Amazon Echo packs Alexa, the online retailer's intelligent virtual assistant; Google has its Home, which employs Assistant, a by-product of Google's dominance in the search territory. Both are sterling examples of voice apps, and while a slow trudge, both platforms are penetrating users' homes more and more.

The former, while not without its own oft-comedic mishaps, arguably usurps the latter in functionality, but that's fine because Home is still pretty nascent. Look at both through their apps, however, and a bleak picture is revealed.

Voice Apps For Alexa And Assistant Have Low Retention Rates

In a new report by industry startup VoiceLabs released Monday, 69 percent of 7,000 plus Alexa skills — voice apps that work with a slew of alexa-enabled products — have either none or a single review, signaling little to no usage, needless to say.

Moreover, when developers for Alexa or Assistant do manage to get someone to enable an app, there's only a 3 percent chance, on average, that the said person becomes an active user by the second week, the report indicates. There are those, however, that manage to rack up a retention rate of more than 20 percent, but the report says these are merely outliers. By contrast, apps for Android have a 13 percent average retention rate; iOS has 11 — and both figures are achieved only one week after first use.

Recode has reached out to Google and Amazon, but none has so far responded to the VoiceLabs's report.

Voice-Enabled Platforms Like Alexa And Home Assistant Something

The measly figures illustrate the challenge Amazon and Google undergo in pushing Echo and Home owners to discover, use, and keep on using voice-enabled apps on their respective smart speakers. For the most part, many users are sticking instead to conventional voice-enabled actions such as music streaming, reading audiobooks, or controlling a household's lighting system. These are all of course great, if typical, examples of voice apps, but not enough to establish a firm ecosystem that'll convince software developers to create more.

Adam Marchick, VoiceLabs's cofounder says that this isn't surprising, given that there are no voice prompts such as push notifications for this new class of applications. Voice apps that allow users to communicate and engage with people via paired devices are set to become popular, he believes.

With the figures at hand, the firm sees an opportunity for the ecosystem to grow. It predicts around 24.5 million smart speakers or similar gadgets shipped for the whole of 2017, significantly a better forecast than last year's 6.5 million.

At present, hundreds of software developers for Alexa and Assistant turn to VoiceLabs for insight and data, says Marchick. The company, however, isn't charging for its services as of this time, because there's actually no way for developers to profit from their voice apps. VoiceLabs predicts Amazon or Google will enable developers to monetize their voice apps in the first half of 2017, but how this'll be achieved is largely guesswork at this point.

VoiceLabs was founded by The Chernin Group, providing insights and analytics to Alexa and Assistant software developers.

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