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A very techy Christmas: 50 million new phones and tablets activated

Christmas week saw a record 50 million iOS and Android devices activated, and more than 1.7 billion apps downloaded, according to analytics firm Flurry. On Christmas Day alone 17.4 million new devices were unwrapped.

By Contributor / January 2, 2013

Smart phones and tablets were activated in record numbers during the holiday week, and the iOS App Store and Google Play had more downloads than ever before. Here, customers examine the Apple iPad tablet at an Apple Store in Paris.

Charles Platiau/Reuters/File

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For devicemakers and app developers alike, it was a good holiday season -- to say nothing of the record numbers of happy people who found a new smart phone or tablet under the tree.

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Jeff began writing for the Monitor's Horizons blog in 2011, covering product news and rumors, innovations from companies like Apple and Google, and developments in tech policy.

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Seventeen million new iOS and Android devices were activated on Christmas Day alone in 2012, “more than any other day in history,” according to mobile analytics firm Flurry. Over the following week, the number of new devices activated rose to 50 million.

And what would new hardware be without some apps to go with it? The same week saw record-breaking app downloads: 1.76 billion from the iOS App Store and Google Play, up 65 percent from the weekly average from earlier in December. The US accounted for 604 million of these downloads, and China took second place with 183 million -- tempered by the fact that most of China’s population doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

Flurry’s numbers don’t include devices running other platforms such as Windows Phone, nor are they a complete record of all phones and tablets. But the firm says it can detect more than 90 percent of the devices activated each day, and its figures are considered pretty accurate. And its conclusion is clear: the last week of the year was the biggest in history for iOS and Android devices and apps.

Flurry also says these kinds of numbers have staying power. The firm estimates that we’ll see more than a billion apps downloaded each week during 2013, and that that number will rise to 2 billion by the summer or early fall. Given what we already know about the growth of smart phones and tablets, these numbers aren’t totally surprising -- but they do emphasize just how briskly app markets are growing. During the 2011 holiday week, Flurry reported only 1.2 billion apps downloaded, and a comparatively paltry 6.8 million devices activated on Christmas Day.

Interestingly, Flurry also noted that slightly more tablets were activated than smart phones on Christmas Day (51 percent to 49 percent). There are usually about four smart phones activated for every tablet, but December 25th was a big day for bigger screens -- probably because people wanted to save those comparatively higher-end devices for the holiday. The iPad and iPad Mini had an especially strong showing, as did the Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet.

Did you get a new smart phone or tablet this holiday season? Do you think the trend of app downloads and device activations will continue? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more tech news, follow Jeff on Twitter@jeffwardbailey.

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