Google zooms by Amazon in smart speaker shipments, report says

Google surpassed Amazon in global smart speaker shipments in the first quarter of 2018, according to a report this week from research firm Canalys.

Canalys says Google shipped 3.2 million Google Home and Home Mini speakers over the course of the quarter. Amazon, meanwhile, is said to have shipped 2.5 million Echo speakers.

According to the report, Google jumped from taking 19.3 percent of smart speaker shipments in Q1 2017 to 36.2 percent this past quarter. Amazon accounted for a whopping 79.6 percent of shipments in the year-ago quarter but fell to 27.7 percent in Q1 2018, the report says.

The Amazon Echo largely popularized the smart speaker concept, and Amazon has long been the leader in smart speaker sales as a result. For several months, Echo devices were generally more functional and worked with a wider network of third-party devices than most other digital-assistant-aided speakers.

But the Google Home devices have largely matched the Echo in terms of abilities over the past couple of years, and both Amazon and Google have introduced low-cost speakers—the Echo Dot and Home Mini, respectively—to more aggressively court new customers.

Now, it appears the Home has reached a point of parity with the Echo; this report would mark the first time Google has overtaken Amazon in total shipments. Canalys credits Google’s rise in part to retailers and channel operators “prioritizing” the Home over the Echo, given that Amazon is one of its biggest competitors in retail at large.

A couple of caveats: neither Amazon nor Google breaks out quarterly sales figures for each device family, so Canalys’ figures likely aren’t 100-percent exact. It’s also worth noting that “shipments” are not the same as “sales,” so it’s possible that deals and discounts on the devices have affected the figures to an extent.

Neither Google nor Amazon replied to a request for comment. Canalys did not reply to a request for comment on more information about its methodology.

A separate report from research firm Strategy Analytics earlier this month said Amazon continued to lead Google in smart speaker shipments, but it listed similarly huge growth from Google, year over year. Regardless of exact sales figures, the general takeaway seems to be that Amazon’s first-to-market lead is shrinking as smart speakers as a whole become more popular. That popularity appears to be on the rise despite ongoing privacy concerns surrounding the devices.

Worldwide, Canalys says smart speaker shipments reached about 9 million units, which was good for a 210-percent rise, year over year. The report says Q1 2018 was the first time the United States accounted for less than half of all smart speaker shipments, as the devices continued to gain traction in newer markets like China and South Korea. After Google and Amazon, Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Xiaomi were listed as third and fourth in quarterly market share, respectively. Together, those four companies are said to have made up 83 percent of all shipments. Newer entrants to the market, like Apple and Microsoft, were not mentioned.

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