Amazon’s Alexa has stormed the holidays, with the voice assistant – and the Echo devices that embody her – a huge sales success at Christmas 2017. The Echo Dot, Amazon’s most affordable Alexa device, and the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote were the retailer’s number one and number two top-selling products, respectively, Amazon confirmed today. That only underscored evidence from the Apple App Store suggesting Alexa had spread considerably on Christmas morning.
Signs that Echo had been a frequent discovery inside the gift wrap began midway through December 25. App Store download chart watchers spotted the Alexa companion app climbing in the most-downloaded list; the app is required to set up a voice-only Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Plus, including logging into an Amazon account and teaching the smart speaker WiFi credentials.
Amazon, as always, isn’t sharing specific sales numbers. However, in an announcement today, the retailer said that it had sold “millions” of Echo Dot speakers alone. In fact, it was “the best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon,” it confirmed.
Amazon had certainly been priming the pump. The retailer has been running Echo discounts for the past few months, most obviously its high-profile Black Friday sales at Thanksgiving, but also including smart home starter-kit bundles that enabled Alexa voice control over outlets and switches. It pushed the Echo Dot most of all, with the entry-level smart speaker reduced to under $30 for much of the time.
Unsurprisingly, that wasn’t for altruistic reasons. Amazon’s goal is undoubtedly to get as many households as possible onboard the Alexa train, on the assumption that in doing so it’ll be in a stronger position to see off voice assistant rivals. In that sense, a cheap Echo Dot is a “gateway drug” that means owners are more likely to buy a second Alexa-powered device rather than pick a completely different smart speaker ecosystem.
That puts it head to head with Google, whose success with Google Home and the Google Home Mini seems to have trailed that of Echo. Again, Google hasn’t announced any numbers, but the Google Home app – which is required to set up the company’s Google Assistant powered smart speakers – is currently sitting at number six in Apple’s free app download chart. Google made a late push with discounts and bundles on the Google Home Mini in the run up to the holidays, but not to the same extent as Amazon pushed the Echo Dot.
Waiting in the wings, meanwhile, is Apple. The Cupertino firm conspicuously missed the holiday sales period with the HomePod, its own entrant into the smart speaker market. Apple has not given a specific reason for the delayed launch of the Siri-powered device, but is expected to focus on music performance, rather than smart home integration, when it finally does bring HomeKit to market in early 2018.
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In the meantime, Amazon is still working hard to pitch Echo. The Echo Dot, and the recently released Echo Spot and Echo Buttons, are all currently out of stock, with new orders being placed in a queue. Sales for the Echo Dot were particularly popular on mobile, the company says, along with the Alexa-powered Fire TV Stick and the TP-Link Smart Plug that Amazon included as part of an Echo Spot smart home bundle.