How Do Free Apps Make Money?

app promotion through keyword installs

app promotion through keyword installs

Over the flip of the last decade, cell purposes reworked from being primarily employed solely as promotional instruments to enterprise avenues for reaping sustainable revenue. The increment of mobile-app builders, alongside that of smartphone utilization, has drastically modified conventional enterprise fashions.


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Quick ahead, by March 2021, Statista reported that 96.7% of cell purposes within the Google Play retailer had been freely accessible, whereas 92.9% of iOS purposes had been free. That being mentioned, a standard query many spectators and fanatics ask is, ‘how do free apps earn cash?’ Particularly with the statistical proof that ‘free’ is the route for a lot of builders and enterprises.

What are Free Apps?

Within the easiest sense, free cell apps are purposes that don’t incur any value to obtain from a cell app retailer. Such apps usually tackle completely different monetization methods, such because the generally recognized freemium.

Smartphone customers worldwide 2016-2023 Picture Credit score:

The freemium adopters (combining “free” and “premium”) primarily earn from in-app purchases, providing customers extra features or upgrades for full content material and companies, and even the elimination of pop-up ads.

This mannequin is prevalent in cell recreation apps because it revolves round incentivizing customers to pay further to boost their expertise. Moreover, the freemium mannequin permits customers to strive an app earlier than they pay for something, thus growing a developer’s possibilities of producing income. For instance, the three top-grossing freemium video games of 2020— PUG Cell, Honor of Kings, and Pokemon Go—reported whole earnings of over US$6.5 billion.

One other instance is Slack, a communication instrument that facilitates info sharing inside workspaces to get work completed. Slack employs a traditional freemium strategy the place its free model permits customers to make the most of its core functionalities, whereas its paid model delivers extra upgrades like full messaging historical past entry, limitless integrations, and display screen sharing.

How A lot Cash Do Free Apps Make?

In keeping with Statista, the cell utility market income will peak at $935 billion by 2023. These numbers lend credibility to apps being a worthwhile area of interest.

In keeping with the newest statistical baseline, 25% of the highest iOS builders and 16% of the main Android builders make as much as $5,000 monthly with their free apps. This principally signifies that roughly 20% of the cell apps available on the market carry a revenue primarily based on their top quality.

How Do Free Apps Make Cash?

Free apps earn cash in varied ways in which we will element under with a number of case research. Let’s delve in, we could?

In-App Promoting

With this strategy, app house owners generate income by displaying third-party advertisements inside their cell purposes. Principally, app house owners deal with incomes revenue from advertisers as the worldwide spending on cell promoting is predicted to succeed in $240 billion in 2022.

Moreover, on this mannequin, app builders may cost the customers a small sum of cash in the event that they want to block ads, for instance, YouTube and Spotify.

In-App Purchases  

This medium of earning profits revolves across the cell app being free whereas permitting customers to buy varied digital items akin to extra app options, customization choices, in-game foreign money, power-ups to further content material, or new ranges.

Regardless of the few customers(roughly 5%) who make in-app purchases, In-app purchases make up about 47% of the entire income generated from apps globally. Nonetheless, many analysts predict that the promoting income mannequin will quickly dwarf it.

The great thing about this mannequin is customers can ‘Purchase as soon as, maintain ceaselessly’ their options, items, and content material. Which means that bought digital gadgets and content material by no means expires, for example, further lives in a recreation or in-app foreign money that may be spent on different premium options.

A case examine instance is Sweet Crush. Having made roughly $1.19 billion in income in 2020(with $473 million generated within the USA between January and September of 2020) and sustaining over 300 million energetic customers, Sweet Crush Saga applies in-app purchases to the most effective impact. With its informal gameplay, customers are simply enticed to make small in-app purchases that accumulate over time. In keeping with Sensor Tower, Sweet Crush gamers spend practically $4.2 million per day on the Google and Apple App Shops.

Information Licensing

Some free apps with an enormous variety of energetic customers accumulate info on their conduct and promote the information in an anonymized format to 3rd events like advertisers and analytics corporations. In essence, the extra every day energetic customers an app has, the extra correct, pertinent, and invaluable that information is for information collectors.

However, most apps that make the most of this monetization strategy ask for a number of permissions to use and entry customers’ private information.  Such app builders usually work with monetization companions keen to abide by all the privateness and safety legal guidelines. That is essential as rules pertaining to consumer information are stringent, with extreme penalties for breaking them. For instance, the GDPR in Europe which imposes a most high quality of €20 million (roughly £18 million) for breaking information privateness guidelines.


