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How do free apps make money?

Tim Armes
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Have you ever wondered how do free apps make money? This article reviews the various routes some free mobile applications have taken .
The right monetisation methods for your app requires information. (Source:

In 2016, the revenue from mobile apps was an estimated $88.3bn. By 2020, projections indicate that the global app economy to be generating almost $190bn. The app economy has grown enormously and shows no sign of halting its exponential growth.

At first glance, it can be hard to see where the money is coming from; consumers often expect to pay nothing for apps. Indeed, more apps than ever are free to download.

Take Mobile Strike as an example. Mobile Strike is often listed as one of the world's most successful game apps and is free to download. Its average daily revenue fluctuates but it commonly gets rated in the millions of dollars.

So how do free apps make money? Apps can represent a significant investment on the part of developers. The average app development time is four to six months. Can you afford to work for half a year and not get paid? We want to share with you some of the different options that enable your free app to generate revenue.

Identifying what is best for your app

The options you choose must be right for your app, customers base and current market conditions. Deciding on your app revenue strategy calls for accurate, up-to-date information. Such information is provided by the appScatter portal, allowing you to keep track of not only your app but also your competitors. You can see the whole field, and choose the plays right for you.

Free games app Mobile Strike commonly gets rated in the millions of dollars."

So, which of the following revenue streams suits your app best? You don not have to choose just one. In fact, a combination of vectors may well be best.


The most obvious approach to monetising your app is advertising. What isn't obvious is how to choose the best advertising, and then implement, in your app. You will need to assess both your market and your app. You must base this assessment on real data, not just intuition. The data fed to you by the appScatter portal is an excellent source of information that will allow you to choose the best advertising model for your app.

As an example, one model is to have a free app with adverts, and a paid premium version of the app without adverts. There are other ways, and you should explore as many different options as possible.

In-app Purchases

In-app purchases are a popular method of monetising free apps. With games, extra characters, lives or levels make profitable in-app purchases. With other types of app, additional utility and functions can get offered. For instance, if your app provides news coverage, then a 'Press Pass' might be offered as an in-app purchase, unlocking opinion pieces and increased background on unfolding events.

An aspect of in-app purchases worth highlighting is that of micropayments. Such small payments all add up and can soon represent a considerable proportion of your app revenue. Be inventive, set attractive prices, and analyse your figures. You will be able to fine-tune your app's micropayments. Perform well, and you can transform your app revenue.

Physical Purchases

If your app links to an e-commerce business, the sale of physical goods can turn your app into a steady source of income. Balancing this are the higher costs associated with the storage and shipment of physical goods, the management required to make it all work, and having a physical product people want in the first place.

Knowledge that is key to unlocking revenue

The above suggestions are just a beginning. There are many ways free apps can generate revenue. A combination of methods can be useful. In the face of so many options, choosing the right approach can feel like a shot in the dark, unless you have the appropriate information.

Here is where the appScatter portal can pay dividends. Our real-time tracking allows you to study your app's performance and adjust your strategy accordingly. Also, you can see how your competitors fare; you can see their successes and failures, thereby allowing you gain insights into what will be successful tomorrow and steer your app in the right direction.

Knowing how to match your app to the right monetisation methods requires information. An appScatter account can help you discover that information.

Sign up today and start the discovery.

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