Smartphone Assistant Study: What Our Research Revealed

We recently ran a study, across a range of demographics and smartphone platform owners in the US, to get a read on current behaviors and frustrations with the smart assistants we use on our smart speakers and our smartphones. For this analysis, I want to focus on the assistants on our smartphones and some insights our research revealed.

Slightly Differing Behavior by Platform
If we consider smart assistants a foundation for a computing platform, then it makes sense that the core behaviors with different platforms differ based on the assistant being used. We note a difference in behavior between iOS and Android users, so it is reasonable we would see some variation in behavior between Siri and Google Assistant. That being said, the core behaviors also seem to align with some of the strengths of each assistant as it stands today. Below is a chart which shows the usage differences between Siri and Google Assistant.

The notable differences that stand out to me is how searching general information or doing a voice search query for something on the web is the primary task of Google Assistant. I’d say from Google’s viewpoint this is exactly what they want since this is their strength. For Siri, it is interesting to see communication tasks so high in regular behavior. Music is also interesting as a core voice assistant behavior, but again it speaks to Apple’s strength and is also positive for a future of voice + Apple services integration. Beyond those few points, nearly all other tasks remain relatively similar.

Another similarity we found was in the number of consumers using their voice assistants daily. Approximately 50% of Siri users and Google Assistant users are using these assistants on a daily basis. Given some of the more public commentary from influential media and pundits one may have expected the number of daily Siri users to be low, but the reality is consumers have figured out what they can rely on Siri for and have narrowed their usage to the things it does well vs. the things it does not.

Another observation I feel is noteworthy, is how all the regular tasks of Siri and Google Assistant are simply automated functions of things you can do on your smartphone via a touch interface. Consumers are using voice to accomplish a task faster than it would take to unlock the phone, select the app, enter text, etc. Basically using voice is faster and more convenient for a set of tasks and consumers are looking for convenience more around automation than they are a predictive smart assistant, at least for now.

What Do Consumer Want Going Forward?
The last data point I want to touch on is what consumers are hoping, in terms of improvement or new features, from their smart assistants. Below is that chart.

A couple points on this chart stand out. Firstly, it appears Siri users want it to get better at understanding their request and accurately fulling their command. This speaks to a known frustration that is brought out regularly about Siri that the technology is not as reliable as people want. This does not mean Siri does not always fulfill a request but that it is often inconsistent in doing so. Meaning sometimes it hears you and does what you want the first time, sometimes it takes multiple tries. Siri users simply want it to do to what they want/request the first time they request it.

The second point to observe is how Siri users want Siri’s knowledge base to increase. While this is a critique of the limited knowledge, Siri has currently, I view this as a positive because it speaks to Siri users hopes that Apple can increase the world of knowledge Siri has and not necessarily abandon Siri to choose Google Assistant instead for this task. We know from the data set that Google’s assistant is much better at general information search, but if Siri can increase in these capabilities, it will keep Apple customers on Siri and not moving to Google Assistant.

One that I found interesting was the answer “anticipate my needs better.” Personally, I felt this was going to be higher because it seems this predictive intelligence is one of the more talked about the value of personal assistants. Perhaps this is a case of consumers not knowing what they want until they see it. Although, I think it is more the state of the technology today and consumers not necessarily being ready for an advanced intelligence that starts to know them more personally and intimately.

When I look at the full data set, including things I did not cover in this article, it is clear that consumers mostly want their assistants to do a better job at the things they rely on today and not necessarily a ton of new features. This also speaks to the immaturity of this technology. I’m also not sure the data we have truly backs up the idea that Siri is drastically behind Google Assistant. There are things Siri can be relied upon, and there are things Google Assistant can be relied upon, but the core differences in usage are insightful in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each voice platform.

Overall, I’m more convinced than ever we still have a long way to go with voice assistants, and there is no clear leader, and there may not be either.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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