newfound versatility with new forms of hardware "at the end of 2022".
While dreaming up next-gen GoPros is fun, the company doesn't have unlimited resources. It may have generated record year-end cash balances and revenues that were 30% up on 2020, according to its earnings call, but the distinct lack of action during the pandemic hasn't exactly helped its bottom line.
GoPro is also likely wary of what happened the last time it tried expanding into new territory. In the mid-2010s, it overextended itself with launches like the GoPro Karma drone, a costly decision that ultimately led it towards the more focused path that's produced today's streamlined product range: just the Hero and Max action cams.
Still, while it's unrealistic to expect GoPro to suddenly return to its boom days in the 2010s, there are new possibilities for its little, stabilized cameras. We reckon the most likely scenario for those "four distinct camera products" is the addition of a new premium, professional GoPro and a streaming-focused camera, to join the Hero and Max. But we're looking forward to seeing what it comes up with later this year.
- Check out our guide to the best action cameras you can buy