Consumer Electronics Market Shifts as Media Habits Change

Five percent of U.S. consumers now own a smartwatch, and 6 percent of households plan to buy one over the next year, according to the CEA's survey.

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Smartphones are now the third most-owned consumer electronics product in the country, trailing only televisions and DVD/Blu-ray players, indicating that a major shift in the consumer electronics products owned by U.S. households is under way, according to a survey by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

Smartphones are now owned in 72 percent of U.S. households—an 8 percentage point jump in the last year—trailing only televisions (97 percent) and DVD/Blu-ray players (78 percent).

Tablets, now owned by more than half of American households, saw the largest increase in ownership growth over last year, jumping 9 percentage points to reach 54 percent ownership, and for the first time joining the list of top 10 most-owned tech products.

In addition to tablets and smartphones, the fastest-growing consumer electronics products in household penetration came from wearable fitness trackers, digital media streaming devices such as Apple TV or Roku (increasing 5 percentage points to 29 percent ownership) and in-vehicle communication devices such as navigation, backup cameras and hands-free calling (increasing 4 percentage points to 34 percent ownership).

Wearable activity fitness trackers saw substantial growth in ownership, increasing to 11 percent of households in 2015, more than double the number of households that owned the technology last year.

In addition, 5 percent of U.S. consumers now own a smartwatch, and 6 percent of households plan to buy one over the next year.

"The Apple Watch has done much to attract the attention and enthusiasm of consumers pertaining to smartwatches, but one brand does not make a market," Samantha Powers, senior manager of market research for the CEA, told eWEEK. "Smartwatches remain a nascent market in opportunity and use cases. Time will tell if Apple Watch—and other smartwatches—can pave the way for the technology to evolve beyond niche status."

Smart home devices, such as smart thermostats, lighting controls, motion sensors and other devices, are now in 12 percent of households.

Experiencing the second largest gain in household penetration were laptops, reaching two-thirds of households (67 percent). Headphones also saw a large gain in ownership (59 percent, up 5 percentage points), moving up one spot to seventh on the list of most-owned consumer electronics devices

Basic cell phones saw the largest decrease of any consumer electronics product—dropping under 50 percent household penetration and out of the top 10 most-owned consumer electronics product list for the first time.

This year, traditional content (79 percent) remained stagnant over a four-year average while digital content (63 percent) increased by 10 percentage points from 2014.

The report projects that ownership of digital content will catch up with traditional content by 2018, and noted the growth in digital content consumption is heavily influenced by the adoption of streaming video services, such as Netflix and Amazon, which saw a 6 percent increase in subscriptions this year, to reach 40 percent.

"We're likely to see the number of discrete devices owned by U.S. households decline over the next several years as smartphones strengthen their role as a core device using apps to empower increasing utility," Powers said. "Expect ownership of purpose-built devices like GPS units and MP3 players to steadily drop. Ownership density mobile devices, such as tablets, will likely increase as affordable solutions make it possible to dedicate tablets to specific areas of the home."