Despite the growing popularity of Amazon’s Echo smart speakers, Google’s global shipments of Home series speakers surged during the first quarter of 2018, surpassing Amazon’s shipments for the first time ever. According to Canalys, smart speakers remained “the world’s fastest-growing consumer technology segment,” hitting nine million units for the quarter — up 210 percent over the same quarter in 2017.
While shipment numbers don’t equal direct sales to consumers, they provide some perspective on the growing demand for consumer electronics products. Canalys says that Google shipped 3.2 million Home and Home Mini devices, versus 2.5 million Echo devices shipped by Amazon. While Home Max wasn’t mentioned by name, Google held an estimated 36.2 percent share for the quarter over Amazon’s 27.7 percent — a profound reversal from a year earlier, when Amazon had 79.6 percent of shipments to Google’s 19.3 percent.
The global third and fourth place finishers were both Chinese companies, thanks to domestic shipments: Alibaba held the third spot with 1.1 million Tmall Genie speakers in China, with Xiaomi hitting 600,000 shipments of its Xiao AI speaker. Apple, which began HomePod shipments during the quarter, didn’t make the top four globally and is part of the “Others” category, which currently represents 17.3 percent of the overall market. However, Canalys indicated that the HomePod was in third place in the United States, without specifying exact unit sales.
Why did Google surge over Amazon after the holiday season? Canalys analyst Ben Stanton says that Google’s “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.”
Both Google and Amazon have increased their overseas shipments in the quarter to boost sales volumes. A significant fraction of the smart speaker market’s growth is coming from territories including China, India, and South Korea, the latter of which overtook the U.K. during the quarter to become the third-largest territory behind number two China and the top market, the United States.