Amazon shipped an estimated 4 million Echo smart speakers during the quarter, for a 43.6 percent share of the market, while Google shipped an estimated 2.4 million Google Home speakers for 26.5 percent market share. Alibaba also came in ahead of Apple with 700,000 shipments, while Xiaomi trailed behind with 200,000.
Apple has a long way to go to catch up to Google and Amazon, both of whom have seen an enormous growth in shipments over the course of the past year. Amazon's shipments increased by two million compared to Q1 2017, while Google's increased by 2.1 million.
Amazon's market share has fallen year over year due to strong sales of Google speakers and new entrants to the market like Apple, Alibaba, and Xiaomi, but Amazon continues to be the number one smart speaker vendor in the world by far.
David Watkins, Director at Strategy Analytics commented that "Amazon and Google accounted for a dominant 70% share of global smart speaker shipments in Q1 2018 although their combined share has fallen from 84% in Q4 2017 and 94% in the year ago quarter. This is partly as a result of strong growth in the Chinese market for smart speakers where both Amazon and Google are currently absent. Alibaba and Xiaomi are leading the way in China and their strength in the domestic market alone is proving enough to propel them into the global top five."
In total, across all vendors, there were an estimated 9.2 million smart speaker units shipped during the first quarter of 2018. Apple is, at the current time, the fourth largest smart speaker brand worldwide with the HomePod, but its meager sales are not yet impacting major players Google and Amazon.
Both Google and Amazon have been in the smart speaker business for a longer period of time and the two companies also offer speakers at a range of price points. A Google Home speaker, for example, can be purchased for as little as $129 (or $49 for the mini version), while an Amazon Echo costs just $99.99. The Echo Dot is even more affordable at $49.
Apple's sole speaker, the HomePod, is priced at $349. Apple focused heavily on audio quality with the hopes that consumers would be willing to pay more for a device that had superior sound, but the higher price tag, a delayed feature set, and the lack of native support for music services like Spotify have likely stymied Apple's sales.
The HomePod is still new and Apple has just entered the smart speaker market, so improvements and changes to future products could drastically change its position and present some real competition for Amazon and Google. Apple is rumored to be considering a lower-priced HomePod that would perhaps sell for $150 to $200.