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Amazon Echo Dot once again reaches record sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

Amazon has announced that the Echo Dot was the best-selling Amazon device worldwide over the Thanksgiving weekend. This comes as no surprise as consumers are specifically waiting for seasonal events like Black Friday to buy smart devices at discounted prices. With a normal price of $50, Amazon offered the Echo Dot (third-gen) for $22. Other Amazon devices such as the Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote did well too, helping the company not only to capitalize on the shopping frenzy before Christmas, but also to accelerate the adoption rate of its AI platform. By making its devices more affordable and continuously expanding its portfolio with new solutions, Amazon is showing its determination to conquer the smart home. Ovum believes that once Amazon develops a more sustained subscription service model for Alexa, the cheapest smart speakers' models will become free. While AI assistant services that generate recurring revenue are still in experimental stages, hardware will continue to be an interim revenue stream for Amazon.

Google adds ultrasound sensing to Google Nest Hub

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology

Google's home hubs have been updated to add ultrasound sensing to the Nest Hub and the Nest Hub Max. The Nest Hub Max already offered gesture control via its camera, but the ultrasonic sensing feature offers a cheap and simple way to provide some proximity detection. Adding this feature is possible with a software update as it just needs the speakers and microphone to work. Ultrasonic sensing is also more privacy conscious as the device is unable to identify the person approaching it whereas a camera-based solution would. The Nest Mini already uses ultrasonic sensing.

Ultrasonic sensing will likely find its way onto many, if not all, budget smart speakers given how inexpensive the feature is, but Ovum believes that in the longer term, the higher degree of personalization possible by using cameras to identify which people are in the room will be more desired by consumers.

Orange's Djingo smart speaker finally debuts

Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services

Originally penned for a Spring launch, the Orange Djingo speaker has finally made its debut with both the Djingo and Alexa voice assistants working side-by-side. The unique feature of the Djingo assistant is the direct interface with Orange's communication and entertainment services, which are controlled using the wake-up phrase "OK Djingo." However, Amazon's Alexa, and all the tens of thousands of skills that that platform brings, can also be accessed at the same time using the standard "Alexa" phrase. This integration with Alexa brings a ready-made ecosystem to Orange's speaker that would have been impossible for the company to generate on its own. However, the company will have to be careful that its speaker doesn't become just another independent Alexa device. To achieve this the company will need to generate its own Djingo skills beyond Orange services that are unique to, and valued by, French consumers.

SFR expands its smart home portfolio

Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services

In August 2019, SFR launched its new SFR Box 8 gateway with Wi-Fi 6 technology, 4K media player, and SFR's integrated AI voice assistant. Off the back of this product SFR has now launched its smart home portfolio, SFR Home, which consists of the usual smart home security and automation device packs, including a professional 24/7 home security service for €19.99 per month. The combining of the home gateway and smart home strategy is a growing trend within the telco industry and one that Ovum fully supports. Marketing the benefits of smart home remains a challenge, but by at least by integrating smart home into the gateway, telcos can increase the service delivery efficiency and over time Wi-Fi 6 technology will also reduce some of the technical friction that current business models witness. For the latest updates on this important topic, see Ovum's upcoming report Smart Wi-Fi: State of the Market which will be published in January.

Virgin Media Ireland opens new smart home experience center

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

At the company's HQ in Dublin, Virgin Media has unveiled a new smart home experience center to promote the launch of a new range of smart home bundles exclusive for Virgin Media broadband customers. Virgin Media wants to tap into the growing smart home trend and, for that reason, has decided to team up with Google and TP-Link to create device packages that include devices such as Google Nest Hub, Google Nest Hello Doorbell, and TP-Link Smart Plugs, among other products. The smart home packages range from €15 to €55 per month for 12 months to spread the cost of the equipment. Offering financing to its existing customer base to buy smart home devices is a "nice-to-have." However, the company is including installation services by a Virgin Media Smart Home technician as part of the bundle. This service is essential for the case of Google Nest Hello Doorbells, which are not necessarily easy to set up. As a next step, it will be crucial for Virgin Media to develop its product and service portfolio, bringing on board more partners while adding new smart home use cases as well as unique service features.

Further reading

AI Assistant Benchmark 1H19, CES006-000112 (December 2019)

Quantifying the Consumer Telco Opportunity, CES006-000109 (November 2019)

"Signify adds recycling to the smart home formula," CES006-000111 (November 2019)


Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Tech

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