Who's on first? Google, Amazon battle for smart speaker share in Q1
- Global shipments of smart speakers grew 210% in the first quarter, reaching 9 million units, according to a new study from Canalys.
- For the first time, Google exceeded Amazon in the quarter, shipping 3.2 million Google Home and Google Home Mini units, while Amazon shipped 2.5 million Echo smart speakers, Canalys noted in a press release.
- Dissimilar global numbers were reported mid-May in a report from Strategy Analytics that showed Amazon shipping 4 million units in the first quarter to Google’s 2.4 million, according to a press release. However Google topped Amazon in growth, with the number of units shipped rising 709% in Q1 versus Amazon’s increase of 102%. Amazon’s share of the smart speaker market dropped below 50%, down from a 68% share in an October 2017 report. Strategy Analytics essentially agreed with Canalys on overall shipments, reporting a Q1 total of 9.2 million smart speakers.
While the analysts differ over the numbers, they agree that smart speakers are the hottest segment in the global consumer electronics market as demonstrated by first quarter shipments of Amazon and Google units. The two tech giants will be competing for shipments, sales and share well into the future in the U.S.
When video versions of the home assistants become more widely available, Google will be even more of a force with its YouTube and YouTube TV offerings not available on Amazon, although Amazon Prime Video has a strong head start as a streaming service with varied content. In an ongoing video war, Google has been withholding YouTube from Prime, while Amazon is declining to sell Google consumer electronics products, like Google Home and Chromecast. Many retailers see Amazon as direct competition and won’t sell its devices and there’s no sign of a truce.
This would appear to be an opening in terms of content offering for Apple’s HomePod, but early sales results have been disappointing. While sales of the Apple device were about one-third of the smart speaker market shortly after launch at the end of January, by late February, its share was just 4% and Strategy Analytics reports that Q1 shipments of the Apple HomePod were 600,000 for a market share of 6%.
"Google has several advantages over Amazon that have helped it move ahead," said Ben Stanton, a Canalys analyst in the press release. "But its biggest advantage is in the channel. Operators and retailers tend to prioritize Google’s speakers over those from Amazon, as Amazon is in the tricky position of being a direct competitor. But Amazon is fighting back hard, and the sheer quantity of Alexa Skills and smart home integrations will be tough for any competitor to match."
Amazon recently said it will make an artificial intelligence chip that will enable its Alexa-powered Echo devices to respond more quickly to commands.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated how many Echo smart speakers Amazon shipped. In the first quarter, Amazon shipped 2.5 million.