Every year, voice control technology and usage continue to advance for media uses, home appliances and other applications. In its newest study “Voice Control 2021: The Future Speaks” Hub measures the impact of smart speakers and voice technology on entertainment.

The firm predicts that, despite the hurdles associated with advancing technology such as voice-controlled devices, including privacy concerns, consumers will become progressively more comfortable using voice commands and voice will become the primary method for controlling media within the next decade.

Hub conducted an online survey of 2,500 US consumers aged 16 to 74 in November and December 2021 and found that consumer experience with voice control is widespread. Eighty-three percent of respondents have used voice commands with at least one device with 91 percent of those under age 35 and 73 percent of those 55 or older reporting the same.

Of all devices on which voice commands have been used, smartphones (70 percent) are the most common, followed by smart speakers (45 percent), TV (32 percent), tablet (28 percent), computer (26 percent) and in-car (24 percent). Seventy-seven percent of respondents reported being overall satisfied with how responsive their smart speaker is to voice control.

Hub’s survey also sought to understand what the most important uses and capabilities of voice are. Thirty-two percent of respondents reported that Answering Queries like internet search, asking questions and navigation is the most important. Communication (18 percent) including text messages, emails and phone calls is the second-most important capability. 

“Voice command is here to stay, and very likely will end up being the main way we interact with our media choices,” said David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study. “But there are hurdles to overcome – some as simple as getting people to try it, and some as complex as assuaging consumer privacy fears. As we often see with new tech, consumer education is needed throughout the adoption cycle.”

Of those hurdles to increased usage, privacy is the highest concern. Fifty-three percent of respondents report privacy as a vital consideration when using voice-controlled devices—a decrease from 59 percent who reported the same in 2019. 

Other concerns include unauthorized listening (38 percent) and the type of data being collected (39 percent). The number of respondents concerned about these lesser issues dropped from 46 percent and 48 percent, respectively, since 2019. Even respondents who don’t own or use a smart speaker—and don’t intend on owning one—cite privacy as a primary concern (down from 66 percent in 2019).

At 33 percent, Amazon Echo is the most common smart speaker today, up from 26 percent in 2019. Despite the fact that it was not first-to-market with voice, Amazon had a first-mover advantage in smart speakers with its 2014 US debut of the Echo and built-in voice assistant Alexa. Since then, it has consistently released new features that make the Echo easier to use. It’s expected that by 2025, 130 million Echo speakers will be shipped globally (https://safeatlast.co/blog/amazon-alexa-statistics). According to Hub, trailing behind Amazon Echo are Google Nest (Home) at 14 percent and Apple HomePod at 5 percent.

As mentioned previously, media control is a primary use of voice command. Of the Amazon Echo owners who responded to Hub’s survey, 68 percent use it to search for media content, 61 percent to control media playback and 57 percent to control other media devices. 

Among Google Nest owners, 69 percent use it to search for media content, 67 percent to control media playback and 65 percent to control other media devices. And among Apple HomePod owners, 87 percent use it to search for media content, 90 percent to control media playback and 88 percent to control other media devices.

Apple’s HomePod is the most likely of the three devices to be used to consume or control media. Sixty-one percent of HomePod owners chose it due to its compatibility with other devices compared to 31 percent of Echo and 39 percent of Nest.

Eighty-eight percent of HomePods control other media devices compared to 57 percent of Echo and 65 percent of Nest. Sixty-eight percent of HomePods are used as radios versus 48 percent of Echos and 49 percent of Nests. Ninety-six percent of HomePods are used to control video or audio apps and services compared to 78 percent of Echos and 79 percent of Nests.

Respondents ranked voice control as the least important feature, among eight, for a new TV. Twenty percent of respondents reported using voice commands with TVs, TV remotes or TV-connected devices—most often to search for programs or movies and less often for device control such as volume adjustment or playback. Of those respondents who don’t use TV voice commands, 42 percent have a TV-voice-capable device.