Disappearing smart speakers: no price wars, no new products, double eleven collectively shut down

Source of this article: Times Finance Author: Wang Ting

Source: pixabay

“The smart speaker at home has become an air conditioner remote control, and has no other function.” As a smart speaker consumer, Xiao Zhao hopes that this smart speaker can chat with his parents, but he did not expect its fate to be ashes.

On the former smart speaker track, Internet giants, artificial intelligence companies and even traditional speaker brands came on stage, and new products emerged one after another. Now brands such as Harman Kardon and Jingyu have left one after another, while Baidu and Huawei are eyeing variants of smart speakers. : Smart screen, central control screen.

Recently, Xiaomi and Tmall Genie have successively released Smart Home Screen 6 and V10 SE. They are not like speakers, but more like tablets; they have not released smart speakers in the traditional sense for a long time.

According to the latest report of research institute Luotu Technology, in the third quarter of this year, the sales volume of China’s smart speaker market was 5.75 million units, a year-on-year decrease of 26.2%, and a sharp decline of more than 20% for three consecutive quarters.

Double Eleven does not fight price wars and does not release new products

The Luotu Technology report shows that in the third quarter of this year, Baidu, Xiaomi, Tmall Genie, and Huawei ranked in the top four in the Chinese smart speaker market, with a combined share of 97%, and market resources are being further concentrated on leading companies.

In previous years, in order to compete for the so-called smart home entrance, Internet giants fought price wars on smart speakers, and some directly dropped from 499 yuan to 99 yuan. This year’s Double Eleven, while the discounts on smart speakers are smaller, there are also fewer new products.

Among them, the flagship version of Xiaodu smart speaker and Tmall Genie X5 are the main smart speakers of their brands. They are all products that will be launched in 2020. The pre-sale coupons are priced at 99 yuan and 249 yuan respectively. The former is 10 yuan lower than the price of 618 last year. , Tmall Genie X5 is 50 yuan lower than the initial price.

The main products of the two brands on Double Eleven this year are not smart speakers. Xiaodu mainly promotes learning machines, smart screens, and fitness mirrors. Tmall Genie pays more attention to the Sound series, V10, V10 SE, etc. The Sound series is closer to traditional speakers. The latter two The other is smart screen products.

Times Finance observed that the smart screen has one more screen than the traditional smart speaker. Compared with the tablet computer, there is an extra mesh shell directly under the screen, which is larger in size and has the function of infrared remote control of home appliances. As for the voice Assistant, many tablets also have it. Like tablet computers, smart screens emphasize learning and video entertainment functions rather than human-computer interaction.

At present, in the flagship store of the e-commerce platform, some brands regard smart screens and smart speakers as different categories, such as Xiaomi; some confuse them and call them smart speakers with screens. It is worth noting that Xiaomi calls the smart screen a home screen.

Xiaomi home screen, more like a tablet Source: Taobao Xiaomi flagship store

According to IDC data, in China, the sales volume of smart speakers with a screen in the first half of 2022 was 5.89 million units, a year-on-year decrease of 24.3%. down about 29%.

Huawei chose to return to traditional speakers. Take the Sound X gilded theater version released by Huawei in September as an example. Compared with the first-generation Sound X in 2019, its parameter changes are mainly reflected in the acoustic structure, speaker unit, and sound effect mode. The assistants have hardly changed.

Huawei chose to cooperate with high-end audio Devialet to launch Sound Joy, a new generation of Sound X and other products. Tmall Genie and Boston Acoustics jointly tuned and released Sound smart speakers. The situation of Xiaomi Sound is similar.

Many former smart speaker brands left early. JD.com’s own brand Jingyuzu stopped updating its official Weibo last year, and new product releases have long since stopped. Ruoqi and Go Out and Ask are focusing on R&D and sales of smart glasses and smart watches respectively.

Professional audio brands Harman Kardon and JBL have launched smart speakers with voice assistants, but they last released such products in June 2021 and 2016, respectively.

According to Ren Haoliang, IoT product director of Spichi Technology Co., Ltd., who is engaged in voice interaction technology, according to the analysis of Times Finance, the peak of smart speaker development was in 2019, and the growth has been weak since then. According to the total data from Aowei Cloud Network (AVC), the sales volume of China’s smart speaker market in 2019 was 36.822 million units, a year-on-year increase of 126.6%.

Ren Haoliang mentioned that from the current situation, Internet giants are still exploring variants of smart speakers, and small companies have basically left the market. The large volume can drive the cost down under the scale effect.

Times Finance observed that smart speakers in the traditional sense are disappearing, and brand owners are no longer obsessed with studying artificial intelligence technology, and even abandon the form of speakers, preferring to develop smart home entrances on large screens.

Disliked by consumers, “technological content is not high”

The sluggish status of smart speakers is related to the choice of consumers.

