Why the Google Play experience will soon rival iTunes

After announcing in June that Android app updates would be improved, Google(s goog) has implemented its “smart app updates” feature. Android Police first spotted the change, which coincides with a new version of Google Play. Thanks to the new feature, mobile app updates won’t require a full download of the entire app; only the deltas, or code changes, are needed to update Android apps. Google is also readying support for gift cards and app or media wishlists.

The “smart app updates feature” is important because of the mobile broadband data plan limits many consumers use for their Android phone or tablet. App updates can certainly take place over free Wi-Fi connections, but one key feature of Android meant for convenience can actually impact broadband usage negatively: Automatic app updates.

When enabled, mobile apps are simply downloaded in the background whenever they become available, meaning users could be getting these over a 3G or 4G connection. Apple’s iTunes Store(s aapl) helps to manage bandwidth by limiting the size of app downloads over 3G or 4G, but I haven’t yet noticed delta updates for mobile apps.

Google’s implementation of “smart app updates” is another step forward to improving its Google Play store and one that’s needed. A key decision factor between Android and iOS(s aapl) devices is the app store experience as well as the amount of quality applications and media choices found in the store.

In June, Google added several new content partners for movies, TV shows and magazines, helping to showcase media with its Nexus 7 tablet. And although Google hasn’t officially announced this news yet, Google Play gift cards in $10 and $25 denominations have been spotted as well as a wishlist feature to help bring parity between Google Play and the iTunes store. Both of these new features were found in the code of the latest Google Play app by Android Police, so it’s likely just a matter of time before an official announcement and Google flipping the switch to activate support for gift card redemption and wishlists.