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New study of virtual assistants shows streaming the most-used function

Research firm Morning Consult has released results of a consumer survey which queried over 2,200 adults about how they use virtual assistants. The survey took place over two days — March 24-25.

In framing the results of this study, we need to understand the scope of “virtual assistant.” While the Amazon Alexa devices receive most of the publicity in this category, Morning Consult extended its questions to cover Google Home, Google Assistant (the smartphone virtual assistant in Android phones), Siri (in Apple phones), and Windows Cortana. That wide spread means that the behavior represented in aggregated survey responses includes two distinct types of virtual assistant:

  • In-home stand-alone devices Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot, and Google Home
  • In-phone assistants Siri, Google Assistant, and Windows Cortana

While there are similarities in the two use cases — in-home and in-phone — there are important differences, not least being that in-phone assistants are much more established than the comparatively new in-home devices.

With that in mind, that headline result of the study is that music streaming is the top use of virtual assistants.


morning consult virtual assistants 638w


It is evident in the above chart that many of the top uses lie in the domain of in-home virtual assistants — texting, internet browsing, phone calling, launching apps.

In the Morning Consult survey population, smart WiFi device ownership came through with surprisingly high numbers. Amazon Echo, the flagship Alexa device, is owned by 15% of respondents, and Google Home is owned by 16%. The Infinite Dial by Edison Research and Triton Digital found much lower ownership numbers — 5% for Alexa (that includes Echo and Dot devices) and 25 for Google Home.

In the Morning Consult results, ownership of these in-home devices skewed strongly to the 18-44 age group, dropping off sharply among older respondents. As we’ve seen in other Morning Consult work, elaborate demographics are broken out. (For example, Tea Party supporters love the Echo and Home devices, which is interesting in a meaningless sort of way.) More men than women claimed ownership of in-home smart speakers.

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Brad Hill

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