Tips for Giving Apps and Games as Gifts


In a piece about thrifty Apple-related gifts, I mentioned giving iPhone (s aapl) and iPad apps as one option. It’s a good way to buy for someone who generally doesn’t wander far from the free sections of the App Store, but how do you actually present them? There’s nothing really to put in a box under the tree, after all. Not unless you get a little creative.

First things first: Don’t buy your app gifts in advance if you want them to be a surprise, unless you opt not to send the gift as an email, and instead choose the “Print gift myself” option in the app gifting screen in iTunes. If you send the gifts via email, your recipient will receive them right away, unless you can somehow convince them to not open their email until Dec. 25.

If you do select the option to print the gift, it’ll give you the added benefit of having something to actually present the giftee. But while Apple’s presentation and formatting are nice enough (see below), they won’t win any design contests.

I suggest getting more creative. For instance, I’m giving the gift of Angry Birds to many friends and family members this year. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who’ve somehow never experienced the joy of Rovio’s physics puzzler. Along with the app, I’m putting one of the Angry Birds plush toys in the box for one lucky recipient. In this case, the prop actually cost around 15 times the gift itself, but considering how cheap the game itself is, and how happy the stuffed bird will make the little guy getting it, it’s well worth it. It’s a little late to get this shipped in time, but you can grab an Angry Birds iPhone case from Best Buy (s bby) or the Apple Store as a nice replacement. Works better for grown-up kids, too.

Of course, not every app has a companion stuffed toy to give away with it. I’d be hard pressed to find a plush animal that’s appropriate for Reeder, for instance (okay, maybe an owl with a mortar board and glasses). Instead, if I’m giving a selection of apps to one individual, I get a little crafty. Get ready to tap into your inner Martha Stewart.

First, grab screen captures of the icons for the apps you want to give, either from iTunes directly or from the iTunes preview page on the web for each app. In case you don’t know, on a Mac this means hitting Shift+Command+4 and then clicking and dragging to specify the area you want to grab. A .PNG named “Screenshot” followed by the date and time it was taken should appear on your desktop.

Once you’ve got all your apps taken care of, arrange them on a page using your photo editor of choice and print them out, at a fairly large size. Try to get six on a page, with plenty of white space between. I like to use a heavier stock paper, for better durability. When the pictures are printed, get out the scissors and cut out each app icon.

Now take a piece of cardboard (cut to whatever shape you desire) and wrap it in festive wrapping paper. You could use ribbon to mimic a tied package at this point, complete with bow. Use a glue stick to fix the app icons you cut out on your wrapped cardboard backing. I’m planning to cut my backing into stocking shapes, and maybe hanging them on the tree in advance of gift giving.

Another quick and easy idea is to print app icons, along with a brief description or personal message, and the code iTunes provides when you buy the gift on printable business cards. It’s easier for less crafty individuals, takes far less time, and makes your gift easy to slip into a card or stocking.

One more tip for those gifting apps this season: make sure the app is compatible with your giftee’s device in advance. If they have an iPhone 3G running iOS 3.1 and you give them an app that requires 4.2 or higher and is exclusively compatible with iPhone 4, their disappointment will be palpable.

So long as the app is compatible, and you give them a little more than just a stock email, though, giving apps as gifts should result in a lot of smiling faces come Christmas morning. Unless your loved ones are too busy flinging birds to smile.

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I gifted apps to my mother for Christmas via email while they were on sale by entering one of my “alias” email addresses as the receiver’s email. Then on Xmas day, after she opened and set up her email on the iPad, I forwarded the email to her. She only had to click the Redeem button and she was good to go. No convincing her to not open the email and it just added to the surprise of the gift.

Christophe Daligault

Hi Darrell,
You may want to take a look at the in-app gifting feature we implemented in Fotopedia National Parks (launched last week). This makes gifting easy from the app itself. Also accessible from our web site.
Would like to send up you one that way if you can give me an email address or dm me @dalijet.
Happy holidays!


Thanks for the great gift idea. It seems like a great way to take advantage of the Holiday or promotional sales that go on for Apps while not spoiling the surprise.

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