Apple: Siri Now Has Over 500 Million Active Users

Posted on January 24, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, iOS, Mobile, Smart Home with 39 Comments

Apple: Siri Now Has Over 500 Million Active Users

Buried in this week’s announcement about HomePod availability, Apple claims that Siri now has over half a billion active users.

Yikes.

Now, I understand why some might take exception to that number. Siri, after all, is terrible. But with an ecosystem that is over a billion strong between active iOS devices—iPhone, iPad, iPod touch—and the Mac, I find this number a bit more believable than, say, Microsoft’s easily-refuted number of Edge users.

That said, I still have questions.

“Siri [is] now actively used on over half a billion devices,” Apple casually notes in its HomePod announcement. (So casually that I missed it earlier in the week.)

So there’s the number. Half a billion, or 500 million. The question, of course, is how this compares to active users of other digital personal assistant platforms.

Let’s start with the also-ran. As you may have heard in early 2017 and then again in early 2018, Microsoft is “playing the long game” with Cortana. This is corporate-speak for having no strategy whatsoever, I believe. And that is borne out by the numbers.

We’ve been tracking Cortana usage here at Thurrott.com for quite some time. Back in late 2016, Brad wrote that Cortana usage had grown from 100 million in mid-2016 to 145 million by the end of the year. That’s a big jump. But that was where Cortana usage plateaued, too: By October 2017, Cortana usage had barely moved, to just 148 million active users. That was the last we heard.

OK, how about Google Assistant? As of mid-2017, Google noted that Google Assistant, which was less than a year old at that point, was running on over 100 million devices. This seems low, and does not equate to active users, but remember that you need to actively install the software or buy a new Android device to get it. Given the explosion of Google Assistant-powered smart speakers and other devices at CES 2018, I expect Assistant usage to skyrocket in 2018. Google, if you will, is playing the full game.

Amazon, the perceived market leader, is tight-lipped about Alexa usage. We know that their assistant is on some low double-digit number of Echo smart speakers, but that’s about it. A mid-2017 report about digital assistant usage—which is US-only—claimed that Alexa usage grew dramatically last year, albeit to just 2.6 monthly million users. (Which is not exactly the same as active users.)

My take on this is that Siri usage isn’t as high as what Apple is reporting but that Apple’s advantages—first to market, and on super-popular devices—is what really drives this usage.

Some may look at these numbers and believe that Cortana is somehow more popular than Alexa or Google Assistant. That’s ludicrous, and Microsoft’s measure of “active users” of Cortana is just as suspicious as those for Edge. At CES this year, Brad and I spoke to several PC makers on and off the record, and their customers’ desires were made clear: They want Alexa and Google Assistant, not Cortana.

But the popularity of Siri, despite its lackluster functionality, cannot be understated. When thinking about Siri, as with HomePod, I would caution Apple doubters and haters to temper their opinions with a bit of reality: Apple’s customer base is very loyal and very eager to spend money. One should never doubt Apple’s ability to establish a minority platform that his nonetheless a huge success. And Siri, I think, is a great example of that.

 

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Comments (39)

39 responses to “Apple: Siri Now Has Over 500 Million Active Users”

  1. RM

    I highly doubt 500 million users. Remember the Siri was using Bing for web searches. 500 million users should have had a much bigger effect on Bing market share.

    • Alex Haddock

      In reply to RM: Having moved to IOS from WP I do use it frequently to set my alarms and occasional reminders (pretty much all I did for Cortana tbh) so I guess I'm an active user and not impacting a search engine to do that? Sometimes use it to control my Hue lights but despite all the voice activated hype the best thing I bought for them was the dimmer switches which I use far more often (thanks to the 1-4 click presets one can configure for them)


      • Rocwurst

        In reply to Alex_Haddock:


        Actually, even when you do web searches, Siri uses Wolfram Alpha, Yelp and others services as well as Bing.


        With around 1.3 Billion active Apple devices now, it is entirely reasonable that over half a billion of them are using Siri regularly.


        And Siri works very well for most users - it is far from “terrible”. Cortana on the other hand is much closer to qualifying as terrible. LoupVentures reports that Google Assistant, understood 99.9% of the queries we asked and answered 74.8% of them correctly. Siri understood 94.4% of the queries we asked and answered 66.1% of them correctly. Finally, Cortana understood 97.3% of the queries we asked and answered 48.8% of them correctly.

    • PincasX

      In reply to RM:

      Not necessarily. Siri uses multiple sources for information and a lot if not most of its features don’t involve web searches. Additionally some Siri enabled devices (AppleTV and Apple Watch) Personally I use it for home automation, adding events to calendars , music playback, maps etc.. but I couldn’t tell you the last time it involved a web search.

