Who is winning the battle of the smart speakers?

18 May 2018

Amazon Echo Plus smart speaker. Image: seewhatmitchsee/Shutterstock

Competition heats up in the smart speaker market.

Amazon’s smart speaker share has taken a dive as Google, Apple and Alibaba rise to the challenge.

A new report released by Strategy Analytics shows that Amazon’s Echo shipments doubled year over year, but its market share dropped from 81.8pc in Q1 of 2017 to 43.6pc in the same period this year.

Future Human

Global smart speaker shipments grew 278pc in Q1 of this year versus last year’s first quarter, demonstrating people’s increasing comfort with digital assistants in the home.

Google sales boosted

Google had the biggest effect on Amazon’s market share, with sales of its devices hitting 26.5pc in Q1 of 2018, a major increase from just 12.4pc in the same quarter of last year. Alibaba and Apple collectively grabbed 13.6pc of total smart speaker sales for the first quarter of 2018.

David Watkins, director at Strategy Analytics, commented on the report: “Amazon and Google accounted for a dominant 70pc share of global smart speaker shipments in Q1 2018, although their combined share has fallen from 84pc in Q4 2017 and 94pc in the year-ago quarter.

“This is partly as a result of strong growth in the Chinese market for smart speakers, where both Amazon and Google are currently absent. Alibaba and Xiaomi are leading the way in China and their strength in the domestic market alone is proving enough to propel them into the global top five.”

David Mercer, vice-president at Strategy Analytics, added: “Further strong growth in smart speaker sales confirms our view that this new market is far more than just a flash in the pan. Today’s smart speakers are by no means the finished article but they have captured the consumer imagination and we will see rapid evolution in design, functionality and associated use cases over the coming years.

“We are clearly heading towards a time in the not-too-distant future when voice becomes a standard mode of technology interaction alongside established approaches like keyboard, mouse and touchscreen.”

With the new smart speaker from Samsung due to land in August of this year, Amazon’s market share may suffer further knocks. Samsung aims to roll out an upgraded AI platform called Bixby 2.0 with the Galaxy Note9.

Apple’s HomePod didn’t go on sale until well into Q1, meaning sales don’t represent a full quarter, but sales are likely not as high as the company would like. A cheaper and smaller version may be on the way, which may compete better with standard Amazon and Google smart speakers.

Amazon Echo Plus smart speaker. Image: seewhatmitchsee/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects