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Technology

Smart speakers, smartphones and AI top trends in China and Asia-Pacific and figures keep rising

Smart speakers from Google, Apple, Xiaomi and other brands are selling like hot cakes in the Asia-Pacific region and the demand for smartphones remains steady according to recent consumer market research

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, 7:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 2:28pm

Smart speakers are all the rage in China and demand for smartphones shows no sign of slowing down in the region, according to GfK Asia. Latest sales figures released by the consumer market research firm show that 27 million smart speakers were shifted in November and 35 million in December in China last year.

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Powered by virtual assistants, voice-activated smart speakers in China include the Xiaomi Mi AI and Alibaba’s Tmall Genie X1 (Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post). GfK reports that there are 34 products from 21 different brands in the country. Other global products include the Amazon Echo, Google Home and the Apple HomePod.

“If you put a new product in front of Asians and sell them the benefits, these trends can happen, and it did happen last year,” says Gerard Tan, director APAC, digital world for analyst firm GfK Asia.

They are primarily used for hands-free music selection, setting kitchen timers, and checking the weather, but smart speakers are also about controlling and connecting to other devices. That can mean everything from fridges and lights to air conditioning and TVs.

Smart speakers are fundamentally artificial intelligence devices. “We’re hearing a lot about brands that want to connect anything and everything we have together,” says Tan, adding that smart home devices being interconnected will soon become mainstream for consumers in Asia in 2018 and 2019.

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That’s because there’s a continuing thirst for technology in Asia-Pacific, and a willingness to pay more for it. “Asians are spending more on technology,” says Tan. “People are excited about AI … and Asia will make AI affordable, and that will put Asia in first place when it comes to the connected home.”

The IFA 2018 exhibition in Berlin – one of the world’s biggest consumer electronics trade shows – this August is expected to see the launch of more traditional audiophile-quality loudspeakers that double as smart speakers.

Meanwhile there’s one product that people in this region are still addicted to. “The smartphone in Asia-Pacific just doesn’t seem to slow down in terms of sales,” says Tan.

“China leads the pack, but every single country in Asia-Pacific spent more than ever on smartphones last year.”

GfK’s figures also revealed that 71 per cent of shoppers in the region used a smartphone to make a purchase last year, with 90 per cent in China and 76 per cent in Indonesia. In Europe it was less than half.