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China has now overtaken the US for smart-speaker shipments


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More than 5m smart speakers were shipped in the US during the first quarter of 2019, which represents around 22% year-on-year growth, according to research firm Canalys. But wait: the US is no longer the biggest market for these devices in the world, having been overtaken by China. In fact, 10.6m smart speakers shipped in China in the first quarter of this year, growth of nearly 489%.

In Q1 this year, China thus accounted for 51% of the 20.7m global shipments of smart speakers. That’s also reflected in Canalys’ chart of the top manufacturers. Amazon and Google are still top, with 4.6m and 3.5m Q1 shipments respectively. Yet Chinese firms Baidu (3.3m), Alibaba (3.2m) and Xiaomi (3.2m) are hot on their heels. It’s entirely possible that these companies will soon be selling more smart speakers than Amazon and Google.

Given China’s size it’s not a huge shock, but it is a reminder that smart speakers will have a growing role to play in that country’s development of its music-streaming market – including ambitions there to persuade more people to pay rather than to stream for free.

“The lightning fast development in China is largely driven by vendors pouring in large amounts of capital to achieve dominant share quickly,” said Canalys’ VP of mobility Nicole Peng. “It is great for mass market education and fast consumer adoption, as consumers are paying very little for a device and the countless content and services.

Canalys’ data is also a reminder of just how early we still are in the smart-speakers market, certainly in terms of global expansion. Just three countries – China, the US and the UK – accounted for 80% of shipments in the first quarter. Canalys recently predicted that by the end of 2019, there will be 207.9m smart speakers in use around the world, including 87.7m in the US and 59.9m in China – 71% of the global install-base for those two countries alone.

Stuart Dredge

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