Go out anywhere and you'll see folks immersed in their gadgets, under their headphones, texting a friend, and buying up the newest electronic cool stuff. "Sales this year overall in consumer electronics is going to be over, for the first time, $200 billion," says Jim Barry of the Consumer Electronics Association. He says sales of electronics will grow by six percent this year, passing the $200 billion mark for the first time as devices become more affordable and more ingrained in our everyday lives. "Every year, more and more people are finding more and more things to do with them. If you think about smartphones or tablets, they're adding apps," he says.
The CEA released its annual survey of the hottest gifts for the holidays and guess what people want most. "When you ask people, 'What do you want for the holidays this year?' not just in consumer electronics, 'What do you want for the holidays this year?' Tablets are at the top of the list," Barry says. Tablet computers ranked highest with a lot of choices. The iPad is still a favorite, but prices start at $499. It's the same for the new Microsoft Surface. Cheaper options are Google's Nexus 10 starting at $399. Kindle Fire and Nook tablets start at just $159 and the new iPad Mini is not that much cheaper than the big one, but still cheaper at $329.
Smartphones are also popular as more folks want phones to do everything from shopping to playing movies. "You can do your email. You can take pictures. They really have become an electronic Swiss Army knife that you can do a lot of things and oh by the way, you can still make a phone call," Barry says adding that consumers are torn about size. Many want bigger smartphones. Others want smaller tablets. Others want a blending of the two. "This is the Galaxy Note, which is the biggest phone or the smallest tablet. Some call it a fablet," he says.
TVs are still a holiday favorite and prices are falling. A jumbo screen TV that might have cost $5,000 a decade ago starts at around $500 today. E-readers are cheaper too. Kindles cost around $300 when they first came out and now they're around $60. "This is one of the few categories in any consumer product where the stuff gets better and the price gets lower," Barry says. However, the survey found people do want more than gadgets for the holidays. Here's what ranked just below the tablet computer. "Money is second, and peace and happiness is third. So, people are pretty settled. They're pretty comfortable. They're happy, but they want that tablet," Barry says laughingly.
So, what ranked after money and happiness? Shoppers want smartphones next, then lightweight PC notebooks, cell phones, and flat screen TVs. But above all, tablets appear to be everyone's favorite.