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Smart phones, tablets to heat up consumer electronics sales in second half of 2010

August 17, 2010 |  4:55 pm

Jim Barry CEA

Sales of smart phones, tablets, Blu-ray disc players, digital book readers and, to some extent, 3-D televisions are expected to take off this year, helping to offset declines elsewhere in the consumer electronics industry, according to the Consumer Electronics Assn.

As students begin to gear up for school and everyone else starts drawing up their holiday wish lists, CEA is betting that certain devices will more than make up for shortfalls in MP3 players, digital cameras and car stereos.

After projecting anemic sales growth of just 0.3% for 2010 in January, CEA economists last month revised their estimates and predicted a rosy 3% growth to $175 billion in U.S. wholesale revenue.

"Our projections for the second half of the year are now pretty bullish," said Jim Barry, who sat down with us on Tuesday to show us examples of devices that are expected to take off this year. "What's driving it? In short, new stuff."

U.S. consumers are expected to buy 30% more smart phones this year than they did last year.

Tablet computers such as Apple's iPad and Dell's Streak also are expected to sell well, Barry said. So well, in fact, that tablets are projected to outsell netbooks in 2011. And by 2013, they're expected to represent 1 out of every 5 computers sold.

Together, mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets will unseat TV sets as the No. 1 consumer electronics category this year, Barry said, highlighting the importance of on-the-go media consumption.

TV sets have long been the top purchase for consumers. But with cutthroat price competition and shoppers going for smaller screens, revenue from that category are expected to be eclipsed by mobile gadgets. Cushioning the fall is the onslaught of 3-D TVs coming in the fall. CEA expects shoppers to snap up 2.1 million 3-D TVs out of 30 million sets sold this year, Barry said.

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Consumer Electronics Assn. spokesman Jim Barry with examples of gadgets that are expected to sell well this year, including, from left, Lenovo's IdeaPad netbook, Samsung's Captivate smart phone and the enTourage digital book reader. Credit: Alex Pham / Los Angeles Times.