Runtastic is the latest indie fitness-app maker to fall under the control of a larger player: Adidas has bought the Austrian startup for 220 million euros (the equivalent of US $239 million).
The deal follows Under Armour’s aggressive rollup of MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal, and Endomondo over the last couple of years, as well as Fitbit’s recent purchase of FitStar.
Of the fitness apps I looked at closely in my survey of the field in 2013, only Strava and RunKeeper remains independent.
In recent years, Runtastic had distinguished itself from the pack in a couple of ways. After suffering from crashes in my initial testing, Runtastic turned things around and proved to be highly stable after its engineers road-tested the app on long bike rides through the Alps. (Runtastic is based in Linz, Austria.) It developed a solid retail-distribution network, particularly in Europe. And it also delivered a well-designed fitness tracker in the Runtastic Orbit, one of the better simple devices I’ve tested.
Adidas badly needs Runtastic. Most of its apps have received poor reviews, and I found its MiCoach wearable device a very weak entry in a crowded field—it’s an unremarkable heart-rate monitor tied to bad software.
The acquisition is also a way to gear up for battle in the marketplace with Under Armour, a company Adidas has tangled with in court over patents.
The next move here belongs to Nike, which has developed fitness apps in house to date. Its efforts in wearables have been troubled: It stopped making its FuelBand fitness tracker last year, and settled a lawsuit last month with consumers who claimed it didn’t accurately track steps. It may be time for Nike—like Under Armour and Adidas—to admit that it needs some digital help.