Gadgets

39 million Americans now own a smart speaker, report claims


One in six Americans now own a smart speaker, according to new research out this week from NPR and Edison Research – a figure that’s up 128 percent from January, 2017. Amazon’s Echo speakers are still in the lead, the report says, as 11 percent now own an Amazon Alexa device compared with 4 percent who own a Google Home product.

Today, 16 percent of Americans own a smart speaker, or around 39 million people.

The holiday shopping season also seemed to have played a role in the increased adoption of smart devices in the U.S., with 7 percent of Americans reporting they acquired at least one smart speaker between Black Friday and the end of December, and 4 percent saying they acquired their first smart speaker during the holidays.

Both Amazon and Google used the holiday shopping season to their advantage in terms of acquiring market share for their respective devices by slashing prices to encourage more impulse buys, and by heavily promoting the items across their storefronts. In fact, analysts believe that both Amazon and Google likely lost a few dollars per unit during the holiday season, where they were discounting their smaller form factor devices to $29 for the Amazon Echo Dot and $50 for the Google Home Mini, for example.

The end result for Amazon was that the Echo Dot became a top seller across its site and by manufacturers through the Black Friday weekend, and through the holidays, Amazon recently said.

The new report also delved into how consumers are using their devices, which have a range of functions including things like being able to stream music, control their TV and other smart home devices, and more.

The research indicated that smart home functionality was in the minds of 64 percent of users, who say they bought the speakers because they plan on using them to control smart home devices.

66 percent said they want to entertain family and friends with the speakers – for example, by doing things like playing music, asking general questions, telling jokes, playing games, getting news and weather or sports scores, and more.

Bringing a new, interactive device into the home may also be changing user behavior in other ways, the report found.

30 percent of smart speaker owner said the device is replacing time spent with TV. They’re also listening to more audio (71% are), including news and talk radio or podcasts.

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The adoption of the device for in-home voice assistance had a trickle-down effect as well, as 44 percent found they started using the voice assistance on their phone more since getting a smart speaker.

This, perhaps, could push Amazon to add Alexa itself to the Alexa companion app where today users are able to manage various settings, and check in on conversations. (In fact, it seems that Amazon is already considering this. When we asked Alexa VP Steve Rabuchin about the plan during CES this week, he smiled and cagily responded, “that’s an interesting idea.”)

The research also indicates that smart speaker usage grows the longer you have the device.

A majority (51%) said they use their smart speaker more often than they did the first month they had it, while 33 percent they use it about the same amount.

The full report is available here or as a PDF.


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