How free mobile apps make money wave

How Free Mobile Apps Make Money

tips 12 min read

Earning money with apps is not easy, but making a killing on a free app is even harder. The good news is that making money on your app is absolutely possible when done right. In addition to some well-known winning app monetization strategies, we compiled a rundown of 6 non obvious ways to make money with your free Android or iOS app.

On the 11th of July, Apple's App Store celebrated its 10th anniversary. It's hard to believe that after its foray into the market this marketplace featured only 500 mobile apps. However, in the first quarter of 2018, the Apple's App Store passed the 2 million stored apps milestone. Now add 3.8 million apps available at Google Play and we'll get a tremendous number proving that the mobile apps industry keeps growing at a fantastic pace.

Furthermore, most of the mobile apps are free to download.

most of the mobile apps are free to download

After crunching those numbers you might make a foregone conclusion that the market is overflowing with free apps and the supply will kill your efforts to make money with a free app.

Let us reassure you. Along with the increase of mobile apps, we have observed an outstanding growth of in-app purchases, and the amount of time that users spend on their smartphones daily. The recent eMarketer survey highlights that on average adults spend 3 hours and 35 minutes per day on their mobile devices.

Furthermore, today users invest over $86 billion in mobile apps showing 105% growth in comparison to 2015. Brands and ad agencies have realized the influence of in-app ads and shifted their ad budgets to free apps too. App Annie estimates that by 2021 in-app advertising spendings will triple and reach an astounding $201 billion compared to $72 billion in 2016.

App Annie also forecasts that by 2021 the app economy will be worth a record $6.3 trillion while turning into the third-biggest economy on the planet.

That's all for numbers. Now let's go for practice.

We have already written about the top 5 winning app monetization strategies and provided an inside look to app monetization strategies too. Now's time to reveal 6 non obvious ways to help you generate a never-ending revenue stream with your free app.

App monetization with mobile ads

We are kind of Captain Obvious by saying mobile ads carry out unprecedented opportunities for app developers. However, developers still often abandon the idea of ad mediation. Recently the Chocolate platform reported on a perspective of app monetization and ad mediation. As it turned out, 54% of app developers are eager to try ad mediation to boost their in-app income (and we keep asking: why not do it?).

When thinking of online ads, people often imagine annoying popups framed in bold red or green in color. Fortunately for publishers, in 2018 advertisers are willing to run natively designed ads that completely resemble the design of an app or a web page while keeping users satisfied and loyal.

Before starting your monetization preparations, walk through this comprehensive guide on app monetization to be sure you are 100% ready to drive your success. While looking for the demand partners, search for the ones offering best-performing mobile ad formats like smart banners, native ads, and rewarded videos.

The more demand partners you have in your ad mediation system - the better. The proper ad mediation requires time and effort. If you are not very interested in that, put this work on the shoulders of app monetization teams like Epom Apps who handle the whole monetization process by themselves and keep an eye on everyday optimization.

Data Monetization

Data monetization is the next non obvious yet profitable source of extra income on our list. There's a foregone conclusion (probably inspired by GDPR policies) that collection of personal user's data can't be 100% safe. Some app developers also believe that pulling out the user's information can spoil their relations users. Let us bust that myth.

Most trusted data monetization platforms don't gather personal information, so the data collection stays safe and secure. Moreover, the user's in-app experience remains completely untouched.

Today brands, marketers and analytics companies chase for quality behavioral data to achieve ad personalization leading to the growth of the customer's purchases. All in all, data monetization helps apps turn non-personal information about users into revenue without additional efforts.

The best part of data monetization is the app developer gets paid for the same users over and over again. The more DAU you have, the more appealing your app is to investors. Of course, this scheme works only in the case when your users allow you to collect their data. So don't forget to ask before moving forward!

Data Monetization

Sponsorships & co-branding partnerships

According to App Annie's app economy review, in 2017 smartphone users spent over 1.5 months of the year on mobile apps. Given that, it's quite obvious that brands more often divert ad budgets to digital. Within the mobile app, brands translate their personalized message right to their customer. So why not to connect your app with a trusted brand?

If you plan to make your free app appealing for investments — "now" is literally the best time to do that. Strategically smart partnerships with a specific advertiser guarantee good payments for every new lead driven by your app.

Keep in mind that sponsorships only work properly if you have a significant number of daily active users. Otherwise, you are at risk of seeming too small for big market players and it will spoil your chance of getting them on board later on. Knowing your audience from A to Z is a must when pitching the relevant brand.

Your home task: Choose 15-20 companies which produce products or services that may be relevant to your audience and your values. Write a catchy email and offer them a partnership on a win-win basis. P.S. Hunting for Nike or Coca-Cola isn't necessary at the beginning.

Google Nike & Apple, Burberry & LINE or Runkeeper & Asics collaborations to get inspired by successful partnership strategies.

If you're knee deep in the app development and don't have time to think about monetization, trust this to companies that already have demand and budgets from specific advertisers.

Collaborations with other apps

In the digital ecosystem, everything is connected, and other mobile apps might not only be your competitors but also become your lead drivers. No doubt, collaborations with other apps won't drop a money bag on your head. However, speaking of the future prospect, they can expand your audience greatly, appeal to new advertisers and earn additional trust towards your app.

Which apps are more likely to capture your audience outside your app? If your free app offers online translations, it seems reasonable to reach out to apps devoted to traveling, education or reading. Once again, a strong understanding of your audience will help with picking the right partner for long-lasting and sustainable cooperation.

Experience shows that even the most unexpected collaborations may bring superb marketing results. Uber & Spotify, Spotify & Starbucks, TripAdvisor & Deliveroo exclusive partnerships enticed users, delivered the unique in-app experience, and unobtrusively cross-promoted these brands to a wider audience.


If you are brimming with a new idea or need some extra funding right in the middle of your development process — there are a few websites that can help you raise the money. Along with other startuppers, app developers are welcome to get an investment through crowdfunding platforms.

Look through these 5 crowdfunding platforms to find the one best suited for your app:

Before featuring your project at any of these websites, make sure you pitch your idea properly. Tell the investors about your app with all your heart and soul put in it, show its real value and prospects. Drawing a map with milestones highlighting your further steps with the spending of the raised funds may increase your chances of reaching the requested sum of money.

Furthermore, crowdfunding platforms are a good way of getting feedback on your project. If you haven't managed to gather an entire dollar, maybe it's time to rethink your work?


Youtubbers don't hesitate to ask for donations in their videos or post donation links for earning money. Why not use this strategy for your free app too?

Putting a "donate" button inside the app shouldn't be complicated. Just make sure that your users will grasp the real meaning of why you are doing this. Explain to your audience you're planning to invest the donated money into perfecting your free app and making it even more useful.

! Take into account that this option will only work if your app drives a real value to your audience and boasts a high level of their trust.

On the whole, there is plenty of ways to make money with your free app. Choose one or integrate them all into your strategy - the more revenues you manage to drive, the better. Just remember that app monetization is impossible without users and their interest in your product. So keep perfecting your app, keep treating your users with new features or in-app rewards, and most of all do your best to stand out.

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