In November 2014, Amazon launched the world’s first smart speaker Echo, which was sought after by European and American consumers, and domestic and foreign technology giants entered the market one after another.

Smart speakers were once advertised overwhelmingly, focusing on companionship and home appliance control functions. According to Xiao Zhao, in 2021, he bought a smart speaker online as a Father’s Day gift, costing 108 yuan. Xiao Zhao thinks that it is both practical and technological, and it is also cost-effective, and it can add fun to the life of his father, who is thousands of miles away.

Source: pexels

Like most smart speakers on the market at the time, this one bought by Xiao Zhao also featured “accompaniment”. In addition to playing music and controlling home appliances, it also claimed to be able to answer any questions, help users ask about the weather, check recipes, and listen to news…

“My parents didn’t use it at all. They thought they threw it away or gave it away. After asking a few times, they took it out and used it as an air conditioner remote control.” Unexpectedly, after Xiao Zhao tried it, he also found many defects.

Xiao Zhao told Times Finance and Economics that he could not feel the technological content of smart speakers, and the machine often answered non-essential questions. Difference.

Another smart speaker consumer, Zhou Mei, is middle-aged. In an interview with Times Finance, she said that she spent about 600 yuan to buy a Huawei smart speaker, which is specially used for playing music. Although the sound quality is OK, the frequency of use is not high. High, because the music library is incomplete.

For Zhou Mei, the only difference between this smart speaker and the traditional speaker is the “one-cover mute”, that is, placing her hand on the top of the speaker, she cannot feel other technological elements.

Also as a music lover, Xie Sheng has never used a smart speaker to listen to music, and the sound quality is too poor. He deliberately bought a professional speaker. As for checking the weather, watching the news, and turning on the air conditioner, he has a mobile phone, a computer, and a remote control.

Searching for the keyword “smart speaker” in Heimao Complaint, there are nearly 500 related results. Users post complaints that they cannot turn off the beep sound, cannot control home appliances, have poor interactivity, and insert advertisements. Some people complain that they can’t listen to music even after opening VIP.

Low unit price, difficult to make money, the smart speaker market peaks

Xie Sheng used to be a programmer of Baidu company. He told Times Finance that from 2020 to 2021, he and many colleagues have been doing technical foreign assistance for the smart speaker project for a year, focusing on the algorithm work in the human-computer interaction sector. Higher, more difficult.”

In the end, the results of his work were reflected in the Xiaodu smart speaker. According to him, Xiaodu had an exclusive team and started to make fitness mirrors last year, which is also the main product of Xiaodu.

In Xie Sheng’s view, the smart speaker market cannot continue to expand. On the one hand, it is due to fierce competition, product homogeneity, and duplication of functions. On the other hand, he said that the unit price of smart speakers is generally low. If a good chip is used, the cost will be high, and the company’s product sales price will have no advantage, so the machine’s computing power is poor, and it is difficult to achieve human-computer interaction. breakthrough.

“The expectation of positioning a machine as a human is too high, and I don’t think it can be done in a short time.” Ren Haoliang said that the essence of companionship is emotional needs, and the interaction between smart speakers and humans cannot be like the interaction between humans So smooth.

According to his analysis, according to the cumulative sales of smart speakers over the years, about a quarter or one-fifth of households in China have smart speakers, the market is gradually becoming saturated, the product type has changed, and the proportion of speakers with screens will increase. Higher and higher.

“Evolving from a screenless speaker to a screened speaker, and then from a screened speaker to a central control screen on the wall, it is not to dig deep into the speaker to listen to music, but to control home appliances and furniture.” Ren Haoliang believes that , The screen speakers and the central control screen are all variants of smart speakers, which deviate from people’s initial expectations and do not go further in voice interaction.

At present, many companies including Spiech, Baidu, and Huawei have entered the smart home central control screen, and the central control screen has become the new darling of the giants. 

Ren Maoliang believes that if there is no application of the original smart speakers and no root in the vertical field, it will be difficult to derive a central control screen track. Smart speakers allow users to have a sense of voice interaction technology, home appliance control and other functions.

“Whether Spirit will continue to do in the vertical field in the future, it’s hard to say now, but there are related product types that will definitely continue to do it.” Ren Haoliang said that the current Smart speakers of Spirit are mainly used in office scenarios .

He believes that, like traditional home appliances, it is difficult for smart speakers to have as high a growth rate as in previous years, and it is now in an iterative process. Although it is difficult to make breakthroughs in smart speakers themselves, the variants of speaker types have more room for growth in the future and can be applied in scenarios such as banks and hotels.

According to an IDC report, in the first half of this year, China’s smart home central control screen market shipped 300,000 units, a year-on-year increase of 160.7%. It is expected that the compound annual growth rate of market shipments will exceed 60% in the next five years.

(Xiao Zhao, Xie Sheng and Zhou Mei are pseudonyms in the text)