Aren’t you curious how apps that are totally free on the App Store or Google Play make money? What makes free apps worth its developer’s time? ‘Free’ and ‘earning money’ seem like paradoxes; how can you earn from something that’s free? The immediate answer for that is advertising or in-app purchases, but there are in reality several other money-making incentives to make free apps.

The Amazon Underground

Image via Amazon

It sounds shady, but it really isn’t. It’s also relatively new, and limited for use through the Amazon App Store. Limitations aside, though, Amazon has a pretty novel way of paying developers : it pays $0.02 for each minute the downloaded app is used, for every user of your app. You can’t offer advertisements or in-app purchases if you list your app on the Amazon Underground, but otherwise, if your app is the type to get users hooked to it for a long time like Pokemon Go, you could stand to earn much more and more quickly than through in-app purchases.


Free apps are often offered as enticements to unlock premium versions of apps. Think of it like a tester you can find in malls. If you like it, you can buy the full thing. The free app version makes people much more likely to try out your app, because they needn’t pay anything before they confirm they like it. The full version could offer higher functionality, ad-free usage, more game-play levels, and so on.


Does your free app offer constant, new content? Then you might be able to earn money by providing premium (or all) of your content for a subscription fee. The Kardashian app is one successful example, but you can do the same for other types of video, recipes, or other new-content ideas too. Why stick to vlogs and affiliate marketing if your app can do the same for you more efficiently?


White-labeling basically refers to a service or product — in this case, an app — that is produced by one company (maybe you?) and offered for rebranding to a different company to make it seem as though it was their app all along. This method can be a little risky, because you’ll have to first build your entire app without having a confirmed buyer, unless you have a rock-solid pitch. You’ll have to change the graphics and other content of your app to suit the buying company. If the company you pitch to is interested, you can request that they sponsor your app, and earn money that way, or you can sell your app to them outright.

Sell Merchandise

This might be a little difficult for small apps with a limited following, but it is a possibility for more well-known apps. One of the pioneers of this method is the Angry Birds app and its slew of toys, clothes, and other merchandise. The same goes to Pokemon Go : at the peak of its game, Pokemon Go merchandise, from Pokeball-themed power banks, clothes, and even the semi-automated Pokemon Go Plus sold like hot cakes. The stats that wowed the app community may have been its revenue from in-app purchases, but Pokemon Go merchandise definitely left a dent in many a pocket!


There’s seldom only one way to solve a question, and the same applies here. Who knows if the newer methods may suit you better?

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