Apple and Google have a long way to go to catch Amazon in the smart speaker race (AMZN, KRX, GOOGL, AAPL)

First Alexa was playing music and turning on the lights. Then she helped you book appointments, put together grocery lists, and try on new clothes. Now she’s letting you video chat with friends and family — and soon she’ll be able to sense how you’re feeling.

Business Insider Intelligence

And she’s not alone. In the years since Amazon’s 2014 introduction of the Echo, smart speakers have become one of the fastest-growing device segments in the consumer technology market, and other tech giants have been iterating hardware to develop their own flagship devices — most notably the Google Home powered by Google Assistant, the Apple HomePod powered by Siri, and the Galaxy Home powered by Samsung’s Bixby.

These tech leaders aren’t just releasing devices, either; they’re building out entire ecosystems powered by AI, pairing first-party hardware, software, and even third-party apps to advance other business interests. And since smart home device ownership has a snowball effect, winning over customers now likely means locking in more of their business later.

Smart speaker adoption is still relatively low compared to the over-saturated smartphone and tablet markets, so tech companies have plenty of runway to get customers to buy into their distinct smart home visions — but the newcomers have a lot of ground to make up.

Here’s how each of the major players is leaning into their strengths in the smart speaker market:

  • Amazon: The main aim of the Echo is to offer consumers a new means of purchasing goods to reinforce the company’s place atop the e-commerce pyramid. Users can speak to Alexa and buy products off Amazon directly through voice, as well as add items to their shopping cart or a list for later review.
  • Google: Google Home devices are primarily meant to act as helpful assistants prompting consumers to use Google’s search services more often. This gives the company more data to offer more targeted (read: more expensive) advertising to its voice search users on other platforms.
  • Apple: The iPhone maker is looking to build another revenue stream from hardware sales of its HomePod while countering Google’s move into the market. It focuses on the speaker elements of its device, emphasizing how well the device plays music — without elaborating extensively on its smart aspects.
  • Samsung: Though its Bixby-powered Galaxy Home isn’t generally available yet, Samsung’s first foray into the smart speaker market shows it’s looking to challenge the Apple HomePod and the Google Home Max as premium, music-first speakers.

Want to learn more?

The Smart Speaker Report from Business Insider Intelligence looks at the state of the smart speaker market and outlines how each of the major device providers approaches the space. It focuses on the key factors affecting whether or not someone owns one of these devices, as well as why people don’t own them.

Finally, the report looks at what consumers are actually doing with their smart speakers — specifically how the devices are used and perceived in e-commerce, digital media, and banking — to help companies determine how well they’re publicizing their smart speaker services and capabilities.

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