Smartphones and tablets were the electronics gift of choice this holiday season, with plenty of apps to go along with them, Flurry Analytics said in a report this week.

Flurry, with offices in New York, San Francisco, London and Mumbai, uses a free application available to companies to measure how smart devices are being used and when. Measuring only devices powered by Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems, Flurry found that the number of new activations soared from 4 million in the weeks before Christmas to a jaw-dropping 17.4 million on Dec. 25, a 332 percent spike.

And once those iPads, iPhones, Kindle Fires and Galaxy Tabs were unwrapped, users wasted no time hitting Apple's App Store or Google 's Play Store for games, maps, social network portals and other applications to make them more fun and handy.

It's Raining Apps, Hallelujah

App downloads spiked to around 20 million from 10 a.m. to the late evening, trailing off from 9 p.m. to more usual levels. The average for the 20 days before Christmas peaked at just over 10 million between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., according to Flurry's data Relevant Products/Services.

And those users are just getting warmed up. Flurry expects downloads of must-have apps heading into New Year's Day to surpass 1.5 billion. Breaking the 2 billion download total for the season would be a record, Flurry said.

The new activations were about evenly split between 3G or 4G LTE equipped, data contract-bearing tablets and smartphones, with a slight edge, 51 percent to 49 percent, for tablets on Christmas Day, suggesting tablets are a popular gift item, because they were only 20 percent of activations in the previous 20 days. Flurry said the typical ratio has smartphones outpacing tablet activations 4 to 1.

Shipments of Tablets, Smartphones Rise

The tablet market created by Apple with its trendsetting iPad continues to rise, with a total global market exceeding 32 million shipments in the third quarter of 2012, up 75 percent year over year, according to a report this month from Futuresource Consulting. The firm forecasts that the market will reach 137 million unit shipments in 2012 and will nearly triple over the next five years to reach 352 million shipments in 2016.

Another research firm, IDC, said that in the third quarter of this year overall smartphone shipments grew 46.5 percent over the same quarter of last year, with Android devices showing the biggest surge: a 91.5 percent year-over-year change, capturing a market share of 75 percent, with 136 million shipments. That covers a wide range of Android devices made by multiple manufacturers for all major carriers. South Korea-based Samsung is the leading Android device maker.

Apple, which makes only variants of one smartphone, increased shipments by 57.3 percent over the third quarter of last year to capture a 14.9 percent share of the market, with 26.9 million shipments in the third quarter, according to IDC.