Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, January 27, 2017
In the mid-1980’s, one of my Apple Macs overheard me on a phone call and startled me by speaking “Wouldn’t you like to know?”. The Mac’s dialog box suggested I had asked “Macintosh, do you have an Easter Egg?” Evidently, I had triggered one of those hidden messages some programmers like to include for fun. That was quite a bit earlier than today’s quirky responses after asking Apple Siri certain questions such as “What does the fox say?” or asking Amazon Alexa “how much is that doggie in the window?”
Beyond answering quirky questions, voice assistants are expected to grow in capabilities and more importantly, to grow in broader market acceptance.
Voice interaction with tech devices is back in vogue again, and technology users are different than they were 20 years ago. At CES 2017, voice assistants got a lot of attention, especially with the many IoT devices announced that used Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa.
How many voice assistant early adopters are there?
The users of Amazon’s Alexa or Echo devices are currently few, while the users of voice assistants on other devices are many. As of mid-2016, 3.5 million US adults were actively using a voice-enabled speaker such as the Amazon Alexa or Echo. These are 1.6% of all Connected Adults, the universe of persons age 18 and up who have used a PC, mobile phone, tablet, or game console to browse the Internet in the previous 30 days.
The ability to control and interact by voice extends well beyond wireless voice-enabled speakers and includes Apple’s Siri, Google Now or Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana as used on PCs, smartphones, and tablets. This spans 75.5 million adults who regularly use their voice to control and interact with their devices. This equates to a 34.9% usage rate.
Voice assistant usage on mobile devices, specifically notebook PCs, smartphones, and tablets, is the largest group, number 61.1 million. Separately, these three platforms add to 73.6, indicating that these mobile users are using 1.2 of these devices. In other words, there is a moderate amount of overlap. This is important because users of voice assistants will likely want to choose one voice control platform. This will help them have an easier and more seamless experience so they won’t need to adapt themselves to fit each voice agent instead of the other way around.
Who are these chatty early adopters?
Users of voice assistants across any device stand out from average connected adults:
- Respondent Demographics
- Average age 37 – six years younger than the average connected adult
- 54% are Millennials – age 18 to 35 – and 50% of older millennials (age 28-35) use voice control on any device
- Use of voice-enabled speakers such as the Amazon Echo is strongest among adults age 25 to 44, and less so for 18-24 and 45+
- Above-average usage levels for full-time students (48%) and full-time employees (43%)
- Higher use by Asian adults (43%) and Black/African-American adults (42%)
- Household Demographics
- Stronger in larger households – 49% of adults in households with 4 persons and 46% among those with 5 or more
- Stronger in households with children – 48% of adults in households with 2 or more persons and children
- Device Usage
- Voice assistant usage is highest among those with the most devices and less among those with fewer. Usage rates are 50% and higher among the 52% of Voice Assistant users with 6 or more devices, and 14% and below among those with 2 or fewer devices
- Users of Game Consoles have a higher than average use of Voice Assistants – 47%
- Apple iPhone users have higher Voice Assistant usage rates (49%) across all their devices than Google Android Smartphone users (36%)
- Operating Systems of Devices
- Users of Voice Assistants have more Windows devices (1.8) than Apple OS devices (1.5) or Google OS devices (0.8)
- Key Devices
- Usage of Voice Assistants are higher than average among those using VR Headsets (84%), Home Projectors (73%), Google TV/Android TV (72%), Amazon Fire TV (69%), Apple TV (62%), Google Chromecast (61%), Wireless Headsets (67%), and any Smartwatch (69%)
- Household spending on technology devices and services
- Users of Voice Assistants spend much more than the average household, at 1.4x the national average
Voice assistant usage rates on other devices
Users of voice-enabled speakers such as the Amazon Echo use voice assistants on other devices, although in a different way than average users.
Users of voice-enabled wireless speakers such as the Amazon Echo are above average in using voice assistants on other devices. They are four times the national average in using voice assistance on a PC, and nearly four times (3.7x) in using a tablet. They are more than double (2.3x) in using a mobile device (notebook, smartphone, or tablet), and almost double (1.9x) in using a smartphone.
Voice assistant usage and device activities
So far, voice assistants have reached users who are the most broadly active with their devices. However, voice assistant usage hasn’t dominated any particular category of activities. From those users with the broadest social networking or shopping activities to those with the broadest personal and productivity activities, the most active users are similar to each other, with each using voice assistants at nearly double the national average.
The use of voice assistants has reached into the mainstream, having surpassed half of many different market segments. This widespread acceptance bodes well for voice continuing its growth. However, the depth of use still has some ways to go. Users are currently juggling many devices and using voice assistants across different devices and among different operating system families. While this calls for a standard of some time – so users won’t need to adapt to each OS and instead each OS can adapt to them – no single standard has yet emerged.
Until more users either to choose to focus on one standard – such as staying within the Apple Siri/HomeKit family – they will continue to have the experience of speaking requests to Alexa in the ways Siri expects, to Cortana in the way Google Now or Assistant answer to, or some other combination.
At least today the highly-touted artificial intelligence behind voice assistants hasn’t reached the level that one’s voice assistant would be jealous to discover you’ve been speaking with a different voice assistant.
These results are based on the most-recent results of the MetaFacts TUP/Technology User Profile 2016 survey, its 34th wave, with 7,334 respondents (US).
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