Let us set the scene: It's the holiday season. You receive an Amazon Alexa device as a gift, and you're thrilled to imagine all the ways your life will be made easier with a digital voice assistant. Two weeks later, you've forgotten you even have an Alexa.
It's a scenario that's growing all too familiar for many Alexa device owners, as interest in the voice-assisted speakers seems to wane quite quickly after owning one. According to internal Amazon data obtained by Bloomberg, some years see up to 25 percent of new Alexa owners no longer actively using their devices after only two weeks of ownership.
As an Echo owner of more than three years myself, I can confirm that the sparkliness of the voice-assisted speaker does dull rather fast. When I first received my device as a gift, I thought my quality of life would infinitely increase, dreaming of the spoken grocery lists and voice-commanded calls I could now make. In reality, the only things I ever use my Echo for is to play music, set some timers while cooking, and occasionally check the weather.SEE ALSO:Amazon's Alexa can speak over loud situations with 'adaptive volume'
My experience isn't uncommon. While many U.S. households do have an Alexa device, Amazon's own documents show that these devices are often only used for playing music, setting timers, or turning on connected lights. According to Bloomberg, a planning document for 2019 shows Amazon employees noting that new Alexa device owners "discover half of the features they will ever use within three hours of activating the device."
Despite this, Amazon denies the idea that its Alexa devices are past the growth phase. Amazon spokesperson Kinley Pearsall told Bloomberg that the documents, which covered 2018 to 2021, were either outdated or inaccurate.
"The assertion that Alexa growth is slowing is not accurate,” Pearsall wrote to Bloomberg. “The fact is that Alexa continues to grow—we see increases in customer usage, and Alexa is used in more households around the world than ever before.”
Amazon does recognize that the biggest barriers to growth for its Alexa devices comes down to privacy and usefulness. While many users realize the speakers must listen to their surroundings to accurately respond to commands, many find it frightening to know that Amazon employees can review audio clips, or the speaker may accidentally send out recordings of private conversations.
Personally, I had a particularly nerve-wracking experience where my Echo continuously turned on music without anyone telling it to do so, prompting me to wonder who out there could maybe remotely access and listen in on my device. Certain things just shouldn't be overheard, especially by voice-commanded robots.
As for its usefulness, I have to agree that, while many features are available, it's just not feasible to actually use most of them. And despite Amazon continuing to add more features, it's more annoying than helpful most of the time. My Echo will often nudge me towards book suggestions or shopping ideas after I've asked it for a weather report, and the best response I've given it thus far has been a throaty groan. That's certainly not the purchase or engagement Amazon was looking for.SEE ALSO:Here are a bunch of Amazon Echo devices at their lowest prices ever
And yet, there are still plenty of Alexa fans that maintain its glory days are still to come. Greg Gottesman, managing director and co-founder of investment outfit Pioneer Square Labs, told Bloomberg that the tech simply needs more time to marinate. "We’re still early. Five years from now, 10 years from now, people will be using Alexa for much more than those three things."
Innovation is always possible, I suppose. But in the meantime, I'll keep using my Alexa for all that I find it's good for: Spotify jams, kitchen timers, and asking "What's the weather?" And for those particularly private conversations, I'll probably just pull the plug entirely.