Voice-powered search is replacing typing — and other internet trends

Posted at 9:09 PM, Jun 02, 2017

NEW YORK — Hey Siri — will I even need to type search terms in the future?

Voice is starting to replace typing in online queries and it’s becoming more accurate, according to Mary Meeker, partner at VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, in her 2017 Internet Trends report released Wednesday.

Meeker’s annual report is highly anticipated by techies, who scour the 355-slide deck that’s chock-full of statistics, charts, trends and predictions. Here are some highlights.

Voice is becoming more popular than typing in online search. Twenty percent of mobile searches were made using voice in 2016, according to the report. Meanwhile, voice recognition accuracy continues to improve and is now at about 95%.

With Google’s assistant, almost 70% of requests are “natural” or made in “conversational language,” while the Amazon Echo has evolved from shopping and media to having video capabilities and making recommendations and voice calls.

Smartphone sales continue to slow. Global shipments of smartphones rose 3% year-over-year in 2016 compared to growth of 10% a year earlier. Meeker also highlighted slowing smartphone sales and internet growth in last year’s report.

Although internet growth is plateauing around the world, India continues to be an exception: The number of internet users in the nation rose more than 28% last year. Last year, global internet use continued to increase by 10%, with 3.4 billion internet users in total.

Interactive gaming has gone mainstream. There were 2.6 billion gamers last year compared to just 100 million back in 1995, according to Meeker. And gaming is now a $100 billion business globally, with nearly half of revenue coming from Asia. The report also argues gaming tools can boost engagement and learning — like teaching how to solve puzzles, follow rules and complete projects.

Fun fact: The average age of U.S. game players is 35.

The rise of online shopping is only accelerating. U.S. e-commerce grew 15% in 2016 and is continuing to rise. Retail store closings also may break a 20-year record, according to the report. Meanwhile, Amazon is opening brick-and-mortar stores, mostly recently a bookstore in New York City.

Looking ahead: Meeker predicts online advertising spend will surpass that of TV this year. Meanwhile, voice isn’t the only thing replacing typing — taking photos could too, with Google Lens set to provide even greater context to images.