Since releasing the first-generation Echo in 2016, Amazon has dominated the virtual assistant market with Alexa. That may change, however, as Google continues to gain ground on the e-commerce giant.
According to 9to5Google, the number of devices that feature Google Assist is approaching 1 billion. When hosting its annual I/O event last year, a Google spokesperson said that Assistant was installed on 500 million devices, including smart speakers, smartphones, smart TVs, smartwatches and other smart devices. While impressive, the Mountain View company now expects this number to reach 1 billion by the end of the month.
Google has been forced to play catch-up with Amazon in the virtual assistant market. While Amazon launched Alexa in November 2014, Google didn’t release Assistant until May 2016. As a result, Amazon’s Alexa easily made it into the homes of millions of consumers. But Google isn’t giving up the fight for domination in the virtual assistant market, with some reports suggesting that Google had already won.
A separate report by The Verge suggests that the number of Alexa-enabled devices is just 100 million. Therefore, Google’s virtual assistant may reach up to 10 times as many users as Amazon’s.
Google has a competitive advantage over Amazon thanks to Android. Since Google owns the Android operating system, many new Android devices come with Assistant already installed. Amazon offers a free-to-download Alexa app for Android, but users are still forced to manually download and install it. In comparison, Android users can simply use their device’s built-in Assistant.
Google has also worked to expand Assistant into other parts of the world. At the beginning of 2018, Assistant was only available in 14 countries. Today, it’s available in 80 countries.
On the other hand, Alexa offers e-commerce features, such as the ability to purchase or reorder products using voice commands, that aren’t found in Assistant. Statistics show that about one in 50 Alexa users have made a purchase using Amazon’s virtual assistant. Google is working to integrate similar e-commerce features into Assistant. Currently, however, Alexa is the preferred virtual assistant for purchasing products using voice commands. Whether this is enough to fend off Google is open to debate, but Amazon still has leverage over Google with its e-commerce features.