    • Nicholas Kathrein

      In reply to RM:

      No it's not users, it devices, but they use it even if just to set a reminder. Siri works for somethings well. It's just messes up enough to annoy people from trying to do more with it. People learn it does these things well and that's all. So that's all they use it for. They don't have anything to compare it to unless they have an Echo and then they see how bad Siri is.

  2. Markyjns

    On my iPad if I swipe to right, the screen coming in from the left has search functions and top apps suggested by Siri, amongst other things, if I select a top app have I now become an active Siri user?


    On the Mac, Siri has replaced search, so even though I may be searching for file I’m presumably now counted as an active Siri user?


    I haven’t actually genuinely actively interacted with Siri (since about a month after it first launched) but I’m guessing I count as active user due to text based search input on the Mac being rebranded as Siri.



    • IanYates82

      In reply to Markyjns:

      Your logic sounds pretty plausible and is similar to the way MS counts Edge and Cortana users. I wouldn't be surprised at all if everything you suggested was true. Still disappointed, as they're being deliberately misleading, but not surprised.

    • cddouglas

      In reply to Markyjns: No, on a Mac, Search is next to Siri in the menu bar. You do not need to use Siri to search. I've tested Siri on my phone compared to Google Assistant on Google Home, and I agree that Google Assistant is much better at coming up with answers to questions and information, but I found almost no difference in basic tasks like playing a streaming radio station, playing a song, setting a timer, calling a contact, etc. A user has to opt-in to enable Siri during set-up on a Mac or IOS device.


  3. Patrick3D

    I found it faster to just add a bookmark to google.com on the iOS dock since all Siri ever does is reply with web search results whenever I ask her something (usually after 3 attempts to get her to understand what I am saying in the first place.)

  4. Michael Babiuk

    It is easy to dismiss a number or to disparage a particular digital voice assistant but I neither disparage Siri (as Paul did when he stated it was “terrible”) nor do I doubt the number of it’s active users. Of course, my primary ecosystem is Apple centric (so I have noted my bias preference) but let me explain my reasons for my opinions.


    First, let me start with something that has flown under the radar recently. Apple Watch users use Siri. Perhaps not daily but at least once a week. Fun fact that this Apple Watch wearer was unaware of until a few days ago. Apple Watch sales are equal to Mac sales now! Infact, during this past holiday buying season, it has been estimated that sales of the Apple Watch outsold Amazon’s Echo units. Think about the implications of those sale figures in relationship to active Siri users.


    Now, as for the usefulness of each digital assistant (of which I actively use two: Siri and Amazon’s Alexa), I have these opinions. Each digital assistant has it’s strong points and weaknesses. That should be self evident. I believe Siri’s voice dictation ability is excellent and it’s general abilities or knowledge base is average to good. For what Amazon’s Alexa is programmed to respond to, I find it’s actions and results excellent. But it’s knowledge base is far smaller than Siri’s.


    Although I have Windows 10 installed in a virtual machine on my MacBook and iMac (therefore, I have Cortana), and I have installed the iOS Cortana app on my various iOS devices, I never use it. Not that it is bad or “terrible” in it’s functions - personally I wouldn’t be able comment on that point anyway since I never use it, as I stated - but the fact that I DON’T use it is telling in the sense that I find Siri and Alexa quite adequate for my purposes - and by definition - I don’t find either assistant “terrible”. Both digital assistants complement each other. I suspect Cortana has it’s strong points as well.


    As for Google Assistant. Well, I don’t use Google apps or services. Not too long ago, many Windows users (Paul included) would have been very adverse to using anything associated with Alphabet. Does anyone remember the term “Scroogled”? But then, the philosophy espoused in the old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” was adopted in “Windows Land” and now Microsoft and Alphabet have become best friends for life and joined forces to combat the evil Apple aliens in their new Cupertino spaceship. Personally, I never thought I would see the day that Paul would sing the praises of Android devices and their operating system features - even to a point of ranking some Windows software analogs below their Android counterparts. He would NEVER do that for Apple products because at least Paul still has his negative bias in discussing any Apple device or service features. Thank Goodness some things never change. Very Big Grin.

    • jdawgnoonan

      In reply to Michael_Babiuk:

      Paul’s newfound love for Google is pretty humorous. Android is still a very inconsistent mess even on the Pixel (and the Pixel is still nothing but an overpriced Nexus that is no more “designed by google” than my Nexus 5 or 6P were).

