Creating an app is not limited to generating creative ideas and bringing them to life. The choice of how to monetize is an important stage in developing free apps. You have to think about ways of earning money at the start. Especially if you have a limited budget and are looking for investors.

How to profit from the app?

Monetization is a way to get money from free apps. Despite the high competition and appearance of more and more apps, developers’ income grows. This is due to the increase in the number of mobile device users as well as the redistribution of advertising budgets. 

In this case, the time spent on a smartphone, on average, reaches 4 hours per day. Especially long in smartphone clinging users aged 18 to 34 years, that is, the segment with a high level of consumption. The opportunity to make money on them should not be missed.

How to monetize a mobile intelligently

Draw up a portrait of your target audience. Study the habits and, most importantly, determine the real financial situation. The main mistake is to focus on people with high incomes, if the lion’s share of users earns less than the average.

Paid downloads – what is their problem?

To download, a user must transfer a certain amount of money. Pros:

  • you earn from the moment you install it;
  • You know exactly how much profit each user makes;
  • If users pay, they are more involved and stay with the product longer because they have invested money in it;
  • The user interface is not overloaded with ads.

Disadvantages of the method:

  • High competition from free apps;
  • Apple and Google charge a significant percentage of profits;
  • You cannot use other ways of making a profit;
  • There is a barrier – the user does not know what they are paying for;
  • Relatively small user base;
  • high expectations.


Facetune — essentially an analog of Photoshop for creating perfect selfies. The secrets of the product’s success are:

  • lower cost when compared with other photo editors (even conditionally free);
  • simple interface;
  • smart correction options.

Free apps

Why would developers do charity and distribute a product for nothing? The fact is that free applications get more downloads than paid ones. Then internal strategies come into play. This approach pays dividends in the long run. Users are more likely to use such apps and tend to pay for additional features.

Facebook, Google, and Instagram bet on advertisers launching campaigns on the ad networks of the same name and profiting from the sale of shares. 

If you want to go the route of conventionally free apps, pay attention to the content. It should provide value to the target audience.

Shopping in free apps

Purchases can take many forms: extra training, a one-time cheat for a mobile game, a new level, or reward, a premium feature, etc. Keep in mind, your product should work even without extensions designed to improve the user experience.

Pros of the method:

  • Attracting many users;
  • lower risk because you will not deprive your users of access to the critical functions and content;
  • you can get significant profits because purchases are simply digital upgrades that do not require storage or maintenance of physical inventory;
  • As users purchase add-ons, their satisfaction with the product increases, which in turn increases loyalty;
  • can be combined with other strategies.


  • Even if consumers like your product, some of them will never buy anything;
  • Revenue can fluctuate widely;
  • Google and Apple charge a percentage on payments;
  • you may run into a lot of refund requests if someone accidentally makes a purchase (e.g., a child playing with a parent’s tablet).

Subscriptions in free apps

In-app subscriptions are essentially the same as purchases. For more money, free apps offer additional features. The difference is that purchases mean items, events, and content. Users can do quite well without the investment. But without subscriptions, it becomes virtually impossible to continue using the app. For example, there are limits on the time spent in the app, the number of levels, etc.


  • Ideal for news sites and blogs that have a regular audience;
  • easy to accumulate users because the model provides the opportunity to try a product before buying;
  • To maximize profits, you can sell subscriptions to content outside.
  • Subscriptions provide regular, predictable revenue.


  • If sales are made through Apple and Google, they will charge a percentage of the profits;
  • content offered in the premium must be extremely valuable;
  • Regular updates need to be released;
  • there needs to be a balance between what’s included in the free and premium versions.

The Wall Street Journal is a typical example of the success of this strategy. At the moment, the ranks third in the iOS popularity ranking of magazines. Users can download free apps, browse through all the tabs, and read some of the articles. But most of the content is hidden.

Keep in mind, if you decide to develop an informational or entertainment product with a premium version, think carefully about VIP functionality. Analyze your competitors to see if they offer something similar for free.

Advertising in free apps

Advertising is the most common way to monetize free apps:

The point is that the developer stays honest with the audience. They provide the product for free. The user will not be forced to buy the loot or limit the functionality. Advertising – a kind of compromise. Users understand that viewing ads is the price for quality content. So they put up with some inconvenience.

Pros of the method:

  • maximum possible number of downloads;
  • you can use to collect data on behavior, location, and user preferences;
  • If you show relevant ads, you can earn good money;
  • advertising is an ideal way to monetize: e-commerce, entertainment, and news products, as well as games;
  • You can show different types of ads: native, native, and motivated ads.

Minus ways:

  • if ads degrade the user experience, people may opt out of free apps altogether;
  • If ads are irrelevant, users will not click and you will not make a profit;
  • You may have to redesign parts of the interface that overlap the ads;
  • Not suitable for professional projects where it’s important to keep users focused on the content.

Developers can integrate ads into content almost unlimitedly. Everyone wins. CNN uses ads as an additional strategy. As you scroll through the publications, you’ll encounter native ads, for example:

Instead of a conclusion

Do you want to maximize your profits? You have several options for making a profit. If your company is new to the market, we recommend not taking any chances. Purchases, the freemium model, and advertising have proven effective. Also, they can be used simultaneously.