Enlarge / Some of the many things that can run the Google Assistant. reader comments 10 with 8 posters participating Share this story Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Reddit The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off this week, and the show promises to be a voice command battleground. Before Google Assistant and…
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off this week, and the show promises to be a voice command battleground. Before Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa start duking it out on the show floor, Google wants to let the world know just how many devices have access to the Google Assistant: a cool billion. Google says it expects to hit one billion Google Assistant devices by the end of the month—that’s the total install base of devices that allow the user to issue voice commands to the Google Assistant.
Thanks to a report from The Verge, we also have really recent numbers for Alexa. Amazon just announced there are 100 million Alexa devices out there, so if we’re treating all devices as equal, Google has ten times as many voice command devices in the wild than Amazon.
The Google Assistant launched in 2016 on the Google Pixel phone and since then has spread to a ton of devices. There’s a range of smart speakers like the Google Home line and third-party devices from JBL, Sony, Panasonic, LG, and more. There are smart displays like the Google Home Hub and third-party offerings from Lenovo, JBL, and LG. With a phone running Android Auto, you can have access to the Assistant from your car’s infotainment screen. For TVs, there’s both Sony and LG displays with Android TV and the Assistant built in, set-top boxes from Nvidia and Xiaomi, and even a plan for smart soundbars. For laptops, Google-built Chrome OS devices all have access to the Google Assistant, and it sounds like it’s going to be a standard feature on all Chrome OS devices soon. If you make the mistake of buying a Wear OS device, you can get the Assistant on your watch, and it’s even available on some Nest cameras.
Amazon still has almost three times the smart home support of Google
Really, though, the big contributor to Google’s billion Assistant devices is Android phones. You can freely download the Google Assistant app on iOS, which helps, but on Android the Assistant comes built into the main Google app. This app is part of the “Google Play” Android app bundle, so it’s included in the box in pretty much every Android phone sold outside of China. Alexa has an app on both mobile platforms and has popped up as a pack-in on one or two Android phones, but that doesn’t give it nearly the reach compared to a default Android app. Amazon can match a lot of the device form factors that Google’s ecosystem produces (and Amazon usually gets to them first), but Amazon doesn’t have the foothold in mobile that Google does.
Of course, Google’s “billion Assistant devices” claim only means a device can use the Assistant, and that’s very different from a billion active Assistant users. Anyone that buys an Echo or Google Home speaker is definitely using the service, but I’m sure there are tons of people with Android phones who don’t have the Assistant set up. Google claims that “active users of the Google Assistant grew 4 times over the past year” and that its distribution jumped from 14 countries in eight languages in 2017 to 80 countries in 30 languages in 2018, but it doesn’t give an exact number of active users. For what it’s worth, Amazon doesn’t provide an active user number either, and there are conceivably some devices (like Sonos speakers) that come with unwanted Alexa support that is never set up.
Google also provided a set of numbers where it is considerably lagging Alexa: the number of different smart home devices it supports. Google says the Google Assistant works with “10,000 smart home devices from over 1,600 popular brands,” meaning there are 10,000 different devices that can be controlled by a Google Assistant device. Amazon still has almost three times the smart home support of Google, as it recently announced 28,000 Alexa-compatible smart home devices from 4,500 different manufacturers. Amazon has done well with its two-year head start in the market.