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Smart Speakers, Amazon Outperforms Google But Only Just

Smart speaker shipments reached 78 million units worldwide in 2018, up 125% YoY, says a report from Canalys analyst group. Google was hot on the tails of Amazon, just 1.1% behind in market share, after enjoying a YoY growth of 109.6%.

Google came close to beating Amazon, surpassing them in Q1 and Q2 2018, but ultimately, Amazon emerged as the top-shipping vendor.

Amazon shipped 24.2 million of its Echo devices, whereas Google shipped 23.4 million of its Home speakers.

Canalys attributes Amazon’s success to the refresh given to its Echo line-up before the holiday period, which led to a 31% growth in Q4 and clinched the title.

“With the updated Echo range already in place for 2019, Amazon is expected to switch gears to extend Alexa’s reach into areas such as automobiles via developers and ecosystem device vendors,” said Canalys Senior Analyst Jason Low.

However, Low warns that although third-party companies which support Alexa are “eagerly pursuing money-making and growth opportunities,” if Amazon doesn’t follow through, they could defect to another platform, such as Google.

The report also covers smart speaker displays, still a relatively new category but growing with 6.4 million units shipped in 2018, accounting for 8.3% of the total smart speaker market.

“Undercutting other smart displays at US$149, the Google Home Hub has a short-term advantage,” said Low.

“Google quickly became the second largest smart display vendor in 2018 with just one quarter’s shipments reaching 2.2 million units.”

And although the category is still relatively new, Low expects Chinese vendors to “jump on the trend.”

Low also pointed to the failure of big tech companies to take advantage of the growing smart speaker trend.

“Leading smart device vendors, such as Samsung, Huawei and Apple, have failed to capitalize on the growth of smart assistant for home use,” says Low, and he is not wrong.

Samsung’s new smart speaker is tipped to reach the market this year and will be powered by its homegrown Bixby smart assistant and Apple’s Homepod is powered by Siri.

But as Amazon and Google have spent years solidifying their position in the smart assistant and smart speaker category, it could be difficult to draw loyal consumers to new smart speaker ecosystem.

“First-mover advantage is vital in the world of smart assistants and the first to establish a user base in an important area will secure long-term success,” said Low.

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