Apple has patented a new method for sharing apps with friends, and it actually is pretty ‘magical’.
The technical details are a bit confusing, so here it is in a nutshell: Your friend wants to try out the sweet new app you’re using, so you link your two devices together and select the app from a list to share. It is then sent to the recipient’s device directly from your own. Depending on your personal preference, the recipient can access the full app with all your current settings, a limited version, or something in between. The sender can also specify a time limit for how long the app can be used, be it for a few minutes, hours, days, or even months.
If the application package includes a full copy of the application, then Brent’s iPhone now has the application and doesn’t necessarily need to perform any additional steps. However, if the application package includes a limited functionality copy of the application, then Brent’s iPhone could establish a connection (212) with a server directly or through a network cloud (214). The server could provide additional information regarding the application and allow Brent to purchase, retrieve, or download the shared application by unlocking at least a portion of the limited functionality or downloading a new copy of the shared application from the server. If the application package includes an application seed, Brent’s iPhone connects to the server and uses the application seed to retrieve the shared application.
An advantage to a system like this is the instant gratification for the interested party. If they can try it out on-the-spot without having to pay for the full version or search through the App Store, then they are more likely to purchase it. Users who share apps with friends (and, presumably, cause them to buy it) will be rewarded with promo deals, store credit, or other incentives from Apple. (Don’t get too excited though, this is just a patent application, nothing official has been confirmed yet.)
There have been many scenarios where someone has asked me “What app is that?”, and I have to explain to them what it is and what it does. If users could just beam the application over, it would simplify the process immensely.