Google Home Arriving in South Korea on September 18, Pre-Orders Start Today
- Google Home (₩145,000) and Google Home Mini (₩59,900) to arrive in South Korea on September 18, 2018 with pre-order waitlist available today.
- Google is entering a crowded market with at least six devices already available from four manufactures, including SK Telecom which launched its NUGU smart speaker in 2016.
- Samsung Galaxy Home is also expected to arrive soon in South Korea and will likely be a formidable competitor that focuses on the premium market segment while Google competes with established players in the value segment.
Google Home and Google Home Mini are officially arriving in South Korea on September 18th according reporting by The Korea Times which attended a Google press conference earlier today. Both smart speakers are listed today in the Google Store for South Korea and are accepting waitlist registrations. Google Home is listed for sale at ₩145,000 (~US$129) and Google Home Mini is ₩59,900 (~US$53). The pricing suggests that Google is maintaining price consistency throughout the globe. The Korea Times reports that Mickey Kim, director for product planning and partnerships for Google’s Asia-Pacific region, commented during the press conference:
“Since we introduced the Korean language version of Google Assistant last year, Android smartphone users here can use the AI assistant service in Korean. We also recently enabled them to use Google Assistant in their vehicles through Android Auto. And we developed Google Home to allow consumers to use the AI assistant in various devices.”
South Korea Smart Speaker Adoption Rises Quickly
Voicebot reported in May that South Korea was the third largest smart speaker market globally in terms of unit sales in Q1 2018 according to research firm Canalys. That growth was largely driven by SK Telecom, KT and Naver.
Smart Speaker Competition Grows in South Korea
While South Korea has not had smart speakers from Google, Amazon and Apple before this month, the devices have been available from other manufacturers since at least 2016. SK Telecom introduced the NUGU in August 2016 for ₩249,000 (~US$220) and sold 150,000 units in the first year according to ZDNet. The lower priced NUGU Mini (₩99,000; ~US$88) launched a year later in August 2017. In January 2017, Korea Telecom launched the GiGA Genie (₩264,000, but can be much less for KT subscribers) which was followed in August 2017 by the Naver Wave (₩90,000), Naver Friends (₩129,000) in October 2017 and Kakao Mini (₩119,000) in November 2017. Google Home entered the U.S. two years after Amazon Echo and followed the device into the U.K. and Germany by more than six months. Since that time, Google has enjoyed first-to-market smart speaker status in a number of countries including Canada, France, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Singapore. South Korea represents a crowded market where the leader has a two-year head start on Google.
However, Google does have the advantage of Android. Statcounter data show Android OS smartphone market share at 71.5% in August 2018. The advantage of having Google Assistant on a smartphone and smart speaker in the home is an advantage. Google also has search, YouTube, Android Auto and other services that will make it a formidable competitor. Amazon doesn’t have a dedicated online shopping presence in South Korea, so don’t expect to see Echo smart speakers anytime soon and it is likely that South Korea will be an Alexa-free zone.
Beyond the incumbents, the bigger competition for Google in South Korea is likely to be Samsung. The company announced the Galaxy Home smart speaker in August. Ship dates for the device were not revealed, but the Bixby voice assistant is already widely used on Samsung Galaxy smartphones and South Korea is expected to be the first or second market to receive Galaxy Home shipments. The key difference is that Google Home is competing in the value segment with existing smart speaker suppliers while Samsung’s Galaxy Home is expected to compete as a premium device at more than twice the cost. Release of Google Home Max in South Korea could create a direct competition between the two companies and Apple HomePod is always a possibility.
South Korea Becomes Google Home Country 16
Google Home availability has doubled its country count in just nine months. The smart speaker was available in eight countries entering 2018 and has added eight more including Austria, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Singapore, Spain and now South Korea. The company has announced four more countries still expected for a 2018 launch. For those of you keeping count, Amazon Echo is available in 11 countries with two more expected this year.
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