Critical Mass for Consumer Electronics

Gadget overload: American consumers have slowed down their purchases of the latest electronic gadget.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Thirty years ago, the average American owned 1.3 electronic devices -- one TV, and a third of a radio.

    In 2008, that number jumped to 24 devices: cell phones, iPods, computers, digital cake batter mixers, and the like. In 2011, with the iPad, Kindle and competitors, Android phones, and even more technological treasures for the trove, the number is -- still 24, according to the San Jose Mercury News tech reporter Chris O'Brien, crunching numbers provided by the uber-geeks at the Consumer Electronics Show.

    This is a "gadget plateau," in which the consumer of consumer goods can consume no more. This means that companies, rather than creating more and more different gadgets and whizbangs for people to purchase, must improve on what's already out there, and ensure that different extant devices are compatible with one another, according to the newspaper.

    The slowing down or even decline of consumers' electronics purchases was inevitable, according to some industry experts: for decades, households have been transitioning to digital, replacing film cameras with digital cameras, CD players with iPods, and suchlike. But after a certain point, there are no more goods to replace or acquire. And some devices like a smartphone actually replaced multiple electronic goods: who needs a PDA, an MP3 player and a camera when the iPhone does all three -- and occasionally makes calls?

    However, device spending is still robuts: the "average" American household spends over $1,100 a year on electronic gadgets, according to data compiled by the Consumer Electronics Association.