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HomePod sales up in fourth quarter, Amazon and Google extending lead

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Smart speakers such as the HomePod have helped almost double the global shipments of the product category in the fourth quarter of 2018, but while Apple's speaker is seeing increased sales, it is seemingly falling behind its rivals in terms of overall market share.

The holiday shopping period saw a considerable growth in sales for smart speakers, with Amazon's Echo range, Google's Home family, and Apple's HomePod benefiting from the category's popularity.

According to a research report from Strategy Analytics, shipments in the fourth quarter for the market as a whole grew to 38.5 million units, an increase of 95 percent on figures from last year. This is said to be more than the total shipments across the entirety of 2017, and brings the 2018 shipment total to 86.2 million units.

The big winners appear to be both Google and Amazon, rather than Apple. While the HomePod did see growth of 45 percent on a quarter-on-quarter basis, it is noted that the speaker's market share dropped from 4.9 percent in the third quarter to 4.1 percent in the fourth.

Strategy Analytics' chart of smart speaker vendor shipments

By contrast, Amazon saw its shipments of Echo devices grow 91 percent in sequential quarters, growing its market share from 31.8 percent to 35.5 percent. Google follows in second place with a 30 percent market share, again an improvement on the previous quarter, but with its 11.5 million shipments representing 123 percent growth over Q3 shipments.

"Smart speakers and smart displays were once again the most sought-after tech products this past holiday season," said director David Watkins. "We estimate that more than 60 million households worldwide now own at least one device."

According to the report, Apple also lags behind a number of other tech giants in the market, including Alibaba, Baidu, and Xiaomi, with the latter notably seeing both market share and shipments slightly contracting on the previous quarter, but not enough for Apple to improve its ranking.

While Strategy Analytics' figures relate to global shipments, it seems Apple is faring better in the United States, with CIRP claiming in early February HomePod occupies 6 percent of the entire U.S. smart speaker install base as of the end of 2018. Even so, Amazon and Google continue to be far in the lead in the market, with shares of 70 percent and 24 percent respectively.

Apple is working to provide the HomePod in more countries, with China and Hong Kong added to the list in January.

While wider availability will be beneficial, it won't help the high-end and premium-priced HomePod take on the cheaper end of the market, which is dominated by the Amazon Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini.