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Smart Home

Google Home ships more units than Amazon Echo for the first time

Google had the top-shipping smart speaker in the first three months of 2018, per an analyst report.

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Google Home, Apple HomePad and Amazon Echo.

Claire Reilly/CNET

Google's smart speaker has finally caught up with the Amazon Echo in the area that matters most -- sales.

The Google Home came out more than two years later than the Echo and significantly trailed in capabilities, customer awareness and sales. But it's gradually caught up in capabilities, to the point that the question of which one is better is the subject of many an office debate. Finally, in the first three months of 2018, things are looking up.

Worldwide shipments of Google's line of smart speakers -- including the Google Home Mini and Google Home Max -- pulled ahead of Amazon's Echo line of smart speakers for the first time. It shipped 3.2 million (compared with Amazon's 2.5 million) units in the first quarter of 2018. 

The percentage of sales going to the US dropped to less than half thanks to expansion into other regions and increased uptake of smart speakers in countries such as China and Korea. 

That's according to a report Wednesday by analysis firm Canalys.

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Canalys

Both companies now offer a variety of smart speakers, all with similar capabilities. Smart speakers primarily respond to voice commands and you can use them to search the web, organize your calendar, get cooking directions, control your smart home and more. The smart speaker category has been booming as a whole, according to the report. 

Google and Amazon have been in a pitched feature battle for more than a year, with each company trying to outdo the other and have the best smart speaker on the market. As a result, smart speakers have gotten a lot better in general over the past year, and now models from both brands can make calls, send messages and even recognize your voice and customize responses accordingly. 

You can also shop on both smart speakers, and one of the firm's analysts put Google's sales surge down to the company's less threatening position relative to Amazon among the outlets who sell them. 

"Operators and retailers tend to prioritize Google's speakers over those from Amazon, as Amazon is in the tricky position of being a direct competitor. But Amazon is fighting back hard, and the sheer quantity of Alexa Skills and smart home integrations will be tough for any competitor to match."

Google has actually caught up to Amazon in smart home capabilities as well. You can now control more than 5,000 smart home devices with Google's smart speakers, and the company claims to work with every major smart home brand. That number still trails Amazon, but it's much closer than before. 

There's no mention of Apple's HomePod, which is likely lumped in with the other 17.3 percent, but 1.1 to 17.3 percent is a pretty big jump for the not-in-the-top-four crowd.

If you need help picking out a smart speaker, check out our buying guide. You might make your choice based on which digital assistant you prefer: Amazon's Alexa, the Google Assistant or Apple's Siri. Not sure? Our voice assistant quiz can help you figure out which one will suit you best.

Google and Amazon declined CNET's request for comment.