      • Nicholas Kathrein

        In reply to jdawgnoonan:

        Do you have the pixel or pixel 2? I do. I have a pixel 2 XL. Before this I had a Nexus 6P. I don't find my Pixel 2 XL overpriced any more than an iphone. I can buy any phone I want. I choose the pixel 2 XL. I've like my Nexus phones phones over the years and the price was nice. The issue with those phones was there was almost always a camera issue. Either the photos weren't as good as the iPhone or Samsung S model or / and it was slow. You'd miss photos because the camera app would take too long to launch or would freeze up. Not one Nexus phone was ever mentioned with the best cameras. The best was always the newest iPhone and the newest Samsung S model Like S5 or S6. So for $600 or so you got a great phone with a midcore camera. Now we pay more but it has the best camera on a phone. Did you get that. The best! Many would say having the best camera on any phone is worth a few extra hundred dollars. It is to me.

    • pecosbob04

      In reply to Michael_Babiuk:

      "Apple Watch users use Siri. Perhaps not daily but at least once a week. Fun fact that this Apple Watch wearer was unaware of until a few days ago. Apple Watch sales are equal to Mac sales now! In fact, during this past holiday buying season, it has been estimated that sales of the Apple Watch outsold Amazon’s Echo units. Think about the implications of those sale figures in relationship to active Siri users."


      Spot on! I use SIRI on all my Apple devices but far and away I use it most on my watch. I use it at least 3 times a day and often many more.

    • red.radar

      In reply to Michael_Babiuk:


      the apple watch has replaced my info-tainment system in my vehicles. When I want to change track, I don't talk to the terrible in-car system. I hit the crown on my watch. Because when the car radio is paired to blutooth hitting siri on the phone uses the cars terrible mic and it messes up Siri's voice dictation quality. the mic in the watch is better.


      I believe the apple watch is underrated and to be honest its the only thing keeping me on a iphone.

  5. sandman

    I use Siri to make phone calls or send texts through voice while I am driving. I don't use it for anything else. I am sure I am counted as an active user, but I could care less which "assistant" does that for me. I use Alexa to set timers and sometimes check the weather. I really haven't seen anything in an assistant that makes them useful. I would rather use my travel or sports apps to keep track of those things. My calendar will notify me of events or things going on. I just don't know when they will add something that makes it truly useful.

  6. hrlngrv

    Do any macOS or iOS background services use Siri in any way, and if so, is Apple including those services as active users?

    OTOH, Netmarketshare shows iOS with 29.26% smartphone user share, and if there are 2 billion smartphones in use (guess), there'd be 585m iPhones in use. I think Apple needs to be clear how it defines active users.

  7. jbuccola

    Siri is on the Watch and Apple TV, which represent most of our casual usage and are missing from your list. I am observing my wife using it for setting alarms throughout the day, opening the garage door, etc. Using it in places where we don’t have an Alexa devicelike location based reminders. Sometimes it can be slow to respond, especially on the watch. But “Hey Siri” is improving leaps and bounds with each OS revision and the nearest device fairly faithfully responds.


    I think this is the part that android users don’t understand yet. Apple has been building a credible wearables business first rather than a speaker. The HomePod simply compliments it all and you don’t need many of them wth Siri on your wrist.

  8. wright_is

    500 million devices... Given my ex boss had 2 Macs, 4 iPhones and 2 iPads, that makes a lot fewer active users, given many will have more than one device.

  9. jrickel96

    We really have no idea how many people are using most of these things in reality. I'm not sure if actual Google Assistant usage will skyrocket. More devices with it available may increase, but that doesn't mean they'll be used. I have some Bose headphones with Google Assistant and I never use that feature.


    Siri works great for the limited functionality most people expect from assistants. I've talked to a lot of people that use them and they do just a few set things with them. Spoke with someone yesterday who is in their 20s and uses Echo for three things: weather in the morning, morning news report, and occasionally requesting music. Third parties are not going to be knocking down the doors if few people use any of those touted extra skills.


    Apple gets that limited functionality thing right. Many are not interested in a conversation and aren't interested in a lot of voice commands. They have an inherent advantage because iOS users are the most likely to spend money inside the ecosystem and Siri is the only one that will work with Apple ecosystem stuff. I'm an Apple Music subscriber and the other assistants do nothing for me on this front (and I'm not paying for a Homepod either). Even non-subscribers are most likely to have a lot of music in iTunes as I believe that still remains the #1 digital music store. iPhones account for a disproportionate amount of revenue in mobile, so those that use them spend the money. I'd argue the one place where anything third party could be monetized is with Apple. Apple Pay is dominated the NFC payment market. Apple has the best payment service of any of the big tech companies. I know I use Apple Pay frequently and find it much better than Android Pay has ever been.



  10. duncanator

    If they mean an "active" user like me that kept accidentally triggering it on my iPhone X then yes, I'm an active user. I've since disabled Siri, but agree that it is the worst assistant behind Google, Cortana, and Alexa. I suppose I used to use it to set reminders, but that's the extent of its usefulness.

