Artificial intelligence (AI), voice-recognition technology, and fast connectivity – critical ingredients for smart speakers, smart home technologies, and smartphones – will help spur overall U.S. consumer technology industry revenue to USD $377 billion in retail revenues in 2018, a 6six percent increase, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). The mid-year update of CTA’s flagship report,  U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts, also shows whole home Wi-Fi solutions, wireless earbuds, and augmented/virtual reality headsets will each cross the USD $1 billion wholesale revenue milestone for the first time this year.

“Innovations in AI, voice and connectivity are making tech devices more helpful and versatile, and changing our lives for the better,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “And thanks in part to economic factors including tax reform and high employment driving our economy forward, even more consumers are bringing these remarkable tech innovations into their lives. Although tariffs and the trade war threaten to unravel the strong economic momentum driving tech adoption and sales, the current state of the industry is exciting and healthy going into the second half of the year.”

The CTA forecast 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 technology industry, charting the size and growth of underlying product categories.

Emerging Categories

Key categories projected to contribute significantly to overall unit and revenue growth include:

• Smart Sspeakers.:  Voice-controlled smart speakers, including Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, are experiencing a meteoric rise not seen since tablets. CTA expects the category to sell 39.2 million units (44 percent growth over 2017) and reach USD $3.2 billion in revenue (64 percent growth) after only three years on the market.

• Smart Hhome.:  Riding the wave of voice technology popularity, smart home devices continue to get smarter and more versatile. CTA expects smart home device 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 – will reach 41.2 million units in 2018 (43 percent increase over 2017), earning USD $4.6 billion (36 percent increase).  

• Whole Hhome Wi-Fi Ssolutions.: Also known as mesh networks, devices such as the eero Home Wi-Fi system, Google Wi-Fi, or Netgear Orbi, are experiencing substantial growth due to their simple home network set-up and ability to provide strong internet coverage throughout the home. These devices will cross the USD $1 billion revenue milestone for the first time in 2018 (103 percent increase) and sell 4.3 million units (115 percent increase).

• Drones.: Total drone sales are expected to reach 3.4 million units (8eight percent increase) and just over USD $1 billion in revenue (4four percent growth) in 2018, as more consumers and businesses adopt drones for photography, recreation, drone racing, and more.

• Wearables.:  The total health and fitness market – including fitness activity trackers, other health and fitness devices,  smartwatches, personal sound amplification products, and sports tech (such as a smart baseball bats or basketballs) – will reach sales of 46.1 million units in 2018 (nine 9 percent increase) and earn USD $6.4 billion (ten 10 percent increase).

As some companies turn their focus from fitness trackers to smartwatches, this sub-category is expected to sell 15.3 million units shipping in 2018, a 26 percent increase over 2017, with revenues of USD $3.7 billion, a 19 percent increase.

“The new Internet of Things is the ‘Intelligence of Things’,” said Steve Koenig, vice president of market research, CTA. “Connected products tap AI to enhance services, especially in categories including smartphones, connected cars and smart home devices. And with 5G on our doorstep – the first 5G products will hit the market this year – we’re crossing into a new phase of faster and smarter connected devices.”

Top 3 Three Revenue Drivers – The Three Screens

The top three revenue drivers of the industry showing continued strength:

• Smartphones.: After the introduction of premium, flagship models from major manufacturers, smartphones performed better than expected in 2017 as consumers showed more interest in high-end models. In recognition of rising average wholesale prices, CTA upwardly adjusted 2017 and 2018 smartphone revenue to USD $69 billion and USD $78 billion respectively, reflecting a 13 percent revenue increase in 2018. Unit shipments are expected to grow one 1 percent to 169.4 million in 2018.

2019 will mark the introduction of the first smartphones with 5G connectivity on the market. CTA expects 2019 U.S. sales will reach 2.1 million units and cross USD $1 billion in revenue, with triple digit increases through 2021.

• Laptops/Notebook PCs.:  Convertible models and cloud-based laptops remain a high-growth area within computing. Unit sales for laptops are projected to sell 50.1 million units (three 3 percent growth) and earn USD $28.4 billion in revenue (relatively unchanged from 2017).  

• Televisions.:  Total digital displays demonstrated strong performance in 2017 and as a result, consumer demand in early 2018 slowed. CTA now projects total unit sales of digital displays will reach 40.4 million units (six 6 percent decrease from 2017), while higher average wholesale prices hold total revenue at USD $21 billion, on par with 2017. Future category growth will be driven by  Next Gen  screen technology.

Showing strong growth, 4K Ultra High-Definition (4K UHD) TVs are forecast to sell 18.6 million units (11 percent increase) and generate USD $14.3 billion in revenue (7seven percent increase). OLED unit sales are expected to reach 772,000 (45 percent increase) and earn USD $1.4 billion in revenue (42 percent growth) this year –- and in 2019, OLED display revenue will rise 50 percent to cross the USD $2 billion mark.

• Factory installed automotive technology:. Shedding light on the self-driving car of the future, factory-installed auto tech, including driver-assist features, is projected to contribute USD $15.7 billion in revenue (six 6 percent increase).

• Streaming services rise.: Consumer expenditures on subscription music and video streaming services are projected to reach USD $19.7 billion in revenue in 2018 (38 percent higher than last year). Spending on video streaming content (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, and Sling TV) is expected to reach USD $13.4 billion in revenue, and on-demand audio content (e.g., Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music) is projected to bring in USD $6.3 billion in revenue in 2018.

“We are undergoing a huge shift in how people consume content,” said Rick Kowalski, senior manager of market research and business intelligence, CTA. “Video streaming services are offering an increasing amount of exclusive content, and live TV streaming options are becoming widely available this year – and that has more consumers exploring their over-the-top video options. Music streaming services continue to gain subscribers at a furious pace, luring regularly paying music listeners with attractive introductory offers and benefits such as ad-free listening. This remarkable growth in streaming services shows us that the phrase ‘content is king’ is more relevant than ever.” 

CTA publishes the  U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts  twice a year, in January and July, reporting U.S. factory sales-to-dealers. It was designed and formulated by CTA, the most comprehensive source of sales data, forecasts, consumer research, and historical trends for the consumer technology industry. Multi-year projections cannot account for unpredictable factors such as changes in tariffs, trade laws, interest rates, and federal policy.  For more information, visit CTA.tech/salesandforecasts.-BCS Bureau