Amazon in the third quarter expanded its lead over Google in the North American smart-speaker market due to strong sales during the Amazon Prime Day event on July 15, according to IHS Markit | Technology, now part of Informa Tech.
During the third quarter, Amazon shipped 8.3 million smart speakers to the North American market, nearly double Google’s total of 4.4 million, as reported by the Smart Home Intelligence Service. This represents a significant increase in Amazon’s lead compared to the second quarter, when the company shipped 3.3 million smart speakers, compared to 1.9 million for Google.
The third-quarter shipment gap between Amazon and Google was most apparent during July, when Amazon Prime Day was held. Amazon during the month shipped about 3.2 million speakers, compared to 1.5 million for Google, as reported by the latest Smart Speaker Tracker report from IHS Markit | Technology.
This year’s Prime Day featured major deals on smart speaker products, with Amazon Echo priced at $49.99, compared to a normal price of $99.99. The price of the high-end Echo Show smart speaker was slashed $159.99, down from $229.99 normally.
Toward the smart home of tomorrow
For Amazon, the pricing deals and new product announcements represent parts of a larger effort to promote consumer adoption of connected appliances in the home. For example, the company is offering the Food Network Kitchen, which offers step-by-step cooking instructions through Echo devices on a subscription basis. Paired with the latest Amazon Smart Oven, the service aims to combine convenience with education in the kitchen.
“The primary takeaway from the Amazon’s Product Launch Day, held in September, was that Amazon wants to engage consumers beyond smart speakers,” said Blake Kozak, principal analyst for IHS. “Through its announcements of connected appliances and step-by-step cooking, Amazon is trying to invigorate a struggling connected-appliance market that can’t seem to get consumers to connect their appliances.”
Amazon also is aiming to gain a better understanding of every event that occurs in homes and to use that information to understand consumer behavior patterns.
In pursuit of this goal, the company is offering enhancements to Alexa Guard, a home security helper that can detect sounds that may indicate trouble in a home—such as the noise of breaking glass. The company also is rumored to be working on a “frustration feature” that can detect mood based on tone of voice.
“By further analyzing speech and sounds in the home, Amazon could be closer than the other brands to realizing a true smart home that can react to perceived behavior,” Kozak said. “Furthermore, by following through on hunches, Alexa will be able to learn routines and offer suggestions for additional automations based on patterns.”
Smart speaker analytics to be cornerstone of the future smart home
Beyond incorporating assumptions about users’ moods, smart speakers also can perform audio analytics to help determine occupancy and even identify individuals using passive analytics combined with video analytics.
For mood detection, smart speakers could analyze trends in behavior—from the types of shows watched, to the flavor of food ordered—depending on mood and other social cues. Placing such passive sensors in each room of a home could yield improvements in lighting automation, heating and cooling and other personalized features based on the occupancy of a home.
“Digital assistants now are following consumers everywhere they go—from infotainment systems in the car, to the ear buds at the gym, to systems like Cortana at the workplace, to smart speakers and voice remotes in the home,” Kozak said. “As a result, top smart-speaker brands are in a unique position to learn consumers’ routines and use this information to deliver a personalized experience that goes well beyond what other brands can offer.”
For instance, power users who have relied on web-based rules engines like WebCore for SmartThings will welcome analytics that can drive advanced if-then statements automatically. This compared to past solutions, when users would have to essentially program their own routines to produce a real smart-home experience.
Connecting the dots
Looking deeper into Amazon’s smart-speaker results in the third quarter, the 2nd and 3rd Generation Echo Dot speakers attained the most shipments, equating to about 65 percent of total company shipments during the quarter. The Echo 2nd Generation was the next most popular Amazon platform speaker. The most popular non-Amazon-branded speaker using the Amazon platform was the Eufy Genie, followed by Facebook Portal.
For Google, the most popular speaker was the Google Home Mini, followed by Google Home. The Google Home Mini represented 51 percent of shipments for the Google Assistant smart speaker platform during the third quarter. The most popular non-Google branded speakers on the Google platform during the third quarter were the JBL Link 10 and JBL Link 20, followed by the Lenovo Smart Display.
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