Devices: Google leads in smart speakers, Apple in wearables

Devices: Google leads in smart speakers, Apple in wearables

Apple and Google have reported positive Q1 sales figures for wearables and smart speakers, respectively.

The news is particularly good for Google: sales of the company’s Google Home and Home Mini devices have overtaken Amazon’s Alexa-powered range for the first time – according to market analysis firm, Canalys.

The analysts have also published a report on global wearable sales. The data reveals that the Apple Watch outsold its rivals in Q1 and has an 18 percent share of the global market.

Both the smart speaker and wearables markets have seen healthy growth compared to the same period in 2017, according to the figures.

Google gets a grip on smart speakers

Smart speakers are the world’s fastest-growing consumer technology sector, with year-on-year growth in Q1 2018 of 210 percent and global shipments reaching nine million units.

Since Amazon released the Echo in 2014, the retail giant has led the way in this new market. However, according to Canalys, the tide is turning. In Q1, Google shipped 3.2 million of its Home devices, compared to Amazon’s 2.5 million Echo speakers.

It’s the first time Google has outsold Amazon in the space, according to Canalys’ figures, which contradict a report from Strategy Analytics, which put Amazon on sales of four million, and Google on 2.4 million.

There are two reasons for Google’s dominance – or greater presence – in the space, with growth of 483 percent year on year in sales terms. First, that growth can be seen as a result of forages into new markets, including India, where the company has partnered with service providers such as Jio and ACT Fibernet to get closer to customers.

But second, arguably the biggest advantage is an obvious one: sales channels. Here Amazon would appear to be falling victim to its own success. Many competing retailers are thought to prioritise selling Google’s speakers over the Echo due to Amazon’s dominant position in all aspects of retail, and its determination to move into ever increasing numbers of markets.

However, according to Canalys analyst Ben Stanton, “Amazon is fighting back hard, and the sheer quantity of Alexa Skills and smart home integrations will be tough for any competitor to match.”

Apple dominating wearable sales

The headline from Apple’s Q1 sales is that the company is continuing to dominate the wearables market, despite the limited number of products it actually offers within it. Canalys puts Apple just ahead of Xiaomi in terms of Q1 wearable band shipments: 3.8 million to the Chinese manufacturer’s 3.7 million.

But unit shipments don’t tell the whole story. Smart watches, compared to less complicated fitness bands, now account for 80 percent of wearable band revenue, an increase of 74 percent from Q1 2017. This disproves any belief that smart watches have not been supported by the market, and that low-cost fitness bands are more popular.

There is also a suggestion that Apple’s cellular connectivity is winning over customers and mobile network operators. “Key to Apple’s success with its latest Apple Watch Series 3 is the number of LTE-equipped watches it has been able to push into the hands of consumers,” said Canalys senior analyst Jason Low.

“Operators welcome the additional revenue from device sales and the added subscription revenue for data on the Apple Watch, and the list of operators that sell the LTE Apple Watch worldwide is increasing each month.”

With so much focus on fitness trackers and health wearables, Apple is also taking advantage of the lack of an LTE-enabled product in the Android ecosystem.

Internet of Business says

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently suggested that the company’s wearables division – made up of Beats headphones, the Apple Watch, and its AirPod wireless earbuds – has grown by 50 percent in revenue terms over the past year. Cook compared its new business to a Fortune 300 company in terms of size.

There have been rumours that Google is working on a cellular-enabled Android smartwatch, the Pixel, which could check Apple’s dominance and provide more competition at the high-revenue end of the wearables market.

Meanwhile, Apple is believed to be working on a lower-cost smart speaker to add to its HomePod range, possibly under its Beats brand. In Q1, Apple shifted 600,000 of its HomePod range, making it the number four manufacturer in the space.