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GoPro’s Big Tech Problem: Smartphones

Soccer team Manchester City’s mascot Moonchester wearing a GoPro camera during a match. The action-camera...

GoPro Inc. has a smartphone problem.

The action-camera maker burst onto the scene a decade ago with small, light cameras that surfers, skiers and other extreme-sports athletes could take anywhere.

Now GoPro is trying to expand into the mainstream. But the trouble is most people already have smartphones that are nearly as small and light as GoPro’s devices and come with cameras just as good.

Last year, GoPro bungled its attempt to reach mainstream customers by setting the price too high on its first everyman camera and not resolving kinks that make it difficult to use. It is now trying again, urging other companies to integrate GoPro cameras into products from cars to baby bouncers.

The stakes are high: GoPro expects its sales this year could fall by as much as 17% after rising to $1.62 billion last year, its first decline since it started selling its flagship product in 2010. GoPro could swing to a $167 million loss this year after reporting $36 million in profit last year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.

“The vision for GoPro was never just to be in extreme sports,” says GoPro President Tony Bates. “There are only so many base jumpers in the world.”

GoPro’s challenge illustrates the problem independent hardware makers face when competing against do-it-all smartphones from companies such as Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Corp. Fitness trackers Fitbit Inc. and AliphCom Inc.’s Jawbone have lost market share to the Apple Watch, which integrates with iPhones. An older generation of cameras that only took photos seem quaint in comparison...