There’s a new challenger to the smart speaker throne — and, no, it’s not Apple’s HomePod.
According to the latest data from IDC, in Europe Google has overtaken Amazon as the market leader in smart speakers. Google Home devices accounted for 45.1% of shipped smart speakers in the region in Q1. That beats Amazon’s 41.8%. Apple’s HomePod doesn’t even even get a mention.
The smart speaker market in Europe grew 58.1% in the first quarter of 2019. The total number of units shipped in the region were 3.35 million units. Western Europe was the most popular market for smart speakers, accounting for 88.3% of shipments. However, Central and Eastern Europe are growing at a faster rate.
“Google had a stellar quarter and was the clear winner in the first quarter, reaching an important milestone in Europe,” said Antonio Arantes, senior research analyst for Smart Home devices in Western Europe. “Google continues to expand to new countries and support new native languages at a faster pace than Amazon. This is also contributing to strengthening its position in voice assistant platforms. Google Assistant was present in 49.2% of all smart speakers sold in Europe in the first quarter of 2019. Meanwhile, Amazon faced supply issues, with the Amazon Echo Dot being out of stock in some countries for several weeks, leaving space for Google Home products to grow.”
Smart speakers were the second most popular smart home device type, after video entertainment such as smart TVs. Smart lighting tech came in third place, followed by home security systems, and thermostats.
A two horse race (and neither is Apple)
The report is interesting because it shows that Google is slowly making inroads in the smart speaker market. In the U.S., Amazon is still the market leader in this category. For my money, Google Home speakers are more capable. However, Amazon has gamely stayed ahead by introducing new form factors and carrying out aggressive advertising.
The fact that Apple doesn’t get a mention in IDC’s latest report backs up other similar findings. According to Strategy Analytics, in the last quarter of 2018, Apple sold 1.6 million HomePods. That’s considerably fewer than Amazon’s 13.7 million units, or Google’s 11.5 million.
A Canalys report recently suggested that the smart speaker install base could surpass the number of smartwatches in use this year. Smart speakers could also outnumber tablets before the end of 2021. Both smartwatches and tablets are categories that Apple dominates.
But it’s been less successful with HomePod — largely because of the higher price of its devices. Whereas Google and Amazon have created low-cost devices such as the Echo Dot, Apple keeps its prices considerably higher.
Whether that’s the right strategy remains to be seen. But right now, at least outside of China, it seems that smart speakers are a two horse race. And while Google and Amazon are neck-and-neck, Apple’s lagging a long way behind.