China has surpassed the United States to lead the smart speaker market.
According to new data from Canalys, China’s smart speaker shipments grew by 500 percent in Q1 2019 to achieve a 51 percent market share. The U.S. has dropped to a 24 percent market share in the same quarter, down from its 44 percent share in Q4 2018.
Baidu, for example, shipped 3.3 million speakers, bolstered by an exclusive sponsorship deal with China’s national TV channel, CCTV, on its New Year’s Gala on Chinese New Year’s Eve. The promotion prompted users to download the Baidu app, which handed out more than 100 million coupons. The company is now in third place in smart speaker shipments, behind Amazon at 4.6 million and Google at 3.5 million. Alibaba and Xiaomi each had 3.2 million shipments, with both benefiting from Chinese New Year promotions.
“The lightning-fast development in China is largely driven by vendors pouring in large amounts of capital to achieve dominant share quickly,” noted Nicole Peng, VP of mobility at Canalys, in a statement. “This strategy is favored by internet service providers like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent who are used to spending billions on traffic acquisition and know how to reach critical installed base fast.”
Overall, the global smart speaker market had triple-digit annual growth of 131 percent in the quarter, reaching 20.7 million total Q1 shipments — an increase from just 9 million in the first quarter of 2018.
Looking ahead, global vendors including Amazon and Google are focusing on boosting interactions with smart assistants across different forms of speaker devices. “Multimodal user interaction is the theme this year. Smart assistants in smart speakers are gaining more capabilities via additional components such as displays, cameras and sensors. However, skills and actions are there to enhance assistants’ abilities to operate and to provide value to users,” said Canalys Senior Analyst Jason Low. “First-party smart assistant features such as Google Duplex are attention-grabbing. Yet, the smart assistant ecosystem will only be boundless with the help of the extended developer community.”