apps2_commons_Sean MacEnteeIn a new report, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) forecasts app usage will continue to increase through 2014, as U.S. households download a greater number of apps to smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, among other devices.

Each app-enabled device category evaluated by CEA in its “16th Annual CE Ownership and Market Potential Study” registered year-over-year growth in the first part of 2014. Gaining at least six percentage points in app-ownership over 2013, smartphones, tablets and smart TVs were the fastest growing device categories, according to a CEA news release

There were over 1 million apps on both Apple and Google Android’s app markets at the beginning of 2014. Messaging and social media apps grew fastest year over year in terms of usage, gaining 203 percent going into this year, according to a report from Flurry Analytics. Also surging higher, productivity app usage rose 149 percent and music, media and entertainment app usage grew 78 percent.

Generally speaking, app users are interested in apps that have compatibility across a range of devices (61 percent), and a high level of functionality, such as the ability to control other devices (52 percent), CEA found.

Two-thirds (67 percent) said they enjoy using apps, 59 percent said the number of apps available is overwhelming. Less than half (46 percent) of respondents agreed that apps “remove the need to purchase separate electronic devices.”

“There are several positive dynamics currently at play in the mobile device app market,” CEA senior manager for strategic research Jessica Boothe commented. “While the advent of apps has negatively impacted some hardware markets, price and technical characteristics remain the primary purchase drivers of consumer choices among app-enabled devices, while the apps themselves still play an ancillary role.”

Technical hardware specifications such as screen size, memory capacity and operating system are among the most important factors when prospective buyers evaluate an app-enabled electronic device, CEA also found. So too are market characteristics such as brand and price. “The quality and variety of apps available for download are also important to consumers,” according to CEA.

As much as they like using them, consumers don’t like to pay for apps. Just one-third (32 percent) of those surveyed said they are willing to pay for apps. Nearly half (48 percent) of app users didn’t spend any money on apps in the 12 months prior to the survey, while 52 percent spent some. The average amount spent on apps in the past year averaged $39.40 per user, according to CEA.

Looking to find out what additional functionality consumers are looking for in apps, CEA found that home management (55 percent), vehicle-health monitoring (49 percent), personal health management (48 percent), monitoring aged or ill family members (43 percent), improving sports performance (41 percent), and making payments at retail stores (38 percent) were the most-often cited.

Choice and information overload isn’t only an issue when it comes to apps. New market research from Nielsen shows the same thing is happening regarding viewers’ choice of TV channels.

Image courtesy of flickr user Sean MacEntee.

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