The final results are in and they confirm that smart speakers were the hottest consumer electronics product in 2018. Strategy Analytics’ latest research shows that Q4 shipments grew 95% to 38.5 million units. This was more than the entire 2017 total and brought the 2018 tally to 86.2 million units. Amazon and Google enjoyed a particularly strong quarter thanks to the popularity of their low-cost Echo Dot and Home Mini speakers and both companies recorded quarter-on-quarter increases in market share. Apple’s HomePod sales rose 45%, but its market share fell back to 4.1% in Q4.

David Watkins, Director at Strategy Analytics, commented in a statement: “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. 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% of total shipment demand in Q4 2018 and they are expected to be a significant driver of growth in the market through 2019.”

David Mercer, Vice President at Strategy Analytics, added in a statement, “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. 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 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.”

Strategy Analytics: 2018 Global Smart Speaker Sales Reached 86.2 Million Units on Back of Record Q4

Source: Strategy Analytics, Inc.

MacDailyNews Take: Of course, Apple does not play the market share game, selling units for the sake of selling units. Apple sells premium products to premium customers at premium prices. Apple’s unit sales in relation to vendors pumping out cheap POS junk is virtually meaningless. Apple’s HomePod sales increasing 45% on the other hand is very meaningful as every buyer will be or become an Apple Music subscriber, generating the type of recurring revenue that very few $49 speaker buyers would ever provide.