Smart speaker adoption to rise in 2018

Google Home Mini is competing against Amazon Echo Dot.
Google Home Mini is competing against Amazon Echo Dot.

Amazon and Google went head to head in the smart speaker market last year and the battle is expected to be more intense in the coming days with more players joining the fray.

According to Canalys, the global smart speaker market is poised to grow to 56.3 million shipments in 2018, as the technology prepares itself for accelerated adoption in the consumer market.

The US will remain the single most important market for smart speakers in 2018, as shipments are expected to reach 38.4 million units, with China a distant second at 4.4 million units.

“2018 will be the defining year for smart speaker adoption. Smart speaker uptake has grown faster than any other consumer technology we’ve recently encountered, such as AR, VR or even wearables,” said Lucio Chen, Research Analyst of Canalys.

“While 2017 has been a banner year for smart speakers in terms of hardware sales, especially for Google and Amazon, smart speakers in 2018 will move beyond hardware, with strategic attempts to monetise the growing installed base in the US and beyond. The possibilities to do this are endless, be it discreet advertising, content subscription bundles, premium services or enterprise solutions. The technology is still in transition, and increased investments from multiple players of the ecosystem will fuel growth,” he added.

The US takes the majority share of the worldwide smart speaker market and will remain the largest market through 2020, based on Canalys forecasts. High broadband penetration, a keen proclivity to adopt new technologies and the lowering price barriers of smart speakers has accelerated adoption in the US market.

“Consumer acceptance of the smart speaker has been positive overall, despite a few shortcomings. Vendors have begun offering successful upgrades to their latest models, and a key element driving this stickiness are the smart home partnerships. Alexa’s multiple smart home integrations, Google’s partnership with Nest and Apple’s HomeKit initiatives will continue to excite consumers of the smart speaker and fuel sales in 2018,” said Vincent Thielke, Analyst of Canalys.

Despite tasting success in the US and Western Europe, China will continue to elude the two smart speaker giants, Amazon and Google. The restrictions on their services will catalyse a healthy local market where vendors, such as Alibaba, and Xiaomi, have already launched smart speakers to test the waters.

The market will see a huge boost in 2018 as hardware vendors, software developers, voice recognition providers and operators join the game just in time to capitalise on the growing consumer awareness of smart home and artificial intelligence.

“Market dynamics in China can change very quickly. Traditional hardware vendors have been cautious at the beginning, but with deep-pocketed Alibaba ramping up investment in the category, and Xiaomi launching lower priced skews of its XiaoAI smart speaker, the market will be ignited in no time,” said Chen.