Apps make the perfect gift for many occasions: They're cheap, useful and don't require wrapping. And since more than half of the adults in America own smartphones, most people can use an app.
But, whether you use an iOS or Android device, app stores haven't made it easy to give. However, with a little effort, you can find a way to make others happy with an app.
You can give an iOS user an app through Apple's iTunes desktop software. But mobile givers may be out of luck: Apple removed the ability to send a gift in iOS 6. (It exists in iOS 5, though, so if you haven't upgraded, you can still do it.) To give an app though iTunes, navigate to the app and click the arrow next to the price, then choose the "Gift This App" option.
You can't, however, give in-app purchases. That is, you can download many apps for free, but need to make a payment within the apps to unlock their full features. For example, Living Language Italian for iPad is free and includes a couple of lessons, but the full course requires a $15 in-app purchase.
To get around the in-app purchase glitch, your best bet is to the iTunes' "Tell a Friend" feature, which sends your friend an email with a link to the app. Then, separately, send a digital iTunes gift card for the in-app purchase amount.
Android users also have to jump a few hurdles. The Google Play store doesn't offer gifting at all. The best you can do is buy a physical Google Play gift card from stores like Walmart or Target that friends can use to buy themselves the app.
You can, however, use the Amazon Appstore for Android to directly gift an app. Go to Amazon.com and click "Gift Cards." From the gift card options, click "eGift an Item;" choose "Pick an item," and then select "Apps for Android." The person you give the app to will receive a code to use when redeeming your present.
The catch? Recipients have to have the Amazon Appstore program installed on their Android phones in order to download gifted apps. And, as with iOS apps, you can't gift directly from the Appstore on your mobile device. You'll have to do it from the Amazon website. [See also: Buggy Apps Killing Your Smartphone Battery ]
Neither iTunes nor the Amazon Appstore allows you to schedule when the person will receive your gift. If you want to save the present for Christmas morning, you have to send it that day. Alternatively, you can buy the app early and print out the redemption code so you can give the app whenever you want.