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Smart Audio Report on Smart Speaker Adoption in the U.S.

Thuy Ong, reporting for The Verge on new research about smart speaker adoption in the United States:

One in six US adults (or around 39 million people) now own a voice-activated smart speaker, according to research from NPR and Edison Research. The Smart Audio Report claims that uptake of these devices over the last three years is “outpacing the adoption rates of smartphones and tablets.” Users spent time using speakers to find restaurants and businesses, playing games, setting timers and alarms, controlling smart home devices, sending messages, ordering food, and listening to music and books. Over half of respondents keep their smart speaker in the living room, followed by the kitchen (21 percent), and master bedroom (19 percent).

The survey of just under 2,000 individuals found that the time people spend using their smart speaker replaces time spent with other devices including the radio, smart phone, TV, tablet, computer, and publications like magazines. Over half of respondents also said they use smart speakers even more after the first month of owning one. Around 66 percent of users said they use their speaker to entertain friends and family, mostly to play music but also to ask general questions and check the weather.

I’m a bit skeptical about adoption of smart speakers outpacing “smartphones and tablets” (it sounds like a vague statement), but this is what the numbers seem to show.

What stands out to me is the fact that, after cars, people who participated in this research study would like to have smart speaker functionality on their phones. However, a similar study conducted by Creative Strategies in 2017 showed that the most common actions owners of smart speakers invoke on a weekly basis include setting timers, checking the weather, playing music, and controlling lights; all these tasks can also be performed by the digital assistants on our smartphones. To me, this suggests that either owners of smart speakers aren’t familiar with smartphone assistants (I doubt it) or that there is indeed something useful about stationary speakers that smartphones can’t fully replicate.