CTA Forecasts Emerging Trends, Including 4K, Smart Home and VR

CTA Report: Shipments of 4K displays will double; smart-home devices will jump 29% in units sold; and the really young category of virtual reality (VR) will quintuple.


Emerging technologies including 4K Ultra HD and the Internet of Things (IoT), will drive the U.S. consumer technology industry to $286.6 billion in retail revenues in 2016 ($224 billion wholesale), according to new research by the Consumer Technology Association. A new report says these emerging categories will boost consumer-technology revenues 1.3 percent over last year.

CTA Report: Shipments of 4K displays will double; smart-home devices will jump 29% in units sold; and the really young category of virtual reality (VR) will quintuple.

According to the CTA report, U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts:

  • 4K Ultra High-Definition (4K UHD) ecosystem: 2016 will be a flagship year for 4K UHD TVs, driven in part by the market introduction of next-generation technologies like HDR. CTA expects shipments of 4K UHD displays will reach 15 million units (a 105 percent increase), and revenue will exceed $12.9 billion (a 69 percent increase). New to the market in 2016, 4K UHD Blu-ray players will further build the 4K UHD ecosystem with 700,000 units sold and $63 million in revenue.
  • Wearables:  Driven by the popularity of fitness activity trackers, unit sales of all wearables in 2016 are forecast to reach almost 48 million units (a 39 percent increase). Fitness activity tracker volumes will hit 28 million units in 2016 – a 60 percent increase from 2015 – with revenues reaching $2.2 billion – a 62 percent increase. After a year of strong growth, smartwatch unit growth is slowing, while revenue will decline for the first time. Units are expected to increase 15 percent to 12.2 million units, earning $2.8 billion in revenue, a decline of eight percent.
  • Smart Home:  CTA projects the smart home category – including smart thermostats, smart smoke and CO2 detectors, IP/Wi-Fi cameras, smart locks, smart home systems, and smart switches, dimmers and outlets – to reach 9.5 million units sold (29 percent increase). Revenue will grow to $1.3 billion (24 percent jump).
  • Drones: Drone sales are expected to reach record heights, topping 2.4 million units (up 112 percent from 2015) and $799 million in shipment revenues (an 80 percent increase from 2015). CTA's forecast also delineates expected U.S. drone sales for units below and above 250 grams, the FAA's threshold for mandatory drone registration, expected to reach 1.6 million units (below 250 grams) and 825,000 units (above 250 grams).
  • Virtual Reality (VR): With several global tech leaders introducing VR headsets to the consumer market in 2016, CTA expects this to be the tech sector's overwhelming leader in year-to-year growth. Unit sales will increase by 296 percent over last year, reaching 800,000 units sold. Total revenues are projected to reach $432 million, a 332 percent increase this year.
  • Digital Assistant Devices: This is the first year the semi-annual CTA report has included projections for voice-activated device that provides a cloud-based artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant, such as Amazon's Echo. Sales are projected to reach 2.2 million units (up 32 percent) in 2016 and earn $392 million in revenue (increasing 32 percent).
  • 3D Printing: Ever-expanding 3D printing capabilities will drive the sector's unit sales growth to increase 56 percent from last year, to reach 171,000 units sold. Total revenues will reach $148 million, a 35 percent increase.

The Old Faithfuls

Meanwhile, the five largest categories of the tech industry, including smartphones, tablets, LCD televisions, laptops and desktop computers, will collectively contribute $114 billion – or 51 percent – to the tech industry's revenue this year, and smartphones and TVs will be responsible for most of that growth in 2016. However, in 2017, for the first time in several years, these five categories combined will account for a little less than half of industry revenue.

  • Smartphones:  CTA projects unit shipments to reach 183 million in 2016 (up five percent), while revenues will reach $55 billion (a four percent increase). As tremendous innovations in smartphone hardware over the past few years have lengthened the replacement cycle, 2017 will be the first year smartphones see a slight decline in unit sales and revenue.
  • Televisions: The TV market will remain on par with 2015, with unit sales estimated to reach 39.7 million units in 2016 (down one percent) and revenues expected to reach $20 billion (a three percent increase). LCD TVs, the category leader, will contribute 38.8 million units (a one percent decline) and $19.2 billion (two percent growth). Key areas of growth are large screen sizes, 4K UHD and smart TV displays.
  • Tablets: After momentous growth and widespread adoption over the past five years, tablet sales will decline again in 2016. CTA expects sales of 65 million units in 2016, a two percent decrease, and revenues of $19 billion, down five percent.
  • Laptops:  Unit shipments of laptops are expected to reach 25 million units in 2016, a six percent decrease. Revenues are expected to reach $15.8 billion, an eight percent drop.
  • Desktops: Amid an accelerated decline, desktops are projected to sell seven million units (13 percent decrease), earning $4.6 billion (a 15 percent decrease).