Back in January, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, as well as the usual plethora of thinner-than-ever TVs and faster-than-ever laptops (and a ‘smart’ hairbrush), what caught the headlines was a range of voice-controlled devices that argued the way in which we interact with our devices will soon be fundamentally altered.

And with the ongoing rise of Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and home assistants from a selection of competitors, many have predicted that these devices will become fundamental to how internet users interact with digital content.

But is this just the hype machine buzzing again or are we witnessing the dawn of a new mainstream internet device?

The Rise of Amazon Echo and the Home Assistant

In truth, the rise of home assistants has been synonymous with one brand: Alexa.

Amazon’s virtual assistant software has settled into many homes in Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot devices and been integrated into a range of new tech products – from TVs to vacuum cleaners and power sockets.

Competition is ramping up, with Google Home positioning itself as the clearest alternative, but this summer will certainly be Alexa’s time in the sun.

Of course, there are obvious benefits here for consumer engagement, with in-house assistants like Alexa offering users easy access to digital content, music and news updates, while the new Amazon Echo Show provides all this alongside a screen for video engagement.

25% of 16-24s Use Voice Search on Mobile

However, the larger lesson here is surely to do with the rise of voice as a method for controlling our devices, and in particular how the increased consumer knowledge of voice control that Alexa et al. could stir up might benefit the smartphone most.

Our research shows that voice search on mobile has already become a popular (if not yet mainstream) activity among internet users.

In fact, it’s now around a quarter of online 16-24s who are regularly using voice search tools on their smartphones.

It’s already well over 90% of internet users who have a smartphone in their pocket now and these devices can easily replicate many of the functionalities that new home assistant devices boast, without the need for consumers to spend more money on yet another device.

There is certainly a need for the industry to come to grips with the opportunities offered by home assistants, but these devices are currently niche products, and may remain so for some time.

However, the audience that can be reached via voice functionality on smartphones is vast, and the brands and marketers that can effectively utilize this channel for user engagement stand to benefit significantly.

Like what you’ve read? Download our latest device summary report for a closer look at the trends that matter.

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Written by

Felim is Senior Trends Manager at GWI. He oversees the Trends team who produce a wide range of off-the-shelf reports and infographics along with our Chart of the Day series. Moving to GWI after completing a PhD, Felim specializes in writing about online consumer behaviors and digital trends.

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