How do Free Apps Make Money – Top 5 Models

How do Free Apps Make Money?

Mobile app development is a very rapidly growing field of programming. According to an App Annie report, smartphone owners generally use about 9 apps daily and 30 per month. Creating an app has become much easier today. You can choose a no-code tool and make one on your own or hire a Flutter developer:​ to build a cross-platform app for iOS and Android.


But what is more complicated is how to make money from free apps. This article will give you an understanding of the ways free apps make money. Besides that, you will find a list of tips on choosing a monetization model for your app. 

Free Apps Vs. Paid Apps

What is better to create: free or paid apps? Let’s figure it out in the numbers:


The statistics show that with a free app, you will be able to attract a wider audience and get more income. 

Ways to monetize your free app


Advertising is the most popular and easiest way to get revenue for apps. Are you wondering how free apps make money from ads? You just have to showcase commercials within the platform and get paid for the clicks on the ad. There are different types of advertising that you may use: Native, Video, Banner, Interstitial, and Incentivized Ads.

Free Trial & Subscription

First, you provide access to limited features of your application at no cost. After customers have been using your program for some time, you can offer additional premium functions for a fee. The subscription might be one of two types: per period of time (weekly, monthly, annually) or per fullness of proposed functions (basic, standard, premium).

Affiliate income

Affiliate marketing is one of the app monetization strategies that involves promoting a third-party product or service within your application. Thanks to referral marketing, you can get money for an action, click, view, and install.

Sponsorship & Crowdfunding

How do free apps make money from sponsorship? You can find and contact sponsors in the same industry with a similar target audience. There are two options that are recommended to use: 50/50 revenue split or a monthly fixed sponsorship fee. 


Crowdfunding is another free app monetization model, in which each user has the opportunity to donate any amount of money for the development of the platform.

E-Commerce & Selling Merchandise

E-Commerce applications may help enterprises to increase sales and expand their audience. You can create a shopping app to reach a new level of business development. E-commerce applications allow the realization of different goods and services, such as clothes, shoes, accessories, toys or courses, guides, e-books, etc.

Amazon is a perfect example of a selling merchandise platform. Amazon has created a Merch tool that allows users to offer their items within the app.

Tips for choosing the best monetization strategy for your app

  • Set up a clear business goal. Before starting, you have to understand what you want to achieve as a final result.
  • Determine the interests of your target audience. Analyze what kind of people they are, what they are interested in, what they lack, what they like and what they don’t like.
  • Do a competitor analysis. Check out how your competitors make money from free apps, their strengths and weaknesses, and what tools are used.
  • Experiment with app monetization strategies. Try different models and perform analysis to determine the most successful path for your app. 


To sum up, there are many options to earn money from a mobile app. You can display ads, get paid for specific actions (clicks, views, installations), find sponsors, add the possibility of crowdfunding, create a paid subscription, or sell items through the mobile e-commerce platform.


What is a free application?

A free app is a mobile application for which the user does not have to pay a fee when downloading it from the AppStore/Google Play.

How do free apps make money without ads?

There are several app monetization models, such as Trial & Subscriptions, Sponsorship & Crowdfunding, and E-Commerce & Selling Merchandise, that can be used instead of displaying Ads.

How to choose the best monetization model?

To choose the best monetization model for your app, you should set clear business goals for your program, identify your audience’s interests, monitor its reactions to all the changes, and regularly conduct competitor analysis. 


Vitaly Makhov, CEO at DOIT Software, an IT Staff Augmentation company. The DOIT Software team is passionate about building remote teams and solving business challenges for startups, product companies, and digital agencies. 


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