The burgeoning popularity of streaming services, emerging artificial intelligence-enabled devices and in-vehicle technology are driving the U.S. consumer technology industry to a record-breaking $401 billion in retail revenues in 2019. That adds up to +2.2% growth year-over-year, according to a new report from the Consumer Technology Association.
“Enthusiasm for AI-powered technologies is skyrocketing,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “More consumers are discovering how tech innovation can change their daily lives for the better.” Add to that the coming of 5G “delivering the faster connectivity we’ll need for anytime/anywhere streaming, smarter home robotics and more advanced vehicles,” which will further excite consumers. One caveat, he adds: “President Trump’s continual tariff threats, amounting to “taxes paid by American consumers and businesses, threaten to slow down our nation’s economic momentum.”
The midyear edition of CTA’s biannual U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts report reflects U.S. factory sales-to-dealers for 300+ consumer tech products and related software and services.
Among notable trends are smart speakers and increased voice integration in other devices such as TVs, soundbars and smart home devices. CTA believes sales will level off in 2019, although it remains a “category to watch,” with an expected 35.2 million units sold (+1% increase over last year) and $3 billion in revenue (-1%) this year.
Looking at wireless earbuds, CTA points to Apple AirPods and Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro as the leading devices, expected to sell nearly 16 million units in 2019 (+45%) and approach $2 billion in revenue (+46%). CTA projects double-digit growth for the category over the next few years, as consumers pick premium audio experiences featuring true wireless technology.
Home safety and monitoring products are driving growth in the smart home category. CTA expects smart home sales – including Wi-Fi cameras, smart thermostats, smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, smart locks and doorbells, and smart switches, dimmers and outlets – to reach 28.6 million units (+19%) and $4.5 billion (+16%).
“More than ever, consumers want premium technology experiences – especially within the smartphone, TV, laptop, smartwatch and wireless earbuds categories,” offers Steve Koenig, VP of market research, CTA. “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.”
Looking ahead, 2019 marks the launch of the first 5G smartphones. This year, CTA expects the 5G-enabled devices to reach 2.1 million units sold and generate $1.9 billion in revenue. Driven by growing demand for cloud-based and convertible models, the U.S. laptop market will sell 51 million units, up 2% over 2018, and earn $32 billion in revenue (+3%). And after two years of record revenue and unit sales for the TV category, sales will begin to taper off in 2019, as LCD shipments decline and upgrades from 4K Ultra High-Definition (4K UHD), 8K UHD and OLED sets grow.
The hot category of factory-installed in-vehicle technology, will see the largest revenue increase of any tech category in 2019, CTA predicts – increasing $1 billion dollars year-over-year to reach $17.6 billion (+8% over 2018). Advanced driver-assist safety features such as blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and collision avoidance systems are driving sales of both factory-installed and aftermarket vehicle technology.
Meanwhile, on-demand music services, including Apple Music, Pandora and Spotify, will cross $8 billion in revenue, up 33% as increased adoption of products such as wireless earbuds and smart speakers drive more music subscriptions.