By Philip Stoten, Forbes, Entrepreneur and SCOOP
This year’s CES could scarcely say more about where the world finds itself at the start of 2021. The event, regularly attended by close to 2,000 journalists and 200,000 industry executives and consumers, has gone virtual and today the first keynote, numerous press conferences and the CTA Trends to Watch presentation was viewed online rather than in person on the Las Vegas strip.
“The pandemic has pushed the fast-forward button on tech adoption – from our homes to our work to our doctor’s offices,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “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.”
So, what is that vision and what are the key sectors to watch?
First and foremost the CTA (Consumer Technology Association) is projecting the industry will grow again after a record 2020. They expect US Tech Industry revenue to jump 4.3% to $461 Billion in 2021 as Americans stay home and rely even more on technology to stay connected to their work, to entertainment and much more.
Keeping us entertained are software and streaming services that are projected to attract spending of $112 Billion in 2021, 11% growth over 2020, which in turn had 31% growth in 2019. For video, exclusive content and cord-cutting are driving multiple subscriptions per household to push spending to $41 billion in 2021, up 15% over last year. Music, audiobook and podcast listening, with services including Apple Music and Pandora are expected to reach $10 billion in revenue, up 19% over last year.
Staying home and playing games
US households are playing video games more than ever before, for entertainment or staying connected socially. CTA projects the video game software and services category will reach $47 billion in revenue this year, up 8% from 2020. The highly anticipated release of next-gen game consoles from Microsoft and Sony continue to drive sales as the supply chain catches up with consumer demand. Combined home and portable console shipments are expected to reach 18 million units in 2021, up 3%, generating $6 billion in revenue (up 16%).
Bigger TVs, smaller volumes
Households spent discretionary dollars upgrading TVs in a record-setting 2020. CTA expects steady demand for displays in 2021 as TVs remain the centerpiece for entertainment in homes. They expect television shipments to drop 8% to 43 million units in 2021, the second-highest volume on record, and revenues will decline just 1% to $22 billion.
Smartphones surge on 5G rollout
Meanwhile they predict smartphone shipments will increase 4% to 161 million units, earning $73 billion in revenue (up 5% over last year), following a year of slight declines. Over 67 million 5G smartphones are expected to ship in 2021 (298% growth over last year for the nascent category) generating $39 billion in revenue (a 218% jump), as consumer awareness of 5G grows and service is available in more locations across the country.
2020 was a record year for laptops (enterprise and consumer), with more families than ever working and learning from home. CTA expects laptop shipments to remain strong in 2021, reaching 69 million units (up 1% over last year) and earning $38 billion in revenue (down 2%).
We’re cutting the cord
For the first time ever in 2020, total wireless headphone and earbud shipments surpassed wired headphones and earbuds, with 91 million units expected to ship in 2021 (up 32%), representing $9.3 billion in revenue (up 16%).
With millions of Americans spending more time at home, safety and convenience upgrades are top of mind, driving DIY smart home products shipments to 99 million units in 2021 (up 9%), and $15 billion (up 3%). Category growth drivers include smart displays, smart doorbells and smart appliances.
Tech to stay healthy
As more people monitor potential COVID-19 symptoms and more manage chronic conditions from home using devices such as smart thermometers, pulse oximeters and blood pressure monitors. CTA predicts that shipments of connected health monitoring devices will grow to 14 million devices in 2021 (up 35%) and earn $845 million in revenue (up 34%). The entire health and fitness technology category, including smartwatches and fitness activity trackers, will increase 13% in 2021 to reach 69 million units and $9 billion in revenue (up 6%).
Mobility is changing
Included in CTA’s forecast for the first time, personal mobility options such as electric bikes are expected to see growth as people remain wary of public transportation during the pandemic. In 2021, electric bikes will reach 1.6 million units, up 60%, and $2.6 billion in revenue, up 44%.
“Tech demand in the first several months of 2021 will look a lot like the last few months of 2020,” said Rick Kowalski, director of industry analysis and business intelligence, CTA. “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.”