`Unprecedented’ Consumer Demand Will Fuel Record 2021 Tech Revenue

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ARLINGTON, Va.—Retail sales revenue for the tech industry in the U.S. will reach a record-breaking $487 billion in 2021, a 7.5% pop from 2020, thanks to “unprecedented consumer demand,” according to a new report by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

The report also predicts that NextGen TVs that are capable of receiving ATSC 3.0 broadcasts will see shipments increase nearly sixfold to 2.1 million units. That will produce retail revenue of $3.9 billion, up 425%. 

This year will also be another record breaking year for streaming video, which will grow by 15% to $43 billion in 2021. 

“The pandemic strengthened consumers’ relationship with technology forever,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “From working to learning, staying connected with loved ones and taking care of our health, tech played a crucial role in improving our lives. Tech has proved time and again that innovation makes our country resilient in the face of crises. Even though the U.S. still deals with supply chain shortages, labor gaps, vaccination rollouts and looming inflation, tech will help us keep pushing forward.” 

The report finds that overall TV shipments will hit 45 million units, lower than 2020’s record volume of more than 47 million, but revenue will increase by 5% ($24 billion). 

More than three-quarters of TVs shipped this year will be 4K UHD. 

With a majority of content consumption still happening indoors, consumer enthusiasm for large screen TVs is growing, the report noted. LCD TVs with screen sizes 70-inches and up will reach 4.3 million in shipments, earning $4.4 billion, and 8K Ultra HD sets, which will see shipments climb to 2.6 million units in 2021, are expected to earn $5.7 billion (a 371% increase).

Following a record year for gaming services in 2020 – a 25% increase in revenue – 2021 will see a slight decline to $48 billion, down 2% over last year. 

After racking up more than $5 billion in revenue in 2020, gaming consoles will see continued growth in 2021 as combined home and portable console shipments reach 19 million units (up 6%), accounting for $6 billion in revenue (up 18%). 

In terms of mobile, 5G smartphones will see exponential growth, with more than 106 million 5G smartphones are expected to ship in 2021 (a 530% jump from 2020), generating $61 billion in revenue (a 404% increase). Overall shipments of smartphones will increase 10% to 154 million units, earning $73 billion in revenue, up 15%. 

With many Americans still working from home, CTA expects the record year-over-year growth trend of 2020 to continue in 2021. Shipments for laptops will reach 76 million units (up 9%), earning $45 billion in revenue (up 11%). 

The report also predicts that Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) hardware will return to growth in 2021 following a pause in 2020 caused by widespread disruption to the global supply chains. VR shipments will reach 2.7 million units (up 30%). Total revenues for the VR and AR hardware shipments will cross more than a billion dollars (a 34% increase).

Wireless earphones such as Apple Airpods and Samsung Galaxy Buds continue to see strong growth in 2021, with 88 million units expected to ship, a 27% jump from last year, representing $8.7 billion in revenue (8% increase).

With growing demand for smart speakers and home robots, CTA projects that more than 100 million smart home devices will ship in 2021 (up 11%), while holding flat on revenue, with $15 billion.

As music, audio books and podcast listening continues to gain momentum, CTA predicts earnings will reach $10 billion (up 18%).

CTA's twice-yearly “U.S. Consumer Technology One-Year Industry Forecast” reflects U.S. manufacturer shipments for more than 100 consumer tech products and related software and services. 

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.