Artificial intelligence (AI) and fast connectivity – critical ingredients for the next era of category leaders such as smartphones, smart home devices and smart speakers – will drive the U.S. consumer technology industry to a record-breaking $398 billion in retail revenues ($301 billion wholesale) in 2019 and 3.9 percent year-over-year (YOY) growth, which includes streaming services revenue, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). And a large majority of these tech devices will be built in Asia.
“The consumer tech sector is fast approaching another milestone – almost $400 billion in annual revenues – as more consumers embrace the efficiency, safety, entertainment and anytime/anywhere communication that technology brings to our everyday lives,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “Our latest research shows innovations in AI and faster connectivity are among the key drivers for the industry’s record growth. And CES 2019 is the very best place to see, touch, try and experience the game-changing technologies – from augmented and virtual reality to smart cities, sports tech and robotics – that are solving challenges big and small.”
CTA’s semi-annual U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts report reflects U.S. factory sales-to-dealers for more than 300 consumer tech products and related software and services. The biannual report serves as a benchmark for the U.S. consumer tech industry, charting the size and growth of underlying categories. And since so much of the tech offered in the US comes from Asia its a great predictor of Asian economic activity.
Emerging Technologies Expand
Among the products projected to contribute significantly to the consumer tech sector’s growth in 2019:
- Smart Speakers: Voice-controlled smart speakers including Amazon Echo and Google Home are projected to sell 36.6 million units (five percent YOY increase) and earn $3.2 billion in revenue (seven percent YOY growth). Although adoption is slowing due to rapid voice integration in other devices such as TVs, smart home devices and other audio products, smart speakers remain a category to watch as consumers embrace the benefits of AI in their home.
- Smart Home: Products that address home monitoring and security are driving the smart home category. CTA expects category sales – including smart thermostats, smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, IP/Wi-Fi cameras, smart locks and doorbells, smart home systems, and smart switches, dimmers and outlets – to reach 29.4 million units in 2019 (23 percent increase) and $4.6 billion (17 percent increase).
- Wireless Earbuds: Wireless earbuds are a standout audio product, with double digit growth projected for the next few years. Devices including Apple AirPods and Bose SoundSport Free are expected to sell nearly 16 million units in 2019 (up 44 percent) and approach $2 billion in revenue this year (46 percent growth).
- Smartwatches: As fitness tech companies shift their focus from basic trackers to more sophisticated smartwatches, this category is expected to see 20.5 million units shipping in 2019, a 25 percent increase over last year, with revenues of $4.7 billion, a 19 percent increase.
- Drones: Total drone sales are expected to reach 3.4 million units (four percent increase) and just over $1 billion in revenue (four percent growth) in 2019, as more consumers and businesses adopt drones for aerial photography, drone racing and recreation.
The top three revenue drivers for the tech industry show continued success:
- Smartphones: After the introduction of premium, flagship models from major manufacturers with rising average selling prices, smartphone revenue is expected to reach $80 billion, a two percent increase in 2019. Unit shipments are expected to grow one percent to 170.7 million. This year marks the launch of the first 5G smartphones on the market. CTA expects 2019 U.S. sales will reach 2.1 million units and cross $1 billion in revenue. By 2022, 76 percent of all smartphones sold will be 5G-enabled.
- Laptops: In 2019, the U.S. laptop market will sell 51 million units, up three percent over last year, and earn $28.4 billion in revenue (unchanged from 2018). Convertible models and cloud-based laptops remain high-growth areas within computing, as consumers continue to upgrade to the latest operating systems.
- Televisions: Overall, unit sales of total digital displays in 2019 will remain above 42 million units (one percent decrease) and register $22.6 billion in revenue (two percent increase). More than three-quarters of TV shipments will be sets with 40-inch screens or larger. Future upgrades will be driven by 4K Ultra High-Definition (4K UHD) sets, which now make up more than half of all TV unit sales. 4K UHD will sell 22 million units (14 percent increase) and $16.4 billion in revenue (eight percent increase). Raising the bar on resolution, inaugural shipments of 8K UHD TVs will reach $545 million in revenue. And budding OLED shipments will reach 1.4 million sets with double digit growth through 2022.
- In-Vehicle Tech: With more technology built into new cars than ever before, factory-installed automotive technology is projected to contribute $17 billion in revenue (nine percent increase) in 2019. Led by in-vehicle entertainment and driver-assist features such as active collision avoidance, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control, consumer demand for advanced safety features pave the road for the self-driving car of the future.
Streaming Services Soar
Consumer spending on music and video streaming services is valued at $26 billion in revenue, 25 percent higher than last year. The availability of live TV streaming and exclusive, award-winning content through subscription video streaming services will push consumer spending to $18 billion in 2019, up 27 percent from 2018. On-demand music services (e.g., Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music) will bring in an expected $7.7 billion in revenue, up 22 percent as providers race to gain subscribers.