While Apple is far from being a smart speaker volume leader, they continue to develop Future HomePod features that will add value
A new analytical report was posted today by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) on the US smart speaker market. The reported noted that since 2017 Amazon has maintained a dominant share of the installed base of devices, accounting for over two-thirds of smart speakers in US homes. Google has about one-quarter, and Apple and Facebook have the remaining share.
By June 2021, the installed base of smart speakers reached 126 million units as shown in the chart below. It grew fast and steadily since Jun 2017, when it was only 20 million units. Further, Amazon and Google have succeeded in building a base of homes with multiple smart speakers. 43% of Amazon Echo owners and 38% of Google Nest/Home owners have more than one device.
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Among manufacturers, Amazon has the dominant share of the installed base, with 69% as of June 2021. Google grew its share initially after launching Home in late 2016 and saw its share of the then-smaller installed base reach 31% at the end of 2017.
Amazon continued to promote its Echo device and broaden its product line aggressively, as Google, and Apple and Facebook, introduced and promoted their devices. Consequently, Amazon maintained a two-thirds share of the installed base through June 2021.
Amazon also has a larger share of smart speaker households. Based on CIRP analyses and accounting for houses with multiple devices (below), we estimate over 50 million US homes have at least one Amazon Echo device and about 23 million homes having at least one Google Nest/Home device. Apple has two million with more than one HomePod.
Being a volume leader in anything really doesn't matter much if there's little profit. We learned that lesson again on Monday. Fortune listed the top global 500 companies with Amazon coming in third and Apple in sixth. Yet with Apple being sixth in revenue, it made more than double the profits that Amazon did.
Cheap speaker volume leadership is not and will never be Apple's reason for being in the smart speaker market. Apple instead is continuing to develop smart home speakers that will offer a difference over time.
Apple introduced new patented technologies for their all-new HomePod mini in October 2020 and in a December 2020 patent Apple illustrated that they working on advanced features for HomePod like integrating a camera into the unit that could recognize a user's face and perform specific commands like turning on a lamp that's nearby. If Siri, via the camera, doesn't recognize your face, it will ignore the command.
As smart speakers began to come to market, Phil Schiller had stated in an interview that smart speakers should have a display. Apple had the right idea, but Amazon, Google and even Facebook beat them to market with that feature. A rumor report by Mark Gurman stated that Apple was working on a HomePod with a display and put it on hold.
Then in May of this year, Gurman stated that a HomePod with a built-in display and camera was in the early stages of development, which was already known by Apple's published patent. However, the rumor, reported by MacRumors, went further than the patent, suggesting a new Apple TV – HomePod combination of sorts.
In the end, statistics are interesting but they don't always tell the full story. Home Speaker volume of sales is interesting, but in this case, Apple fans are more interested in what Apple could be bringing to market in the future that offers them value beyond a cheap price for a cheaply made product.