Google and Apple remain incapable of challenging Amazon's smart speaker dominance

Google and Apple remain incapable of challenging Amazon's smart speaker dominance
Smart speakers have been expanding at a pretty insane pace in the last few years, but at least in the US, the market is expected to substantially slow down its growth in the near future. eMarketer researchers anticipate a boost of 13.7 percent in 2020 US smart speaker users compared to 2019, bringing the grand total up to 83.1 million, with single-digit growth then predicted for 2021.

The relatively young industry is thus moving closer to its maturity point, which means it will become even harder to challenge the crushing dominance of market pioneer Amazon. The e-commerce giant single-handedly carved out this new niche of the consumer electronics industry with the 2014 launch of the first Echo generation, resisting Google's attacks by continuously improving Alexa's skills and broadening its smart speaker portfolio to cover every size and price point.

While Amazon lost a little market share between 2017 and 2018, it quickly bounced back to an estimated 72.9 percent slice of the US pie last year, looking at retaining its comfortable lead through 2021. If eMarketer's forecast proves accurate, 69.7 percent of US smart speaker users will own an Echo this year, compared to the 31.7 percent expected to turn to Google-branded devices and the combined 18.4 percent share of "other" companies.


Those figures obviously don't add up to 100 percent, and that's because an unexpectedly large number of people stateside are apparently simultaneously using smart speakers from multiple brands. To qualify as a "user", by the way, you do actually have to use a smart speaker "at least once per month", so if any of those Google Home Mini units the search giant has been giving away for free over the years is just sitting in a drawer, it doesn't count.

Meanwhile, in case you're wondering, the "other" section includes everyone from Apple to Harman Kardon and Sonos, the former of which was long expected to "make more inroads in this market" and perhaps even threaten Amazon's position. But in the absence of a budget-friendly HomePod model or at least a second generation of the premium Siri-controlled device, it's really not surprising to see Apple treated as an afterthought in these forward-looking market reports.

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9 Comments

8. Skizzo

Posts: 462; Member since: Jul 14, 2013

I'm just baffled that anyone would use Amazon smart speakers over Google ones. Alexa as an assistant, while pretty good, is a distant second and not even in the same league as Google assistant, and that's primarily why you'd be getting these devices in the first place. I've used both, Alexa first as it was gifted to me, but Google is leagues ahead in most areas. I love just saying "Hey Google, play _________", and it instantly starts playing from Netflix or YouTube on my TV via Chromecast. I'm based in Canada, so maybe the Alexa dominance is strictly a US thing.

11. sgodsell

Posts: 7692; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I believe in Canada Google Assistant is #1. In the US Amazon Alexa is #1. But Amazon in the US is almost 10 times bigger than Canada, especially when you look at population. I think it's because Google Assistant was in Canada for year before Amazon came on the scene. Also the HomePod is now over 2 years old, and it cannot compete or bring an inexpensive smart speaker to the market.

12. sgodsell

Posts: 7692; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I should have fully stated why Apple can't make an inexpensive smart speaker, because the HomePod's use an A8 SoC have 1 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. That alone means you will never see an inexpensive HomePod. Therefore Apple in the smart speaker industry has priced themselves out of the real competition. Plus the competition allow Developers to make voice apps that run on any hardware, but they also support smart displays. Apple still doesn't have an answer for smart displays.

4. toukale

Posts: 676; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

Got to love those narrative. From my point of view, Apple simply refuses to make and sell a cheap speaker to compete. They seem fine competing in the wearable space, they are killing it there and they don't have to sell them under $50 to do so. Finally, I own 2 of those cheap speakers, and that's all they are, cheap speakers not sure what Apple is losing/gaining to even compete in that market.

9. tedkord

Posts: 17544; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Spinning like a top. Talk about a narrative - "if Apple isn't winning, it's because they don't want to compete."

10. sgodsell

Posts: 7692; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Look Apple is losing a lot, because Apple priced their speaker too high. Plus you need to buy 2 HomePod's is you want stereo sound. If you buy 2 HomePod's, now you are in the surround sound systems, which those systems allow lots of devices to connect to them, and allow multiple platforms to connect to them. The best part a surround sound system blows the HomePod's out of the water. Plus the best part they allow all TVs, game consoles, and other hardware to connect to them. Not to mention you can connect up one or a few of those cheaper smart speakers and get a much smarter and superior sound system, that does a lot more than any Siri smart speaker (HomePod). Hands down. Plus developers still can't make standalone apps for the HomePod.

13. toukale

Posts: 676; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

Isn't this exactly what I said in the first line of comment? To repeat, what are the others gaining that Apple is not by selling cheap speakers.

14. sgodsell

Posts: 7692; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The others are gaining more developers and support for new types of voice apps, plus they support smart displays, as well as smart speakers. Something that Apple doesn't even support yet, and may never support. You can buy an inexpensive smart display that runs circles around anything that Apple has, and at a fraction of the cost of Apple's 2 year old HomePod. Plus developers can make almost any type of app that support both smart displays (with touch screen support) and smart speakers. Apple limits the type of apps you can create and use Siri for. When you add it all up, Apple's Siri is so far behind the competition that it's actually pathetic.

2. Shkselectah

Posts: 53; Member since: Jun 26, 2018

Apple remain incapable of challenging Amazon's and Google`s smart speaker dominance

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