How Do Free Apps Make Money in 2021?

April 3, 2021

id you know that according to Techcrunch nearly 15% of application developers for Android are making a lot of money -more than $5000 just in one month- with their free apps or the top 25% of Apps developers for IOS boost their revenue by publishing Free Apps on App store?

As an app owner, you may want to recognize how they can make money by developing a free app? In this post, we are going to share with you the most essential tips that can help you make money from free apps in 2021. If you have developed a free app or you want to monetize an app by publishing it in the mobile app centers, follow our ultimate guide about how free apps make money in 2021?

Free apps vs paid apps.

If you are an app developer, the first step before developing your app and publishing it on mobile marketplaces such as Google Play Store or App Store is deciding about how to make money from it? You have to decide between publishing a free app that is appealing for a lot more users to download or offering a paid app that is less favorable by users.

It’s all about your plan for making money from your app. As we want to pay attention to how free apps make money in 2021, it’s better to jump to the main point and forget about paid apps. However, we compare the opportunities for making money from Free apps vs paid apps in 2021 to help you make the best decision:

Number of downloads

Google app store compared the number of users downloading free vs paid app recently and reported it as below:

number of free and paid mobile app store downloads worldwide from 2011 to 2017

According to this report, about 78% of Google app store visitors download Free Apps which is three times higher than the download numbers of Paid apps. It means by developing a free app you can direct a lot of potential customers to download your app then implement one of the monetization strategies for making money. We will discuss how free apps make money in 2021 to show you the advantages of having this opportunity.

Gain profit from selling apps

To gain profit from selling apps you need to develop and publish an application with a lot of advantages which is rarely offered by other free apps to convince visitors to pay the cost and download your apps. In the competitive market of mobile app development, it seems really tricky. Even if you develop such amazing apps that none of the free apps could compete, there is no guarantee that your app is being recognized by visitors among a huge number of free apps bombarding them.

Gain profit from in-app purchases and app ads

We can introduce a lot of useful methods such as in-app purchases, display ads, app monetization strategies, develop a freemium model, etc. to app owners to make money from their free apps. The most important thing is about appealing to the targeted audiences which are simply possible by developing a free app on the App Store or google play store.

Earn money by choosing the best mobile app marketplaces

The latest report published by “SensorTower” about comparing the App revenue of App Store and Google play store revealed that in recent years, mobile app revenues boosted by 19.6% in google play store which was about 6% higher than the app store revenues.

Mobile app developers believed that the reason for earning more money from publishing free apps in the google play store is constant market penetration which means more users have smartphones powered by Android compared to IOS all around the world.

Worldwide Gross app revenue - first half 2019

Although choosing the best platform for your app marketing plays a crucial role in earning money, you cannot ignore the importance of your app presentations on mobile app marketplaces.

You need to think about some effective strategies to make users download and install your app on their mobile phones such as:

  • Designing an attractive app icon
  • Pick an appropriate name
  • Describe the advantages of your app in the description
  • Show the most important part of your app in screenshots

By considering these opportunities for Free vs Paid apps if you have already decided to publish a Free app on mobile app marketplaces, stay with us to show you how free apps make money in 2021.

How do free apps make money by monetization strategy in 2021?

To make money from free apps in 2021, you have a lot of effective options. It’s completely up to you if you want to implement one or more of them. Let’s get started to see how you can earn money from free apps.

In-app advertising

In-app ads are the most common monetization strategy for earning money from a free app. You can display banner ads, video ads, app ads, and many other advertisements to the users when they are using your free app after installation.

You can also consider referral marketing to promote affiliate products or third-party services on your app and earn money when users show some reaction to them.

This monetization strategy has three different models including:

  • Cost Per Action (CPA)
  • Cost Per Click (CPC)
  • Cost Per View (CPV)

By displaying any type of ads, app owners will earn money as per the number of clicks, views, or actions those ads get from the app users. To be successful in advertising, it is very important to make targeted audiences pay attention to the ads or give some impressions. If you really want to make money from your Free app by in-app ads, you have to consider:

  • Displaying Video ads as well as banner ads
  • Controlling the frequency and time of each ad
  • Monitoring which kinds of ads are more enjoyable for targeted audiences
  • Blocking those ads that are annoying

In-app purchase

In-app purchases are the best way for making money from free apps without displaying any ads. In this method, downloading and installing your app is totally free. However, you can earn money from the users of your app by offering them in-app purchase for:

Offer freemium model

By offering a freemium model, you can charge the users after downloading your free app either for having access to the app after a free trial period or for enjoying its full functionality and enjoy extra features of your app.

The Freemium model is a smart way for making money from free apps because in the beginning you have access to lots of users trying to download your app. Then you just need to convince them that your free app has such remarkable functionality that it's worth purchasing.

The Freemium model is the best tactic for game apps. In this way, you can design extra parts for your game or offer a lot of discount gifts or promotions to the gamers and encourage them to purchase one or more in the app.

In the freemium model, various options with different costs are offered to the users, and they can choose their favorite promotion to pay for.

Not showing ads

There is also another tactic to make money from free apps by offering users to commit in-app purchases and turn off showing ads. By adding a Not showing ads button on the main page of your app or in the menu, you will see that earning money is as difficult as you think.

Subscription model

The subscription model is somehow the same as the freemium model. The free app is available on the marketplaces to be downloaded but users have to pay a fixed amount to subscribe and use the full functionality of the app or buy a license to have access to the app for a specific time.

This monetization strategy is common for the apps providing some services for the users such as electronic magazines, health care services, or apps selling goods or media like Amazon or Netflix.


Sponsorship is a less common but the most effective monetization strategy for making money from free apps. To earn money in this tactic, you need to develop a niche app then find a sponsor who has the same targeted audiences as your app.

It is really worth it if you can convince a reputable brand with you as a sponsor. Having a strong brand behind your back not only can improve the reputation of your app but also give you a lot more opportunities to earn money for example, by collecting user’s data such as their Email Address, Social media accounts, etc, and sell this information to other brands.


Recently, a new monetization strategy has been developed called Crowdfunding. In this method, developers share their app ideas on some online platform such as Kickstarter or Crown Supply to raise funds for developing their apps.

How to choose the Best App Monetization strategy for making money from Free Apps

Consider your application category

To choose the best monetization strategy for making money from free apps, you need to clearly understand the purpose of developing your app.

So, you need to consider a specific category to offer your app in the marketplaces then try to choose the best monetization strategy according to it.

For example, if you are developing a game app, the Freemium model works well while if you have developed an app for offering health care services, it is better to choose the Subscription model.

Search your targeted audiences

It is very important to know the target audiences of your developing apps because users download and install your app just when they ensure that your app can solve their problems or make enjoyable time for them.

So, you have to develop your app and choose the monetization strategy according to your targeted audience's taste to be successful in making money.

Analyze your competitors

One of the best ways to choose a suitable monetization strategy for making money from a free app is to analyze the competitor’s app and monitor how they are earning money. It can help you find out which method has excellent results for gaining more profit.

How much money can a free app make?

It’s really difficult to predict the exact profit you can gain by developing a free app. It depends on different factors such as choosing the right targeted audiences, following the best monetization strategy, and picking the best marketplaces to publish your app.

If everything goes well, you may receive more than $5000 in a short term and above $50,000 in a long term.


There is no doubt that free apps can make money in 2021 by choosing one of the monetization methods shared with you in this post.

You just need to specify your app category, choose the best mobile marketplaces, evaluate your targeted audiences and analyze your competitors to make a good decision and start earning money from your free app.

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