As CES2021 gets underway this week, it is not in Las Vegas. In fact, it is not anywhere in particular this year after more than a half-century of taking over the neon gaming mecca for four days of immersion in a veritable ocean of new-fangled stuff and portentoustechnology. This year it is online only and navigated through a tornado of tech talks and virtual kiosks. Still, there is news, analysis and plenty to talk about this year as the coronavirus continues to rage and a new administration prepares to take over and change some key commerce and trade policies.

For starters, retail sales revenue for the technology industry is expected to reach $461 billion in the U.S. this year, marking a 4.3 percent increase over last year – according to new surveys by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). As millions of Americans remain home and rely on tech to stay entertained, connected and healthy during the pandemic, streaming services, 5G connectivity and digital health devices will stand out in the tech sector in 2021.


“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, CTA’s president and CEO. “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. I look forward to seeing the global tech community come together this week to share its vision for a reimagined future.”

Top on that topic is entertainment.

Total spending on streaming services and software is projected to reach a record high of $112 billion in 2021 (11 percent growth over 2020). This follows 31 percent growth in 2020 over 2019.

  • Video: Exclusive content and cord-cutting are driving multiple subscriptions per household to push spending to $41 billion in 2021, up 15 percent over last year.

  • Audio: Music, audio book and podcast listening, with services including Apple Music and Pandora are expected to reach $10 billion in revenue, up 19 percent over last year.

  • Gaming: U.S. 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 percent from 2020.

  • Gaming Consoles: The highly anticipated release of next-gen game consoles from Microsoft and Sony will continue to drive sales, as the supply chain catches up with consumer demand.
Televisions: Households channeled discretionary dollars into upgrading TVs in a record-setting year for shipments in 2020. CTA expects steady demand for displays in 2021 as TVs remain the centerpiece for entertainment in homes. Growth areas for TVs in 2021 include sets over 70-inches (3.3 million units, up 6 percent) and 8K Ultra High-Definition TVs (1.7 million units, up 300 percent).

Centered on Connections 

Smartphones: Shipments will increase 4 percent to 161 million units, earning $73 billion in revenue (up 5 percent over last year), following a year of slight declines. Over 67 million 5G smartphones are expected to ship in 2021 (298 percent growth over last year for this nascent category) and generate $39 billion in revenue (a 218 percent jump), as consumer awareness of 5G grows and service is available in more locations across the country.

Laptops: 2020 was a record year for laptops (enterprise and consumer), with more families than ever working and learning from home. CTA expects laptop shipments will remain strong in 2021.

Wireless Audio: For the first time ever in 2020, total wireless headphone and earbud shipments surpassed wired headphones and earbuds. True wireless earbuds, including Apple AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds, are driving growth (up 32 percent), representing $9.3 billion in revenue.

DIY Smart Home Products: 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 percent). Category growth drivers include smart displays, smart doorbells and smart appliances.

On Health Tech

Connected Health: 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, shipments of connected health monitoring devices will grow to 14 million devices in 2021 (up 35 percent) and earn $845 million in revenue (up 34 percent). The entire health and fitness technology category, including smartwatches and fitness activity trackers, will increase 13 percent in 2021.

Electric Bikes: Included in CTA’s forecast for the first time, personal mobility options such as electric bikes will see growth as people remain wary of public transportation during the pandemic. In 2021, electric bikes will reach 1.6 million units, up 60 percent, and $2.6 billion in revenue, up 44 percent.

“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,” said Rick Kowalski, director of industry analysis and business intelligence, CTA. “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.”

However, these forecasts and projections cannot account for unpredictable factors, such as pandemics or changes in trade laws, interest rates and federal policy.