Tom Webstet Smart Audio Report – FI

54% of U.S. Adults Have Used Voice Commands and 24% Use Them Daily, But Smart Speaker Adoption Slows – Edison and NPR Report

Tom Webster, Edison Research, Voice@CES 2020

New data released today from Edison Research and NPR showed for the first time that 54% of consumers have used voice commands on a device. Tom Webster, senior vice president of research at Edison said this is the first time the figure of voice users had surpassed 50%. Edison also found that 24% of those using voice commands do so daily.

Smart Speaker Sales Rise 135% in Two Years

The survey reports that 157 million smart speakers are owned by U.S. households which reflects 135% growth over the past two years. However, that expansion is increasingly being driven by existing smart speaker households adding devices as opposed to new adoption. Edison and NPR found that the number of smart speakers per household rose from 1.7 to 2.6 between 2017-2019. Consumers that buy a smart speaker are clearly interested enough in the solutions that they are adding to their device collection to either include a multimodal smart display or make the voice assistant services available in more rooms.

Smart Speaker Adoption Slowing?

While there was growth in smart speaker adoption by U.S. adults, Edison data suggests the installed base only rose 3% in 2019, a similar nominal rise to 2018. That reflects a percentage increase of 14% in 2019 compared to 17% for 2018. Both are respectable growth but pale in comparison to the 157% growth in 2017. Webster indicated that the recent growth rates are respectable but not noteworthy for consumer electronics devices in remarks to a CES audience today. He said that is a different trend from two years ago when smart speaker adoption rates were exceeding those of smartphones.

Edison clearly sees a tapering of smart speaker adoption growth. At the same time, the research firm is reporting that households with devices are adding them and that there is an increase in daily usage for voice across device surfaces. This latter point is reinforced by an announcement by Google this week that there are now over 500 million monthly active users of Google Assistant globally. That figure suggests the frequency of use of voice assistants is rising at least when you consider all devices with voice.

The new research findings seemingly run counter to Amazon’s announcement Monday that the number of Alexa-enabled devices at least doubled over the past year. However, keep in mind that Amazon’s and Google’s announcements reflect global figures and the Edison-NPR study was U.S. only. The logical conclusion is that growth in smart speakers is still rising quickly but is now being driven more by countries outside the U.S. It will be interesting to see what other reports show for smart speaker adoption in the coming months and whether they also indicate a U.S. growth slowdown.

You can download the full report at NPR.

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