  11. Tony Barrett

    Apple wanted an impressive, big number, so they plucked one out of the air, and said 'that'll do'. No one can question them, because the data that 'may' back this up is tightly locked up inside Fortess Cupertino. Apple answer to no one, but I can tell you one thing, a high percentange of that 500m is probably people shouting at their idevice, going 'Hey Siri, you dumb broad, are you going to answer or what'. That's a satisfied 'user' in Apple's book.

  12. Nicholas Kathrein

    I'd believe the apple sheep (sheeple) as it were will buy the Home Pod. I think as long as it sounds as good as their Sonos they'll be more than happy to replace their entire collection of Sonos speakers and replace it with Home Pods. Even if Siri sucks it will work better than the phone at music type things and they'll be happy. Apple over the years will add more features and it will grow into a good device. Thing is the SIRI part of it won't be as good as the Google Assistant but sheeple don't care or know about that. They look at Google as the root of all evil with the slogan "Do all evil". Only Amazon has a chance of really showing how bad Siri is as many sheeple have Amazon Alexa and that will be their comparison. Again, they'll explain it away and almost all will be happy with the Home Pod. A few won't. Now the normal Apple users won't go for this. They'll say it's to expensive and they'll spend way less on an Alexa or Google Home mini as normal people don't want to spend the money.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      Some of these folks would buy a turd in a box if Apple put their logo on it.

    • PincasX

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      Using the term “sheeple” is the quickest way to self-identify as a jackass. I’m not just talking about Apple or technology but use of the word in any context. It’s basically saying “I have a frail ego and need to insult people that don’t share my view to feel good about myself.”

      • Nicholas Kathrein

        In reply to PincasX:

        Sheeple is someone who will buy any Apple product on day 1 no matter what the reviews say. If Apple makes it they buy it. By that definition that isn't everyone. It's a tiny %. I never said everyone. It's the amount that bought the Apple watch on day 1 was very small. That is who I'm talking about. If you fall into this boat then you'll be very defensive. I even had someone defend it saying it's that they are "loyal" to Apple. So what I'm saying is the tiny % that bought the Apple Watch on day one are the same who will buy the Home Pod. It doesn't matter if Echo has better AI. Or if it can do more and connect to more streaming services. The Sheeple just buy Apple no matter what.

      • Nicholas Kathrein

        In reply to PincasX:

        Let's not be so dramatic. There are sheeple for all kinds of things. Car brands are another example. If it bothers you then maybe it hits close to home. Either way it's used as one word for someone who buys a brand and only that brand for products. Sometime ones that clearly aren't as good as their competition based on review. These people vary from some that look for reviews and when bad still buy it and some that don't even try to get reviews. They know they want it. They got to have it. They want only that companies products on day 1.


    • jdawgnoonan

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      I use Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana, and Siri; Google Assistant and Siri both excel at different tasks. Not all Apple users are “sheeple” who are unaware of other platforms despite your preferred belief.


      Also, Cortana is the weakest of the bunch.

  13. lvthunder

    What do they consider an active user? I accidentally hit the button and activate Siri on my watch all the time. Does that make me an "active user"?

  14. will

    What is going to be interesting is that when the HomePod is available for purchase if in the first month they sell more units than Microsoft has sold Invokes since launch, or at what point that would pass Microsoft?


    Microsoft has squandered mobile, music, AI, and possibly AR/VR (unless they do something with the Xbox). The only thing they have left is Office and Desktop. However, I would guess that if Amazon ever launched a business productivity suite with mail, calendar, documents, and collaboration they would be a in trouble.

  15. PincasX

    Apple said they had 500 million active devices not users. That is an important distinction since a single user could have multiple Siri enabled devices.

  16. James Wilson

    I guess I’m an ‘active’ user too. I use it for getting weather,upcoming meetings. Nothing exciting. Then again, I use Alexa on Echo dot primarily for setting a kitchen timer so I’m an active user, but not a power user.

  17. nbplopes

    Saying X or Y active users with no time frame attached is worth very little.


    Is it per month? Per quarter? Per year? Is it since Siri was launched?


    The same for anyone else.


    For instance, Alexa, 2.6 million monthly users might actually mean much more, no less.


    An there is usage patterns. For instance, "Hey Siri call my wife" ... so on and so forth that cannot be replicated to speakers or the PC.


    The challenge of Microsoft and Cortana is that in the PC is still missing a use case were hands free operation is actually better that point-click- ..... -type. Pair this with the fact that the behaviour of these assistants need to be tailored per device type. For instance, It may be faster than mouse-keyboard to simply say "Email my wife". But these assistants on the PC and Mac are not being tailored to the device. After I say "Email my wife" the assistant than engages on a conversation asking to dictate the subject and the actual message. When I just wanted it to open an new email set up to write the message myself on the keyboard. All this leads to a forgettable experience.


    Cheers.

  18. mortarm

    Why does that mage remind me of Hal? "I'm sorry, Dave, I can't play that song."

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