Spotify’s exploration of voice technology could benefit from user familiarity with voice commands in music apps

Spotify is doubling down on voice control technology by adding voice integration to its mobile app and announcing a new piece of voice-controlled hardware. Last week, Spotify silently started rolling out a voice assistant in its iOS and Android mobile apps, per Engadget. By using the wake word “Hey Spotify,” users can pick songs and navigate through the Spotify app using their voice. Separately, the music streaming service started shipping a Spotify-equipped voice-controlled Bluetooth device for cars—with the uninspired title “Car Thing”—to select subscribers, per The Verge. Car Thing, which appears tailored to older cars without a Spotify integration, functions as a Spotify remote, enabling the driver to access Spotify without using a phone.

These features are just the latest example of Spotify’s commitment to pursuing voice commands:

  • Spotify Voice: The company released its first rudimentary voice-based search option on its mobile app in 2019.
  • Early Car Thing and Hey Spotify: That same year, it started testing early versions of each offering, with the latter release primarily intended to study subscribers’ listening habits.
  • Voice-based ads: In 2019, Spotify also began testing voice-enabled ads on mobile which would allow users to engage with ads using verbal commands.

Spotify’s interest in voice data transcends mobile voice assistants. Earlier this year, reports from the BBC and Pitchfork revealed Spotify had patented voice technology that would let it offer personalized recommendations based on data gleaned from user speech and background noise. The technology would reportedly allow Spotify to use speech recognition to determine a user’s age, gender, and emotional state—but it’s unclear whether this particular patent will ever make it to market. Elsewhere, Spotify has hinted at a future proprietary home speaker, and its recent acquisition of podcasting platform Megaphone suggests it may look to monetize voice data with ads.

Voice tech users already regularly engage with music apps via voice, which may help Spotify drive current feature adoption and reduce friction on future offerings. According to a 2020 Adobe survey of voice tech users conducted by Wakefield Research, 57% of respondents said they used voice commands for music apps daily. That response was tied with “texting or chat” as the second-highest voice command use case, trailing only “map or driving” by a single percentage point. That familiarity with using voice commands in music apps could help Spotify roll out upcoming voice-based features more seamlessly. That’s good news for Spotify, which may look to capitalize on an expanding US voice assistant market poised to increase from 128 million voice assistant users in 2020 to 140.7 million by 2024, per eMarketer.