nexus7 tabletTablet penetration among online U.S. consumers reached 40% as of December 2013, a year-over-year increase of 6%. Nearly 3 in 4 (70%) of online consumers intend to buy tablets sometime in the near future, in line with purchase intent figures reported in 3Q 2013, according to the Consumer Electronics Association’s latest semi-annual report.

When it comes to tablets, screen size is an important factor both in terms of portability and viewing content, with consumer preference shifting toward smaller screens, according to CEA’s January 2014 “Consumer Outlook on Tablets: Adoption, Sentiment and Social Media Conversation.”

Smaller screens of 7-8 inches have grown in popularity, now accounting for 32% of tablet ownership as of last December as compared to 25% in June 2013. Ownership of medium-size screen tablets of 8.9-10.1 inches dropped from 73% as of last June to 68% as of December.

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CEA found that consumers are using a variety of mobile apps on their tablets, with games continuing to be the most popular category. Two-thirds (66%) use gaming apps. Weather apps ranked second at 58%, followed by social networking apps (51%).

Among about 1/3 (35%) who purchased apps within the past month, 58% spent over $5 on them. Tablet owners’ monthly app spend averaged $8.89, with CEA predicting that tablet owners could spend a total $256 million monthly on mobile apps.

“Tablets had a strong 2013 holiday season, particularly on Black Friday, but are showing the beginning signs of market saturation,” CEA senior research analyst Kevin Tillmann was quoted in a press release.

“Striking the right chord with consumers’ tablet expectations following the holiday season will be imperative to improving sales, despite slowing penetration during the past year. Consumers are looking for competitive pricing and simplicity, now that several manufacturers are in the mix.”

CEA expects tablet unit sales will continue to rise steadily in 2014, though revenue growth has slowed, according to CEA’s January 2014 “Consumer Electronics Sales and Forecast.” Tablet unit sales will reach 89.3 million this year, up from 77.4 million in 2013, with revenues reaching $27.3 billion, a projected 3% year-over-year increase.

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