So, did you put off holiday shopping until the eleventh hour? Never fear. If the special someone on your list has an iPhone, iPad or Android device, there’s still an easy—and best of all, instant—way to put a smile on her face: give her an app.

In just a few taps, you can gift iOS apps directly through your iPhone or iPad, and you can send gifted apps instantly or on a specific date in the future.

And while Google’s Play store still doesn’t allow you to gift apps (what’s the holdup?) directly over your Android phone or tablet, you can still wrap up an Android app (or an e-card for an Android app, anyway) with a minimum of fuss.

iOS Gift app button

You can gift iOS apps directly over your iPhone or iPad.

For iOS:

  • First, open the App Store app, find an app you’d like to give to a special someone, then tap to open the app’s detail screen (the one with the tap-to-buy button).
  • Tap the Share button at the top at the top of the screen (or, on an iPad in the top corner of the pop-up window), then tap the Gift button.
  • A new email message with details on your gift will slide into view. Type in the email address of the recipient, add a personal message, then (under the Send Gift heading) choose when you’d like the gift to arrive: either immediately, or at a later date.
  • Tap the Next button in the top corner of the screen to pick from seven themes for your virtual gift, then tap Next again to wrap up the process.
Google Play gift cards

Google Play gift cards are available online and from retails such as Walmart, Target, and Sam’s Club.

For Android:

  • No, you can’t gift an app through the Google Play app store, but you can give a Google Play gift card to a special someone. Available in denominations of $10, $25, and $50, Google Play gift cards are available online and at brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Sam’s Club, and they can be used to gift apps, music, and books sold on the Google Play online marketplace.
  • Need to gift an Android app instantly? Amazon has its own Android store stocked with thousands of popular apps, which can be redeemed with a personalized gift card—and unlike Google Play gift cards, you can send Amazon gift cards via e-mail.
  • Live someone other than the U.S.? If so, good news: Google Play gift cards are available at international retailers in more than two dozen countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

Click here for more Android tips, or click here for help with your iPhone or iPad!

Note: This updated tip was first published in December 2011.