This mannequin is just like in-app purchases because it permits customers to purchase extra digital items, content material, and options. Nonetheless, as an alternative of availing them the choice to purchase each time they want, this monetization mannequin institutes ‘subscription durations’.

These subscription durations are available in two varieties. Non-renewing subscriptions, the place customers pay for one subscription interval at a time, and auto-renewing subscriptions, the place subscriptions are routinely renewed after every subsequent subscription interval.

Free apps normally obtain success with this mannequin by offering customers with a continuing stream of contemporary and invaluable content material and companies. This strategy is often adopted by service-oriented or very content-centric apps that encourage frequent and repeated utilization.

An instance is Headspace, a meditation app that teaches customers tips on how to breathe and meditate. Headspace offers customers a two-week free trial, then consequently prompts customers to subscribe to get entry to a whole library with a whole lot of guided meditations, mindfulness coaching, and respiration workouts.


With this strategy, manufacturers and businesses pay to have an unique spot inside a free app. In observe, such manufacturers can present related rewards to the app’s customers after they carry out particular in-app actions. In flip, the app proprietor earns cash by taking a share of the income from redeemed rewards.

This is a superb means free of charge apps to generate income from promoting, nevertheless, with out lowering the appliance’s consumer expertise. By straight collaborating with particular manufacturers, app house owners management the kind of promotional content material displayed inside their utility, making certain it’s related to their goal group. On the identical time, they’ll additionally create model activations which are artistic, partaking, and fascinating for his or her customers whereas nonetheless earning profits.

For instance, Runkeeper, a well-liked GPS fitness-tracking app with greater than 50 million customers, allows its customers to hitch a operating group, monitor workouts, set targets, and monitor their progress. As an early adopter of the sponsorship mannequin, Runkeeper retains offering its customers with unique rewards from well being and health manufacturers in the event that they full predetermined in-app actions and actions.

Affiliate or Referral Advertising

Linked to in-app promoting, many free app builders additionally exploit referral/affiliate to advertise third-party services or products. Thus, making cumulative commissions from the third events. For instance, Amazon Associates internet affiliate marketing program permits app builders to monetize apps. In observe, app house owners can promote any Amazon product by inserting hyperlinks to them. And if a consumer clicks the hyperlink and makes a purchase order, the app proprietor receives a reward.


Associated to in-app purchases and broadly standard in online game apps, micro-transactions enable free app builders to allow customers to buy digital gadgets for small sums of cash. For instance, gamers can buy premium gadgets like in-game gadgets, character costumes, weapons, and so forth.

For example, the cell recreation “League of Legends” advantages so much from microtransactions. Performed by thousands and thousands of individuals worldwide, League of legends generated $1.75 Billion in 2020, with many of the income from microtransactions. For instance, the cell recreation permits for the acquisition of Riot Factors, an in-game foreign money that may be utilized to purchase skins (completely different aesthetic decisions for in-game characters), to unlock characters, or for prolonged gameplay.

Honorable Mentions

Some free app builders cost transaction charges to earn cash if their cell app belongs to a market section the place customers transact cash. This strategy is frequent with e-commerce apps, meal ordering apps, flight, and lodge reserving apps, and Canine strolling apps.

What Do Customers Search for in Free Apps?

  1. Comfort:Free Apps that simplify every day life by offering comforts like alarms, maps, restaurant looking out, and weather-checking have a tendency to earn more money.
  2. Communication:Free apps that facilitate communication between family and friends, akin to prompt messaging apps, all the time earn cash in some way.
  3. Social networking: People need a way of belonging and acceptance inside their social teams. That being mentioned, free apps for social and enterprise networking are likely to generate extra enterprise alternatives for the house owners, particularly if site visitors soars. As such, app house owners can simply apply information licensing, promoting, or affiliate fashions.
  4. Worth expression:Free apps that enable customers to specific their private values and improve their self-concepts are additionally worthwhile. Such apps present value-expression advantages by tapping into customers searching for to earn social recognition by way of, for instance, picture and video-sharing apps.
  5. Leisure:Lastly, free apps that present leisure will all the time be bankable.  For example, gaming and music-streaming apps.

Remaining Remarks

All issues thought of, the method of earning profits from free apps revolves round consumer engagement and constructing belief whereas offering worth and high quality with out really requiring customers to spend cash. That’s the fundamental precept, in all honesty.

Most free app builders purpose to seek out the candy spot between giving customers too many or too few options, with a purpose to incentivize them to spend later. That being mentioned, most free apps which are extremely worthwhile mix completely different monetization methods – for instance,  in-app purchases and subscriptions, or internet affiliate marketing and subscriptions.


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