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Smartphone battleground shifts as virtual personal assistants accelerate

James Henderson | Jan. 4, 2017
Apple's Siri and Google Now are currently the most widely used VPAs on smartphones

Advances in various technologies will drive users to interact with smartphones in more intuitive ways, with traditional vendor battlegrounds set to shift in the year ahead.

According to Gartner research, by 2019, 20 per cent of all user interactions with the smartphone will take place via virtual personal assistants (VPAs).

“The role of interactions will intensify through the growing popularity of VPAs among smartphone users and conversations made with smart machines,” Gartner research director, Annette Zimmermann, said.

Despite a lack of local statistics to back up claims, Gartner's annual mobile apps survey conducted in the fourth quarter of 2016 among 3,021 consumers across three countries (U.S., U.K. and China) found that 42 per cent of respondents in the U.S. and 32 per cent in the U.K. used VPAs on their smartphones in the last three months.

Offering an indication to Australia and New Zealand trends, more than 37 per cent of respondents (average across U.S. and U.K.) used a VPA at least one or more times a day.

Apple's Siri and Google Now are currently the most widely used VPAs on smartphones, with 54 per cent of U.K. and U.S. respondents using Siri in the last three months.

In addition, Google Now is used by 41 per cent of U.K. respondents and 48 per cent of U.S. respondents.

“VPAs' usage is bound to accelerate as they add many new features, including integration for business services, further language support and appear across more devices,” Gartner research director, Jessica Ekholm, added.

Gartner expects that, by 2019, VPAs will have changed the way users interact with devices and become universally accepted as part of everyday life.

Today, Ekholm said VPAs are fulfilling simple tasks such as setting the alarm or retrieving information from the web, but in the near future these systems will be able to deliver more complex tasks such as completing a transaction based on past, present and predicted context.

As explained by Ekholm, this trend is also intensified by the acceleration of conversational commerce, but voice is not the only UI for VPA use.

“In fact, Facebook Messenger is allowing users to interact with businesses to make purchases, chat with customer services and order Uber cars within the app,” Ekholm added.

“Moreover, Tencent's WeChat generates over $1.1 billion in revenue by offering its 440 million users an all-in-one approach, letting them pay their bills, hail cabs and order products with a text.”

Globally, China represents the most mature market by far, where the increased dominance of messaging platforms is causing the traditional app market to stall.

Looking ahead, this trend is continuing to grow, not only among consumers but also among businesses or in the prosumer context.


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