It has been said a million times now. Applications stores are the backbones of modern smartphone platforms. Without App Store, Apple's popular iPhone, iPad nor iOS would be of much use. The same goes for Android and all respective hardware. For the most part, all of these devices would be useless without an easy, centralized way to download apps and games.
Since we have direct access to these stores, however, smartphones and mobile operating systems have become an integral part in all of our lives. There are applications for almost anything you can possibly imagine, all only a few finger taps away. Mobile banking? Check. Ported video games of yesteryear? Check. A zillion different productivity and utility apps? Check.
You get the point.
In recent years, mobile devices have quickly become must-have items for Christmas and other holidays. Kids, adults and everyone in between generally have a new smartphone, tablet or eReader on their wish list. If they already have the devices they want, chances are, they're in need of some apps, or they've come across and application they want but are not willing to purchase themselves.
Considering apps are so important and such devices are something that people would be lugging around on their hip -- or in their backpacks -- every day of their life, the ability to gift and share applications is a no brainer. Apple learned this early and managed to infiltrate retail stores around the world with easily accessible gift cards to their iTunes store. With an iTunes Gift card, customers can purchase iOS applications, music and movies, and they can rent media as well.
If you were looking for a similar gift for an Android user this holiday season, I'm willing to bet you didn't find exactly what you were looking for. While iTunes gift cards are littering retail locations at checkout lines and in every electronics department, there is no way to purchase a gift card for Android Market for someone. There is no way to gift an Android application with ease.
Of course, you could always fill a VISA gift card, wrap it up, give it to someone and tell them they can buy Android applications with it. But that's hardly the point. There is nothing on a retail level that entices Android Market activity. There aren't any gift cards in any store with a picture of that lovable green robot on the front. And there is nothing about a VISA gift card the makes the buyer or recipient of the gift think, "Wow, I could spend this on Android apps!" (It goes without saying that I'm excluding the die-hards here, the ones who eat, sleep and breathe Android.)
Now that Android Market is more than just a place to buy apps, and is instead home to a growing ecosystem (with movie rentals and music purchases), this is something that Google seriously needs to focus on. It may seem small and petty, but Android Market is a cash cow. Providing an easy way for consumers to gift applications, movies and music to Android users is a fool-proof way to exploit that and bring in more cash flow, especially throughout the holiday season.
There is nothing I would love more (except for just a wad of cash, of course) than for someone to buy me Android Market gift cards for Christmas. Better yet, let me rephrase that: I would love nothing more than blowing someone else's money on applications for my phone and tablet. This is entirely possible for iOS users, but the millions and millions of Android users around the world have gone three long years without gifting options. It's time Google steps up and swings a bat at the piñata full of cash that's been hanging over their head the whole time.
What say you, Androidians? Do you wish there was an easy way to gift Android applications? Would you like a gift card to the Android Market? Is there an easy way to gift premium applications that I'm simply overlooking?