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6 Stocks That Add Wearables To Your Portfolio

December 10, 2015 9:40 am
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The market for wearable technology has certainly taken off over the past year. More and more people are looking to smartwatches and fitness trackers to lead healthier, more streamlined lives and keep track of important biometric information. Many analysts believe that 2015 was just the beginning of the wearables revolution and that new, improved gadgets, second and third generation releases and software updates coming up in the new year will propel the industry even further forward.

However, the wearables market is beginning to get crowded, making it difficult for investors looking to bet on the gadgets to make a decision about which firm to add to their portfolio. From tech giants like Apple to smaller, lesser known components makers, here’s a look at the most appealing investments in the wearables space.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL)

It would be silly to talk about the wearables market without mentioning Apple Inc., one of the most popular tech firms in the world. The company has made a name for itself as a leader in sleek, easy to use technology and its appearance onto the wearables scene this year continued to follow that trend. The Apple Watch generated a lot of buzz and the $400+ devices have become one of this year’s hottest holiday gift items. The firm is expected to roll out new updates for the watches in the coming year, something that could increase their functionality and work out some of the kinks users have been complaining about.

The Apple Watch is less about fitness and more about connectivity, with much of its usefulness coming from the user’s smartphone. Having one means a quick flick of the wrist can keep users in the loop with text messages, missed calls and even sports updates. Not to be outdone by sportier offerings, Apple Watch is also capable of collecting certain biometric data and analyzing it using apps as well.

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG)

When discussing a new technology venture, chances are that Google’s parent firm Alphabet has its fingers in the pot somehow. This is especially true when it comes to wearables as Google’s Android Wear has the potential to become the wearable of choice for a huge percentage of the population. Much like the smartphone market has been dominated by Google and Apple, the wearables market is expected to pan out similarly.

One of the advantages that Google has over other firms like Samsung is the company’s built-in developer base. Most developers are already designing for Android systems, making smartwatch software just a small step away. That means that the functionality of Android Wear devices is likely to remain superior because they offer users a wider range of apps and compatible programs than some of the competing devices.

Fitbit (NYSE: FIT)

Fitbit has carved out its own niche in the wearables market, offering users a simple fitness tracker without the added functionality that smartwatches provide. The company has already created an extensive line of products that come equipped with heart rate monitors and GPS distance trackers. Fitbit’s bands are unobtrusive and have been designed to be worn at all times, even at night as they also monitor sleep quality. This makes them different from smartwatch offerings, which tend to be removed and charged at night.

The pros of a fitness tracker like Fitbit is that it’s cheaper to own and less obtrusive to wear, but many analysts wonder if the firm might find itself painted into a corner in the coming years as smartwatches continue to gain momentum. While fitness trackers have remained popular even as smartwatches pick up steam, some point to the smartphone and digital camera market as evidence of what’s to come— simpler, cheaper options are eventually phased out by feature rich, more advanced gadgets.

Despite worries about becoming obsolete, Fitbit has been performing well since it’s IPO in June. The company’s shares have gained 8.96 percent and some investors are betting that 2016 will see an even larger rise.

Under Armour (NYSE: UA)

While companies like Apple and Fitbit are already well-established participants in the wearables market, a surprising entrant like Under Armour is a riskier, but possibly more lucrative play. The firm has made a name for itself by creating fitness apparel, but the Baltimore-based firm is hoping to transition into the tech space come next year.

In preparation for this shift, Under Armour spent $150 million to acquire popular exercise app MapMyFitness in 2013 and bought the calorie counting app MyFitnessPal for $475 million and paid $85 million for European Fitness app Endomondo earlier this year. Those apps have a combined user base of 62 million people, giving Under Armour access to the largest digital health platform in the world.

That kind of data has to count for something as the firm embarks on its first fitness-tracking band alongside smartphone-maker HTC. Dubbed the Grip, Under Armour says its band will be a revolutionary fitness tracker that is part of a suite of products designed to offer a comprehensive experience to users. The company says it will incorporate sensors into its workout clothing in order to gather more user data.

Under Armour’s Grip, if executed properly, could become a leader in the fitness tracking space, but the firm could also struggle to break into a market that has already begun to take off. No other apparel brands, not even Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) have been able to make a name in the wearables market so far, and Under Armour will likely suffer from the same problems as Fitbit should smartwatches eventually trump dedicated fitness trackers.

Invensense Inc. (NYSE: INVN)

The names seen on store shelves aren’t the only options for investors looking to add wearables to their portfolio. Invensense is a semiconductor manufacturer that makes sensor packages that have been used in smartphones. However the firm has been expanding its offerings lately in an effort to increase profits, adding to its portfolio a new finger print reader that is able to read prints even with the presence of oils or perspiration. The company has also created a new gyroscope sensor that allows for navigation even when the GPS signal is weak.

However, one of the company’s most exciting new developments is a sensor capable of accurately measuring a wearer’s heart rate even while in motion. The sensor is also able to calculate heart-rate variability, a metric that is said to be a good measure of stress levels and overall health. The firm has also created an inertial sensor that is able to analyze things like golf and tennis swings.

With the wearables market set to continue expanding, Invensense is poised to become a supplier as the devices become more intricate and look to add functionality. This year has been a difficult one for Invensense and the firm’s shares have fallen 29.4 percent so far. However, for investors that believe in what the company is doing and see the wearables market continuing to grow, it could represent a good chance to buy.

Ambarella Inc. (NASDAQ: AMBA)

Ambarella is another behind-the-scenes firm in the wearables market, the company makes systems-on-a-chip (SoC) for wearable devices. Specifically, Ambarella’s SoC allow devices to take high-definition videos and compress and process them without using much power. The company has been a popular choice for action-camera firms like GoPro (NASDAQ: GPRO) and the firm says its latest SoC is expected to benefit smaller, wearable devices like body cameras.

The wearables space is rapidly changing, especially with the introduction of smart watches, but the potential for small, compact video devices is one place the wearables market is expected to expand. Heated debates over whether or not police are using unnecessary force has prompted many law enforcement agencies to begin equipping officers with body-worn cameras. The cameras protect both the officer and the public as they ensure that everyone is held responsible for their actions. Not only that, but the US government has gotten behind the movement with a proposal to spend $263 million on 50,000 body-worn cameras.

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