Developing a Free Mobile App: Why Is It Worth It

Developing a Free Mobile App: Why Is It Worth It

Once your app is done and ready to hit the market, it is time to make the big decision – whether to make it available for free or charge users for downloading it. Some people choose to make it paid, just because they don’t know another way to earn from it.

Statistics show that free apps are not only more downloaded but also bring higher profits. So how do you monetize it without charging for a download? As an experienced mobile app development company in Singapore, we can assure you there are plenty of ways. But before that, there are some things that need to be clarified.

Comparing paid and free apps

First of all, let’s compare both of our choices. Most of the apps on the market now are free. Revenues generated from downloads tend to go down each year, as people download free apps a lot more. In fact, customers are more willing to spend more on in-app purchases, once they are convinced that the mobile app is useful for them.

The most popular free app revenue stream for 2018 was advertising as we see them everywhere. Actually, most of the users never click on in-app ads. Despite that fact developers still, choose them to monetize apps.

This shows the difference between the points of view of users and developers. That’s why the best strategy would always be a combination of both.

How to Monetize a Free Mobile App?

Below are some of the ways you can go about. Additionally, you can also look at these 5 ways to monetize your app (even if it’s not free.)

Email Marketing

It is quite an old technique, but still a powerful one when it comes to monetizing an app. It can be applied during the sign-in when you ask for users’ emails. This gives a possibility to send them email notifications.  

In return for giving their email address, you may provide in-app currency or free features, for example, that will motivate more users to do it in the first place.

Enabling Facebook login also provides you with email addresses. You just have to inform the user that he may get emails if he logs in with FB.

There are third-party service providers that can be used to collect emails as well if you don’t want to ask directly.

Email marketing is very helpful especially if a customer hasn’t been using your app for some time. You can email them as a reminder and notify them about new features.


Advertising remains the most profitable model for generating mobile app revenue. It is also one of the most simple ones. You only have to display commercials in your app and get paid for that. You can get paid per impression, per click or per install. Over 30% of the largest mobile providers use advertising as the only source of in-app revenue. Below we look at some of the popular advertising methods.

Native Ads

They appear as a natural element of the app and are mostly used to promote a product with the help of a sponsored video or content. Native ads are considered by users as less annoying and irritating and this makes them more popular as a revenue stream.


These are the ones that stretch at the top or bottom of the screen. They are smaller and can freely interact with the app. Different banners can be shown to targeted users. However, they still have low engagement rates.

Interstitial Ads

Interstitial ads are the full-screen pop-ups. It is usually used at the natural transition breaks, especially for news and game apps, before or after the expected functionality. Interstitial ads also help for maximizing impressions.

Freemium Model

Freemium mobile apps are free to download but contain premium features, that you can access through an in-app purchase. By downloading the app for free customers are able to see if the provided content is worth paying for to get the full functionality. Premium features are of course optional.

Technically, this is the easiest revenue model.  Some apps have a paid sister app, which contains exclusive functionality and content. Educational apps often use this strategy. However, it is hard to convince users to buy additional features once they’ve got the free version, so you need to make sure these features are really problem-solving.

Subscriptions and in-app purchases

You can provide an app with restricted features that are available for a limited time. Then the user can pay a subscription fee to get full access. This type of revenue is mostly used for magazines, cloud services or audio and video streaming. However, it is the least used monetization model among developers.

Still, Apple and Google enable you to handle a subscription transaction through their platforms, which makes it easy for developers to implement it.

Leading paper apps like the New York Times have acquired a million of online subscriptions.

An in-app purchase gives you the ability to sell virtual items from your app. They might be bonuses, game currency or premium content for example. Half of the apps on the market use in-app purchases. In fact, this model is expected to dominate in the next few years.

Usually, game developers prefer it, due to the use of digital money, that unlock features and new levels. Games like Pokemon Go are a good example for apps that use in-app purchases. This strategy earns more than a million dollars daily.

In order to successfully use this model your app should always keep users hooked.


These are some of the main ways to make money from a free app. There are other effective models as well but to make any of them work, you’ll need a well-rounded marketing strategy. The leading method that more than 60% of the apps on the market use is still advertising. The most profitable monetization mix tends to be in-app purchases and ads.

Developers and app publishers should know how to take advantage of all the available tools and provide your app with the options that work best for you. The main point is to make users think that they need to spend money on the solution and content that you are offering. Make sure that the best mix of tools and strategies are used in order to engage customers with your app because an engaged user is the key to making money from your free app.

If you have any questions or need some clarifications, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We at Swag Soft are here to help!