Smart Audio Feature

Voice Assistants See Uptick in Daily Use During the Pandemic: Report

People are using their voice assistants more often during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic than they were even a few months earlier, according to the new Smart Audio Report published by NPR and Edison Research. The percentage of voice assistant device owners who use voice commands at least once or several times a day rose between the beginning of 2020 and the start of April, with a corresponding drop in those who only use voice commands once a week or once a month.

Talking at Home

The national survey of 1,660 adults in the U.S.found that 77% are changing their routine because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That change includes more use of voice assistants. As can be seen in the chart, monthly and weekly voice commands dropped by 3% each as daily and multiple daily voice commands rose by 1% and 5% respectively. That means for the first time that more than half of smart device owners are using voice commands at least once a day. The shift is likely a result of so many people being home a lot more than they were at the beginning of January. There’s simply more time to use a smart speaker when you are always near it.

It also suggests a positive feedback loop where using a voice assistant leads to more frequent use in the future. Two out of three voice assistant users reported that technology makes their lives easier, so the increased use is not a surprise. The feedback loop applies to using multiple voice assistants as well. Almost half of U.S. smart speaker owners reported using the voice assistant on their smartphone more since their purchase, and a little over half of voice tech users who don’t own a smart speaker say they plan to buy one in the next six months.

Music and News

The ways people use voice assistants are also expanding. Smart speaker owners request an average of 10.8 different tasks from their voice assistant a week in 2020, compared to 9.4 different tasks last year. And 59% of smart speaker owners with a smartphone voice assistant use each AI for different duties. Slightly more than a third of smart speaker owners are listening to more music, entertainment, and news from their devices, according to the report.

“With tens of millions of Americans no longer commuting, smart speakers are becoming even more important as a conduit for news and information,” Edison Research senior vice president Tom Webster said, “and this increased usage and facility with voice assistants will likely increase demand for this technology in vehicles once our commutes resume.”

That fits with other reports about audio content consumption during the current health crisis. About a third of Americans are listening to the radio because they are stuck at home, according to a recent Nielsen survey. That includes all varieties of media players, including smart speakers. The same goes for the United Kingdom as well, according to British marketing firm IAB UK. In fact, people are producing more audio entertainment and news even as the population consumes more than before the pandemic.


People are Creating and Consuming Far More Audio Content Quarantined During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Report

28% of Americans Are Listening to More Radio Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Including 10% More on Smart Speakers

VOICE Talks Episode 1: Everyone is Using Voice Assistants During the Pandemic