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The number of smart speakers owned by consumers nearly doubles during a pandemic

Smart speaker ownership nearly doubled during the pandemic, increasing from 22% of households in 2020 to 39% earlier this year, according to recent data. But why do people buy them, and why do others choose not to?

The number of smart speakers owned by consumers nearly doubles during a pandemic

Why people are buying smart speakers and what non-owners think

A study of 100 smart speaker owners and 15 non-owners who tested one found that people mainly use their smart speakers to listen to music, radio, news, and weather updates. Many people said they listened to the radio more than they had before, and that their smart speaker allowed them to listen to a wider range of stations. Some disabled people said a smart speaker had had a significant impact on their lives, giving them greater independence and helping them manage their conditions and abilities.

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People who don’t have a smart speaker either don’t see the point or see it as a luxury rather than a necessity. A few were concerned about being listened to, and a few mentioned that they had heard of other technology being hacked. Most people used their speakers with little concern and did not think about risks on a day-to-day basis.

A large proportion of participants anthropomorphized their smart speakers, referring to them as “he” or “she”. Others asked questions conversationally, and even read “intent” or “personality” in mistakes or responses.

According to Ofcom, 27% of smart speaker owners get their news from them. We found that most participants used their smart speaker news as a supplement to more in-depth news coverage, using it for instant headlines but returning to TV, print, or online news for more detail. There was a mix of views as to the extent that people liked their speakers to personalize or tailor their content. Some appreciated the improved user experience they felt this gave them, while others found it unsettling and disliked relinquishing too much control.


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