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In the Pressman household, we’ve tried several Amazon Alexa speakers, a Google Home assistant, and Apple’s HomePod. The general consensus so far seems to be that the HomePod, which has by far the highest price, has the best sound. But it’s also been the most limited in functionality. It can’t play our Spotify music or radio stations via TuneIn, take an order to buy more dog food for the pup, or answer trivia questions as well as the competition. And it can be annoyingly dependent on a linked iPhone. If I had to pick a favorite in the market right now, I’d go with the cute, round-screened Amazon Echo Spot sitting on my desk that makes my work day a little more pleasurable and efficient.
This week Apple updated the HomePod’s software alongside the release of its iOS 12 update for iPhones and iPads. Finally (I joke) you can set multiple timers. You can also directly make and receive phone calls, a trick our Alexa does only via a box that connects to our landline. (It can also call other people with an Alexa devices on its own.)
Apple was late to the game (not quite as late as Samsung) and has only a premium offering, so it’s probably not surprising that its market share in this incipient market has been pretty low, according the various market tracking firms. But a new analysis out from research firm Strategy Analytics this week offers a new view on the state of the market. While Apple had only a 6% share of devices sold in the second quarter, by wholesale revenue its HomePod had a 16% share, nearly equal to the dollars of sales brought in combined by Google’s (GOOGL) Home Mini and Amazon’s Echo Dot, the two best-selling devices. Said another way, for devices that cost $200 and up, Apple has a 70% device share (and probably a near-100% revenue share).
There’s a long, long way to go in the digital assistant market. In Hulu’s new futuristic drama The First, people in 2030 use small earpieces that have the functionality of phones, computers, and smart digital assistants all in one. There are plenty of self-driving cars in sight, but no smart speakers. Whether Apple’s (AAPL) premium play, which obviously worked out great for computers and smartphones, or Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa-for-every-room strategy, or another player wins out is yet to be seen. For now, we’ll have to just keep listening.