CTA Predicts Another Record Year for Consumer Tech

The growing popularity of streaming services, emerging technologies built around artificial intelligence (AI), and in-vehicle technology will help propel the U.S. consumer technology industry to a record-breaking $401 billion in retail revenues in 2019 — a 2.2% increase over last year, according to the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) midyear forecast.

Consumer spending on software and services — including music, video and gaming — is projected to reach a new high of $75.6 billion in 2019, up 14% over last year. Demand is being driven by cloud-based subscription services, with live TV streaming expected grow 25% over 2018 for total sales of $17.7 billion in 2019 and music streaming from the likes of Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify expected to top $8 billion in revenue — a 33% increase over last year.

And as gaming continues its shift toward cloud-based streaming, subscriptions and in-game purchases will push that category to $38.9 billion in 2019, an increase of 11% over 2018, according to CTA projections.

A half-dozen emerging product categories will play key roles in the growth of consumer technology in 2019.

Wireless earbuds, led by Apple AirPods and Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro, are projected to sell upwards of 16 million units this year (up 45% over 2018) with revenue approaching $2 billion (up 46%). CTA predicts double-digit growth for the category over the next few years as consumers choose to pay more for “premium audio experiences featuring true wireless technology.”

Voice controllable smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo Home and Ai-enabled TVs, soundbars, and other devices will continue to loom large with sales estimated to exceed 35 million units in 2019 — a 1% increase over 2018 — even as overall revenue declines 1% to $3 billion.

CTA says safety and monitoring smart-home products, home robots, and smartwatches will also experience substantial growth this year.

Wi-Fi cameras and smart devices such as thermostats, smoke detectors, door locks, doorbells, and switches/dimmers are expected to reach 28.6 million units — 19% over 2018 — representing $4.5 billion in revenue (up 16%).

As consumers gravitate toward upscale smartwatches, revenue for the category is expected to jump 19% in 2019 to reach $5.4 billion, which translates into more sales of than 20 million units, a 7% increase over last year.

Robots that clean floors and cut the grass are leading the way in a category that’s expected to sell 3.6 million units in 2019 (up 12% over 2018) and reach $1.2 billion in revenue (up 19%).

"More than ever, consumers want premium technology experiences — especially within the smartphone, TV, laptop, smartwatch and wireless earbuds categories," said Steve Koenig, CTA’s vice president of market research. "The lightning-fast pace of tech means we can upgrade our 'everyday tech' and get extraordinary experiences. While this level of quality and efficiency means some replacement cycles are getting longer, technologies such as AI and 5G promise to usher in the next era of innovation, delighting consumers and driving our economy."

Though they are maturing, smartphones and televisions will continue to be major contributors to overall tech sales in the U.S. this year.

Following two years of record performance, TV sales will start to taper off in 2019 as LCD shipments decline, while upgrades from 4K, 8K, and OLED grow. Total sales are expected to reach 38.8 million units in 2019, up 1% over 2018, with revenue of $21.4 billion — 9% lower than 2018’s better-than-expected sales. Upgrades will be driven by big-screen models and 4K sets featuring high dynamic range (HDR) technology, which are projected to account for 17 million units (up 7% over 2018) and almost $15 billion in revenue (down 9%).

Looking ahead, inaugural shipments of 8K TVs are expected to reach $734 million in revenue this year on unit sales of 175,000, while sales of OLED TVs surpasses 1 million units, a 30% increase over 2018. The CTA is forecasting double-digit growth for the OLED category through 2023, but is quick to point out that multi-year projections are subject to unpredictable factors such as changes in trade laws, interest rates, and federal policy.

Smartphones will also experience declines for the first time, dropping 2% in both units and revenue, reaching 165.5 million units worth an estimated $77.5 billion. Meanwhile, the launch of the first 5G smartphones is seen as a silver lining with sales of 5G-enabled devices projected to hit 2.1 million units in 2019 for $1.9 billion in revenue.

Driven by growing demand for cloud-based and convertible models, laptops are projected to experience robust sales of 51 million units (up 2% over 2018), and earn $32 billion in revenue (up 3%).

The CTA says factory-installed, in-vehicle technology such as adaptive cruise control and blind-spot detection will see the largest revenue jump of any tech category in 2019, with a projected increase of more than $1 billion year-over-year for total revenue of $17.6 billion (8% over 2018).