Whether you see them as life-changing or privacy-violating, it looks like smart speakers are here to stay.
At least, that’s the takeaway from a new study by market researchers at Canalys, a market analyst firm. According to their projections, the global install base for smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and more will exceed 200 million units by the end of 2019, a year-over-year jump of 82.4 percent from 2018, when the worldwide install base for the devices was 114 million units. (“Install base” refers to the number of smart speakers that are actually in use by consumers, not the total number of units sold.)
One of the more interesting projections from the Canalys study is that smart speakers could be even more popular than tablets in just a couple of years. According to Canalys, the global install base for smart speakers could be around 400 million by 2021, putting it slightly above the same projected metric for tablets like the iPad.
That would represent a decent shift in how people use technology on a day-to-day basis. Smart speaker technology has evolved to the point where Amazon Echo can do everything from control heat and lighting to spit out golf quotes on command. Tablets, meanwhile, might be more useful for work or travel purposes.
It seems like China is poised to hop on the smart speaker bandwagon: The study predicted a staggering 166 percent year-over-year jump in smart speaker penetration in China’s mainland from 2018 to 2019. That could be fueled by devices like the Tmall Genie, a smart speaker developed by Alibaba.
Amazon and Google may lead the way in the United States, but they aren’t as prominent in China. Amazon’s Chinese operation has less than 1 percent market share in the country, while Google has shifted to other business operations due to government censorship.
Speaking of the U.S., it should still have the most smart speaker users in the world by the end of the year. Canalys predicts 60 million units in America alone in 2019. And the market is only going to become more competitive as time goes on. Apple’s HomePod just got a much-needed price cut to possibly help it compete with the more affordable Amazon and Google alternatives. Meanwhile, Samsung is set to debut its Galaxy Home device pretty much any day now.