Noted by the enthusiast blog Android Police yesterday, a new version of the Google Play store application for Android phones contains options that will allow users to purchase gift cards for the store as well as place apps on a wish list. The gift card function could be particular helpful for Google assuming it launches prior to the holiday shopping season. Friends and family will be able to purchase and send gift cards electronically to be used on new Android smartphones or tablets like the Nexus 7. This feature could also be helpful for Android-themed sites that like to run giveaways to generate a larger readership. Apple has offered this feature within the App Store for several years and physical iTunes gift cards can be found at many large retailers around the United States.
Google did offer $25 Google Play gift cards with the purchase of a new Nexus 7 tablet, but the physical gift cards aren’t as widely available as an iTunes card. Similar to iTunes, the amount of the Google Play credit is tied to a user’s account and the credit can be redeemed by purchasing applications on the Google Play store.
According to the blog post, an Android user will eventually be able to go to play.google.com/redeem in order to enter a gift card code and add a specific credit to their account. However, Google hasn’t officially announced this new feature and hasn’t indicated a timeline when gift cards will be active.
Beyond gift cards, the wish list feature allows the user to add applications in addition to media like books, magazines, music, movies and television shows to a specific list. While this feature could allow users to bookmark items on the Google Play store to purchase at a later time, it could also be tied into a publishing function that publicly displays a wish list.
A link to that list could be sent to friends or family members prior to the holidays, however Google would also need to include a function that allows people to gift specific applications. Apple added that feature to the App Store during 2010, but never created a wish list function for users.
In addition to these two new features, Android Police also noted that Google has enabled a new technical feature called Smart App updates. Prior to this change, Android users had to re-download an entire app each time that they wanted to upgrade to the latest version. This process consumes a significant amount of battery power when the app is extremely large or the download speed is slow.
However, Smart App updates allow the user to only download the difference between the two versions. For example, the blog post noted that a recent update to the popular photo sharing application Instagram required a 3MB download rather than 13MB for the entire application. This feature was originally announced at the Google I/O conference during June 2012 and the development team in charge of the new feature estimated that download times would be cut down to a third for all app updates.