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Better Sound Key Wish for Current Smart Speaker Consumers

Audio Technology Market Research, Analysis and Commentary

17 Jul 2019 - As smart speaker adoption continues to climb, more than half of existing owners desire a smart speaker with better sound quality than their current device, while a similar number would pay more for it. That’s according to a new audio tech lifestyles consumer survey from Futuresource Consulting, conducted in the USA, UK, Germany, Japan and China.

The study, carried out during March and April 2019, explores the behaviours, purchase motivators and future intentions of more than 10,000 consumers who own a wireless or smart speaker, Hi-Fi system, separates or headphones, or any combination of those products.

Music is Number One for Smart Speakers

“Music is the mainstay of smart speaker usage,” says Jack Wetherill, Principal Consultant, Futuresource Consulting, “With more than half of smart speaker owners in the study telling us they can’t live without this feature. However, another 30% said they don’t use their device for music at all. Other key uses include weather and news updates, new music discovery, asking questions, controlling the TV and setting reminders. Conversely, online shopping and adding items to a shopping basket remain niche activities.”

Smart Device Control

Around 60% of smart speaker owners or intended owners are interested in the ability to control other smart devices, with the top activity varying by country. For example, video doorbell control was popular in the USA, but smart power topped the list in Germany and the UK.

Premium Music Streaming Preferences

Most respondents who have both a premium music streaming subscription and a smart speaker said that they obtained a streaming music subscription first, suggesting that music streaming is driving smart speaker uptake, rather than the other way around. However, this trend falls away as the respondent’s age increases, and no pattern emerges for the over 35-year-olds. Indeed, from age 65, smart speaker purchase is the driver of music streaming subscriptions.

“The premium music service taking the top spot varies by country,” says Wetherill, “with Apple Music at number one in the USA, Spotify the service of choice for both the UK and Germany, and Amazon Music Unlimited sneaking into first place in Japan. In China, NetEase rules the roost, though this may be overstated due to the freemium aspect of the service.”

Privacy a Concern

Privacy continues to be a barrier to smart speaker uptake, with over three-quarters of all respondents having some privacy concerns. However, most say the benefits outweigh the risks. German respondents are most concerned about privacy, with 19% saying it’s the reason they won’t buy a smart speaker. Respondents over 45 years old are almost twice as likely to be put off buying due to privacy issues compared to under 25s.

Soundbars and Home Theatre Used in Isolation

Looking to soundbars, over two-thirds of owners listen through these devices when watching TV, with almost 80% also listening to audio-only content through their soundbar when the TV is switched off.

Similarly, two-thirds of home theatre owners claim to always or mostly listen through their system when watching the TV, with almost 60% of users also listening to music on their home theatre system.

The 58-page Futuresource Audio Tech Lifestyles Consumer Survey is based on 10,519 consumer interviews carried out during March and April 2019 in the USA, UK, Germany, Japan and China. It explores consumer usage and attitudes to smart and wireless speakers, music consumption and services, headphones and TV-based audio.

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Futuresource Consulting is a specialist research and knowledge-based consulting company, providing organisations with insight into consumer electronics, digital imaging, entertainment media, broadcast, storage media, education technology and IT. With a heritage stretching back to the 1980s, the company delivers in-depth analysis and forecasts on a global scale, advising on strategic positioning, market trends, competitive forces and technological developments. 

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