Amazon's smart products lead the market even as trust in the company lags
A combination of low prices and convenience gives the company an edge on its competition.
Laura HautalaFormer Senior Writer
Laura wrote about e-commerce and Amazon, and she occasionally covered cool science topics. Previously, she broke down cybersecurity and privacy issues for CNET readers. Laura is based in Tacoma, Washington, and was into sourdough before the pandemic.
ExpertiseE-commerce, Amazon, earned wage access, online marketplaces, direct to consumer, unions, labor and employment, supply chain, cybersecurity, privacy, stalkerware, hacking.Credentials
2022 Eddie Award for a single article in consumer technology
revealed on Tuesday new
and Alexa-powered products that will undoubtedly bring new levels of convenience into users' homes. What may be more remarkable than the products, however, is the resilience of the company's device sales given its struggling reputation among corporate and tech watchdogs.
At its product event, Amazon took pains to address its lagging rep. "Privacy is foundational to everything we do," Dave Limp, who runs the company's devices and services operations, said at the start of an hour of nonstop product releases that included the Astro robot powered by the Alexa voice assistant. The robot is designed, Amazon says, to respect privacy and can be set to no-go zones for the device.
Perhaps Amazon's biggest privacy development: on-device processing for its Echo Show 15. That means you'll have the choice to have the Alexa-powered smart display recognize your face and give you personalized options without sending all that data to Amazon's cloud.
None of those concerns, however, appears to have affected the popularity of Amazon's Ring and Echo lines, as well as its Halo fitness trackers and Fire TV streamers. The e-tailer doesn't break out sales from products in its earnings, but it commands towering positions in some
product categories. The Echo line essentially created smart speakers and held more than 28% of the global market in 2020, followed by
devices, and 70% of the US market as of 2019. Ring security cameras top the market, followed by Arlo products. Amazon's
is the most popular media streaming stick, with more than 12% of the competitive market.
"We're focused on making customers' lives better by building devices and services that help keep us connected to the people and things that matter most," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement prior to the event. The statement said customers have transparency about the company's technologies and "control over their experience."
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Part of the appeal for consumers is price. Amazon offers convenient, functional products without the premium
charges. Like Apple's products, Amazon's products -- whether made in house or by manufacturing partners -- integrate nicely with each other. They also take advantage of the huge and loyal customer base of Prime memberships, which together with other subscription services earned Amazon nearly $8 billion in revenues in the second quarter of 2021.
The combination is hard to beat, regardless of whether you're another tech company or a privacy advocate warning consumers to be careful.
"It's easy to sell people new stuff when they already buy regularly and when you have their email information and shipping history," said Michael Pachter, an analyst with WedBush.
Worries about Amazon might not trump pocketbook decisions, particularly when it comes to smart home products or its marketplace.
"Some individuals will never get past relating smart devices to privacy," said Brendan Witcher, an analyst with Forrester. Still, sales indicate that consumers prioritize convenience. As people use the product, they'll become "so comfortable with Alexa that it will start to feel like she is part of the family."