Not surprisingly, among the many consumer tech products that flooded the market in 2018, smart speakers were the hottest, showing impressive growth and consumer interest.
According to Strategy Analytics, global smart speaker sales last year reached 86.2 million units, and enjoyed a record fourth quarter, with shipments that grew 95% to 38.5 million units. This was more than the entire year of 2017, though it should be noted that devices like the Google Home, and even the Amazon Echo, were still relatively new in 2017, as was the category in and of itself.
Amazon and Google, the two dominant smart speaker manufacturers, enjoyed a particularly strong quarter thanks to the popularity of their low-cost Echo Dot and Home Mini speakers. Both companies recorded quarter-on-quarter increases in market share. Apple's HomePod sales, meanwhile, rose 45%, but its market share fell back to 4.1% in Q4.
"Smart speakers and smart displays were once again the most sought-after tech products this past holiday season, and we estimate that more than 60 million households worldwide now own at least one device," says David Watkins, Director at Strategy Analytics. "Smart displays such as Google's Home Hub, Amazon's Echo Show, and Baidu's Xiaodu Zaijia are proving popular with consumers who are attracted by the combination of audio and visual stimulus and the wider range of use cases compared to speaker only devices. Smart displays made up more than 10 per cent of total shipment demand in Q4 2018, and they are expected to be a significant driver of growth in the market through 2019."
"The major technology vendors have done a great job at establishing the voice assistant market, and our research shows that users are highly satisfied with the way smart speakers are improving their daily lives," adds David Mercer, Vice President at Strategy Analytics. "Now comes the question of how to monetize the user base, and it will be interesting to see how each player addresses this challenge.
"The first step," he continues, "will be to encourage wider and more frequent use of apps and services via smart speakers that carry a revenue generation opportunity for the device OEM or platform provider. Voice shopping and ad-insertion are obvious examples, but the industry must address the data security and privacy concerns of smart speaker users before these become viable revenue streams."