During the virtual International CES this week, the Consumer Technology Association announced its annual forecast for the consumer electronics industry. CTA says that the industry—defined as “retail sales revenue for the technology industry”—will reach $461 billion in the U.S. in 2021. That would represent a 4.3 percent increase over 2020, which was a record year.
CTA, which is both the producer of CES and an advocacy organization on behalf of the industry, releases such a forecast twice a year.
The organization also made forecasts about trends related to specific product categories.
Total spending on streaming services and software is expected to reach $112 billion in 2021, which would represent 11 percent growth and also be a new record; that category had surged 31 percent in 2020.
In terms of video, spending is seen rising 15 percent to $41 billion, while audio spending is forecast to go up 19 percent to $10 billion. As for gaming, the category, including software and hardware, is expected to rise 8 percent this year to $47 billion. As for consoles, console shipments are expected to go up 3 percent, to 18 million units and $6 billion in revenue.
As for TVs, CTA sees shipments dropping in 2021, to 43 million units, although that would still represent the second-largest volume on record, although growth is seen in such categories as over-70 inches and 8K.
For smartphones, shipments are expected to rise 4 percent to 161 million units and $73 billion in revenue, after revenues declined in 2020. CTA also predicted that more than 67 million 5G smartphones will ship in 2021. And after laptops had a record year due to the pandemic, shipments are expected to gain 1 percent, reaching 69 million units and $38 billion in revenue.
CTA also said that wireless headphone and earbud shipments surpassed those of wired headphones for the first time in 2020, with wireless earbuds expected to grow even more in 2021. That category is expected to expand to 91 million units in 2021, a 32 percent increase.
“The pandemic has pushed the fast-forward button on tech adoption—from our homes to our work to our doctor’s offices,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA, said as part of the release.
“While the road to a full economic recovery is long and intertwined with a complex vaccine rollout, the tech industry’s ability to meet the moment during this crisis has been critical. As we kick off a new year with an all-digital CES 2021, I look forward to seeing the global tech community come together to share its vision for a reimagined future.”
“Tech demand in the first several months of 2021 will look a lot like the last few months of 2020,” Rick Kowalski, director of industry analysis and business intelligence for CTA, said in the release.
“Streaming services, 5G connectivity and digital health devices will push consumer tech forward in the year ahead as innovative technologies prove their resilience during challenging times. The industry’s ability to meet societal needs in a variety of circumstances will bring growth in 2021 as the world emerges from the pandemic.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.