How do mobile applications that are completely free (do not charge to download or for monthly subscriptions) generate revenue?

Besides getting businesses to advertise on the mobile app, how do these free mobile apps actually generate revenue? Why would any business pay to be advertised on a mobile app that just started out and has no traction as of yet? In addition, how much revenue does such a mobile app usually generate in a month? App category that I'm referring to: - gaming - travel - social


It depends on their business model. I have experienced some apps
a) just add on user base so that they can monetize the app as an asset . So they do not charge anything for the app or within the app
b) Some use advertisements within the app

Answered 4 years ago

They charge advertisers to show ads from within their app or in the case of a game, the user buys gold or money or lives. They can also purchase this stuff by watching a video or signing up for a demo.

Answered 4 years ago

Answering as follows -

1. Apps that do not charge upfront usually draw their revenues from the advertisements.

2. The advertisement process is not something that you manage (unless you've your own ad engine), but you use third party Ad SDKs like Google admob or revmob etc as an integrated service on your app. They don't need your app to be famous before they show their ads, but they start rendering ads as soon as you've 1st user and ads are either based on location or context or user-type or a combination of all of these parameters. So you need not to sell your advertisement space to anyone manually at all, these Ad SDKs (software development kits) do take care of that and ofcourse take their cut.

3. You can, however, think of selling your ad space manually by contacting businesses via various methods once you are actually famous and have meaningful number of active users. You can do so simultaneously with the ongoing Ad SDks. People also use more than one Ad SDKs depending upon their app type and spaces available.

4. The categories you mentioned like gaming, travel and social are actually good in terms of rendering ads. The gaming being on the top.

In gaming, you can not only do contextual or locational ads but also tie up with other games to do cross-app ads, like they advertise your app on their game and when user installs your app they pay them game credits and vice versa. There are several services who facilitate such cross app promotions also smoothly.

The earning depends upon several factors again, starting from number of active users to their time spent on the app daily, then location, then frequency of adds (how many times you show your ads to one single user per session) and so on. But bottom line is the more number of " Active users" (not just the ones who've downloaded) you've the better earnings you'll receive. It can be as low as $ 100 per month or may go beyond 10 K per month.

There are various studies about the ad revenue, and many people say if you show 50 K banner ads per day (to any number of users, 10 K users or less or more) then you'll easily earn $ 75 to 100 per day. Video ads get more click through and therefore more revenue.

Hope the answer helps. Just in case you want to calculate the cost of your app idea development, then feel free to try our App cost calculator here -


Answered 4 years ago

100s of ways.

Start by reading the book "Free" by Chris Anderson for a history of old style + new style approaches.

Then hire a bunch of smart people for an hour each to tell you how they'd monetize free for your project.

In fact searching for - how to monetize free apps - returns 25M results for me, so likely this search might be a good starting point for you.

Also study Podcast Monetization + Radio Show Monetization, both of which have been monetizing audience free content for years.

Answered 4 years ago

Simply through advertisement or in app purchases . As for apps that are offering services, it will be the purchase of a particular service.

Answered 4 years ago

These type of apps make money through:
1. In app purchases
2. Ads
3. Selling data

Ads are paid per clicks.

Answered 4 years ago

Hi! I saw you have lots of answers and they are completely right. If you interesting in specific apps (how they earn and how much) ping me I can give this information for you.


Answered 4 years ago

The number of apps with rich functionality is growing annually, resulting in harsh app market competition among developers. As of 2018, there are 3.8 million apps on Google Play and 2 million in the App Store. According to Statista, the top grossing apps are all free of charge. These days, users have become picky and usually have only 4-9 daily active applications. Additionally, Gartner Research Group states that 24% of users would interact more via in-app purchases rather than paid apps. Once an app proves its value, the users are prone to conducting more in-app transactions, purchases, and to unlock extended functionality. The next decision is to choose your free app monetization strategy correctly. Neither the Google Play nor Apple App Store pays for app downloads, even there are millions of users who completed this action. Based on the statistical data, the most effective monetization method in 2017 was the use of rewarded video ads. Currently, 7 out of 10 apps has embedded commercials that generate payments per its display, per click, or per install.
Free Apps make money by:
1. Advertising: Advertising is probably the most common and easiest to implement when it comes to free app makes money. And it is also done via a third-party ad network. Using ads to monetize apps and make money is quite simple. An app owner just needs to display commercials inside their mobile application or opt for affiliate marketing and get paid from the third-party ad networks. You can get paid every time an ad is displayed, per click on the ad, and when a user installs the advertised app.
2. Subscription: App publishers can choose to offer free content in their apps for a limited amount of time and then charge users for a subscription fee that will allow them to access full content without any restrictions. The popular and common technique used by the majority of free app publishers is to offer a free trial period and then charge the subscription fee to those who wish to continue to access the app content. In the present model, Apple will maintain its current 70/30 revenue split for the first year of subscription. After one year, the new 85/15 revenue share will automatically be implemented.
3. Selling Merchandise: To encourage app publishers to use this strategy, Amazon has started a service called Merch by Amazon that allows publishers to create their artwork, upload it to their platform and promote their products.
4. In-App Purchases: In-app purchases are directly made from within the free mobile apps and are usually quite a simple process. The best free game apps like Clash of Clans, Angry Birds, have enhanced their user experience by providing users with in-app purchases. According to Forbes, apps with in-app purchases generate the highest revenue for their publishers. Overall, this is an interesting model for converting non-paying app users into paying users without being too intrusive. Although, you’ve to keep users hooked in your free mobile apps so that they keep paying. According to the survey by tech company Fyber, “Among ad agencies and brands, there are a number of brands, approximately 77%, which have asked their agencies to invest in the in-app purchases inventory”.
5. Sponsorship: A good example of this how do free apps make money through sponsorship deals is Home Depot sponsorship on the Weather Channel App. Now, have a look at these pros and cons that will help you in deciding whether to select this app monetization model for your free app idea.
6. Referral Marketing: Referral marketing involves promoting a third-party product or service to optimize revenue opportunities. There are different types of referral marketing models that publishers use in their development.
7. Collecting and Selling Data: As you know, apps collect a lot of users’ data, in terms of user behaviour or other app usages. All these user behavioural data are desired by many researchers in different fields. The data generally contains users’ email addresses, social media accounts, and personal preferences. There are two ways to benefit from this model. From a marketing point of view, companies want to pay for displaying ads to the most relevant audience.
8. Freemium Upsell: When it comes to talking about freemium upsell, freemium apps are available free of cost to download but contain paid or premium features. In this type of freemium model apps, users download the app without paying any charge, and if they like the content of it, they can get full access to functionality by committing a purchase. Moreover, this strategy is extremely common for education and health and sports application, allowing users to get premium features at a particular cost.
9. Physical Purchases: There are many eCommerce businesses and start-ups that have started using free applications for selling their products or physical goods like mobile cases, t-shirts, toys, etc. via developed apps on the app store. Through this free gaming app, Rovio company sells approximately 1 million branded t-shirts, backpacks, and stickers every month. Before concluding this business model, let us have a look at this monetization strategy’s pros and cons which will make your vision clearer while thinking about how free apps make money.
10. Transaction Fees: The best way to monetize your apps is transaction fees. It is especially possible with those apps that provide a platform, where digital transactions occur on a regular basis. You can charge a small fee for every single transaction that occurs on your app and makes a lot of money.
11. Crowdfunding: Another monetization way to make money from free apps is crowdfunding, which is new in the industry. As of May 2017, there were approximately 138 non-gaming apps that known to raised funds between $10,000-$100,000 as compared to 29 mobile games that got a similar funding goal.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

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