Feb 21, 2019 07:39 PM

Chart of the Day: Smart Speaker Shipments Surge

China’s smart speaker market surged almost sevenfold in the fourth quarter last year, as tech giants continue to fight for a competitive edge in artificial intelligence (AI).

The country’s smart speaker shipments hit 8.56 million units for the period, up 665% year-on-year, technology analysts Canalys said on Monday.

Identified by voice-based systems that interact with users, smart speakers are expected to become an indispensable part of daily life, letting people control smart devices from televisions to air conditioners to automobiles by voice command.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. came out on top with 2.7 million units shipped, accounting for 31% of the total. The company introduced the voice-controlled Tmall Genie in July 2017, an Amazon Echo-like smart speaker that lets users buy things using Alibaba’s online stores.

“With its ownership of Tmall, Alibaba aggressively promoted early presale bundles and perks locking in buyers in advance, thereby helping it to gauge overall demand early and optimize shipments to go out on time,” said Jason Low, a senior Canalys analyst.

It was followed by Xiaomi and Baidu, which took the second and third spots by shipping about 2.5 million units each, accounting for 30% and 29% respectively.

Xiaomi, which launched its XiaoAi smart speaker in July 2017, unveiled a new model with a screen on Wednesday.

Baidu joined the race in November 2017 when it launched its first AI smart speaker, the Raven H. In June 2018, the internet giant added a new speaker, the Xiaodu.

Jason Low said Baidu had tried to counter Alibaba and Xiaomi by offering steep discounts. The Xiaodu was priced at just 249 yuan ($37), with an even lower promotional price tag of 89 yuan. Baidu saw a 12% increase in its smart speaker market share from the third to the fourth quarter.


Total smart speaker shipments are expected to reach 29.6 million units this year, up 35% from 21.9 million in 2018, Canalys said.

Reporter Han Wei contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (

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