GLOBAL: The world may have passed "peak app", new research suggests, as consumers tire of the multiplicity of options and prefer to use fewer apps while also relying more on voice-activated digital assistants.

A survey of more than 3,000 mobile users in the US, China and the UK indicated small but significant movements in app usage which research firm Gartner believes presage a more dramatic shift in consumer behaviour in the near future.

For example, usage of dedicated video apps declined four percentage points between 2015 and 2016, that of standalone maps apps dropped three percentage points while social media app usage reduced by two percentage points.

The use of messaging apps, on the other hand, increased three percentage points, while shopping and personal assistant apps both grew four percentage points.

"It's a move away from using native applications to something else," explained Jessica Ekholm, research director at Gartner.

"Consumers are getting less interested in using applications; there are far too many applications," she told TechCrunch, adding that other Gartner surveys have indicated that people are losing interest in finding new apps, preferring instead to spend more time with those they already have.

"The other thing is, with the digital assistants, we're seeing that people are switching towards 'hey I just want an answer now and quick' — so I might as well go with a digital assistant rather than 'oh which app is that one? Let me think… no, I'm just going to ask Siri or whoever'."

The general trend has long been evident in China where consumers have gravitated towards WeChat or Weibo for all their digital needs as the two have created holistic consumer experience platforms that are hard to leave.

WeChat, for example, is now a payment service, e-commerce platform, ride hailing service and a ticket booking hub rolled into one.

And now Facebook is emerging as the most obvious candidate to replicate that functionality in the West, with its Messenger and WhatsApp platforms each commanding more than one billion users.

"It's really just a question of time," Ekholm said. "And the user experience has to be there. It has to go beyond the kind of usual 'order a pizza by Dominos' / 'order a cab over Uber'. That gets a little bit tiring now."

Data sourced from TechCrunch; additional data by Warc staff