This market insight discusses the uptick in the North American smart speaker market despite COVID-19; shipment and share data includes all speakers using the Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri platforms.

According to Omdia’s latest smart speaker tracker, the North American smart speaker market increased by about 6 percent during 1Q20 compared with 1Q19. This includes all smart speakers using the Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri platforms.

Amazon builds on its smart speaker dominance

Despite the extraordinary measures taken due to COVID-19, the smart speaker market continued to trend upward across North America. Omdia estimated there were about 6.1 million smart speakers shipped during 1Q20, up from 5.8 million shipped during 1Q19. Amazon led all brands in the region with a 56 percent share of shipments during the quarter, while Google was estimated to have had a 35 percent share and Apple 9 percent.

During 1Q20, the most popular Amazon Alexa platform speaker was the Echo Show 5 with 786 thousand shipments, representing 23 percent of Alexa platform shipments. The Echo Dot 4th Generation (with a clock) was the second most popular Alexa platform speaker during 1Q20, with 543 thousand shipments, followed by the Echo 3rd Generation.

For Google, the most popular speaker during 1Q20 was the Google Home speaker with 736 thousand shipments, representing 34 percent of shipments during the quarter. The second most popular Google Assistant smart speaker was the Google Nest Mini (2nd Gen), followed by the Google Nest Hub.

Apple maintains a single smart speaker, HomePod, which was estimated to have about 541 thousand shipments during 1Q20. Overall, the HomePod represented about 9 percent of all smart speaker shipments in North America during 1Q20, up from about 8 percent in 1Q19.

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COVID-19 impact

Since the first case of COVID0-19 was not formally announced until late January 2020 in the USA, the impact to the smart speaker market has been limited during this quarter since lockdown measures and unemployment didn’t begin to take a toll until around mid-March. Consequently, Omdia expects that the number of smart speaker sales during 2Q20 could be lower year-over-year (YoY) compared with 2019 but speakers with displays and video chatting features could see the bulk of those shipments next quarter.

What could curtail a slowdown in sales during 2Q20 would be continued discounting. For example, during March 2020, Amazon and Best Buy were offering sharp discounts on the Echo Show 8 and for a brief time, there was an offer for a buy one, get one free offer (BOGO). At the start of April 2020, the Echo Show 5 was being sold for only $60, a $30 discount. Not to be outdone, Google was also offering discounts through various partners during March as well- such as with Verizon Wireless offering two Google Nest Hub Max speakers for about $330, typically $229 each. Another Google deal was offering two Google Home speakers and a Google Mini for only $99. Overall, discounting continues to play a role in the adoption of smart speakers across North America.

Smart speakers could also have a small role for consumers during this difficult time. Consumers can ask the various voice assistants for information on COVID-19 or if they may have the virus. As a result, smart speakers could be used to identify potential cases of the virus. Although Amazon Alexa is the only speaker currently approved for health records in the USA, other speakers could be used to monitor and notify users locally, rather than using the cloud. This could be done in several ways: using audio analytics for dry cough or even using other methods to determine chest movements and other symptoms.

For speakers not approved for medical record transmissions, these could be used to issue accurately and timely announcements of COVID-19 updates from local and national officials. Although users can ask Siri if they have COVID-19, Siri only asks questions that pertain to symptoms, but the user would still be unclear if they should visit a doctor or hospital. Speakers and smart phones that could audibly detect distress in breathing could provide a more precise measure for testing requirements. Although technology today exists in homes to help virus experts track or identify cases, the price for consumers is privacy.

Smart speakers with a display increase by 220% during 1Q20

During 1Q20, an estimated 1.9 million smart speakers with a display were shipped in North America, an increase of 220% compared with 1Q19.

Amazon Alexa speakers represented about 70% of the speakers shipped with a display, while Google Assistant speakers represented about 30% during 1Q20. The most popular speaker with a display for Amazon was the Echo Show 5 while the most popular smart speaker with a display for Google was the Google Nest (Home) Hub.

Agnostic smart speakers (speakers capable of Alexa or Google Assistant) also performed well during 1Q20 with an estimated 96 thousand agnostic smart speakers shipped in North America, an increase of 760% compared with 1Q19.