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Report claims Amazon has soared ahead in smart-speaker race


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One of the more unexpected (at the time) stories in the history of smart speakers came in May 2018, when research firm Canalys claimed that Google had overtaken Amazon as the biggest shipper of these devices globally – in a market where Amazon’s leadership had long been taken for granted. Now, 18 months on, the same research firm’s latest data suggests Amazon has regained the lead. By a distance.

Canalys reckons that Amazon shipped 10.4m smart speakers in the third quarter of 2019, up 65.9% year-on-year, and giving Echo devices a 36.6% share of the global market. Below in the rankings, there’s also strong growth for Chinese firms Alibaba (3.9m shipments and 77.6% growth), Baidu (3.7m / 290.1%) and Xiaomi (3.4m / 77.7%). And Google? Canalys claims Google’s smart-speaker shipments actually fell, by 40.1%, to 3.5m units in Q3 2019.

There isn’t much explanation of why beyond a “challenging retail environment”, although Canalys did reference Google’s giveaway partnership with Spotify – it’s unclear whether that means Google Home Minis given to Spotify subscribers are included or excluded in the figures, though. As for the overall market: Canalys estimates that 28.6m smart speakers were shipped globally in Q3 2019, up 44.9% year-on-year. That’s a considerable slowdown in growth, however: in the third quarter of 2018, shipments were up by 137% year-on-year according to the company’s figures.

Another detail: 6.3m of those 28.6m smart speakers shipped last quarter came with a screen – ‘smart displays’ – meaning they accounted for 22% of the overall market. Amazon’s Echo Show 5 led the way in that regard, with Canalys claiming it accounted for 16% of Amazon’s overall shipments (so, around 1.7m devices). A useful reminder that we shouldn’t get *too* carried away with describing smart speakers as ‘voice-only’ devices, if more than a fifth of them now come with screens.

Stuart Dredge

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