While tablets and smart watches have plateaued, the smartphone continues to grow and remains the most important digital device for media consumption, according to the Infinite Dial 2021 study released last week by Edison Research and Triton Digital. After a few years of holding steady, smartphone ownership increased to 88% of the total U.S. population 12+ in 2021, or 250 million people, up from 85% in 2020.
Tablet ownership continued a slow downward trajectory, albeit at a high level with 51% penetration. And after a big jump in 2019, smart watch ownership has been mostly flat for the past two years, levelling off in the 17%-18% range.
The fastest growing connected entertainment device in 2021 is, of course, the smart speaker. Its adoption not only accelerated in 2021, but it has also just about doubled since 2018. As Inside Radio reported earlier, one-third of Americans, or about 94 million people, now own a smart speaker, an all-time high. That’s a 22% increase from last year and nearly five times what it was in 2017 (7%).
The Infinite Dial study suggests work-from-home lifestyles have sped up smart speaker adoption. Zeroing in on the 11% of respondents who said they mostly worked from home when the survey was conducted, roughly half of this group (49%) said they own at least one smart speaker. So which devices do they own? One in four smart speaker owners (24%) have an Amazon Alexa-enabled speaker, 13% own a Google Home and just 1% have splurged on a pricey Apple HomePod.
“Even though there has been growth in ownership of smart speakers, this mix hasn’t changed much in the past year, Triton Digital President of Market Development John Rosso said during an online presentation of the 2021 survey’s results. “Google doesn’t appear to be catching up but they’re not really losing any ground either.” Keep in mind these stats look at hardware and not the voice assistants being accessed. “It’s likely that Siri has significantly more usage than the ownership of HomePods suggests but that use is happening on smartphones, not on the $400 smart speaker,” said Rosso.
Not only is the number of smart speaker owners increasing but the number of units owned by each household is also rising. In three years the number of smart speaker households with three or more units more than tripled from 11% in 2018 to 34% in 2020, while the number owning just one declined from two thirds to 47%. During the same time frame the mean number of smart speakers per household climbed from 1.7 to 2.3 units.
Conducted from Jan. 4- Feb. 2, 2021, Infinite Dial 2021 surveyed 1,507 people aged 12+ using random digit dialing techniques on both cell phones and landlines. The survey was offered in English and Spanish and weighted to U.S. population figures.