Smart Speakers are Looking More and More Like the Next Big Thing

For about a month now, I’ve had a Google Home smart speaker set up on my kitchen counter. All I have to do to get to do something–play music, set a timer, tell me the weather, tell me something interesting–I just say “Ok, Google” and speak a command. The thing works damn well.  This weekend, I’m going to interface it with some Hue smart lights, which will give me the ability to control some lighting with just voice commands. Coooool.

For the moment, Google Home speakers are the only ones available in Canada (Amazon’s Alexa has yet to cross the border–November, I hear–and Apple’s HomePod won’t be available until sometime later this year) so my experience with these new devices is limited to just the one. But so far, I really, really like this thing. And according to some new research from Edison and NPR (via Bobby), a lot of people are diggin’ this whole smart speaker thing.

At the moment, only about 7% of the US population owns a smart speaker, the majority of them Amazon devices. That’s probably because Alexa is tied tight to Amazon Prime, meaning that you can order stuff from Amazon by just telling the speaker. Some 82% of smart speaker owners are members of Amazon Prime. Here are some other topline facts:

  • 58% of those survey have just one smart speaker. 24% have two. 45% say they plan to purchase additional units.
  • Most units are in the family room/living room/den (52%) with another 24% using them in the kitchen.
  • It may seem weird speaking to a device at first, but as you get used to it, you speak to it more. Within a month, 47% of users say they’re talking to their units more. Of those surveyed, 42% say that their speakers are “essential to their everyday lives.” About 65% agree with the statement “You wouldn’t want to go back to life without your smart speaker.”
  • The most frequent uses for smart speakers? Listening to music, followed by the ability to ask questions without needing to type and “it seems like fun to have one of these things.”
  • Why have a smart speaker in the first place? More control over what music you hear came in first followed by an ability to discover new songs.
  • The average smart speaker owner uses the device to listen to 4 hours and 15 minutes of music each week. News junkies listen to 1 hour and 15 minutes of programming while podcast fans use their smart speakers 1 hour and 22 minutes a week. (Hint: If you have one, try using the “flash/news briefing” feature. There are other features, too. Some 72% of owners realize that they don’t know everything their smart speaker can do.)
  • Here are what people regularly get their smart speakers to do: Play music, get the weather, ask a general question, get the news, set timers/alarms, check the time, play AM/FM radio, control other smart devices, create to-do lists, get sports updates, traffic reports, check calendars, get it to tell you a joke, stock prices, translate something, order food and get flight information.
  • 94% of smart speaker owners listen to Internet streaming sources compared to 71% of non-owners.
  • Kids LOVE these things (88% positive!)
  • 61% say “Having your smart speaker is like having someone to talk to.” Good or sad?

I can’t help but think that smart speakers are poised for a big takeoff, especially when Alexa becomes available in more markets and HomePod goes on sale. Meanwhile, I’ll keep talking to my little thing. It seems to like me.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38319 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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