Monetizing “free” Android apps

Monetizing “free” Android apps

If you have an idea for a mobile app, chances are you’re interested in how you might monetize that idea.  We’ve previously mused about how to monetize a mobile app.  We’ve also mused about the differences between developing iOS and Android apps, including the open marketplace for Android apps.  A new report from Distimo further highlights how platform choice can impact monetization.

Check out this quote from Distimo:

“The percentage of paid applications [in the Android market] that have been downloaded less than 100 times worldwide is 79.3.”

In other words, about four out of every five apps for sale in the Android Market have less than 100 downloads.  Worldwide.  Free Android apps fare much better, with about half getting downloaded over 1,000 times.

So, what does this mean for those wanting to monetize a mobile app idea?  Well, you could choose to develop just for the iOS market.  Given the differences in downloads for paid apps, that would not be a bad play, although you would certainly be limiting your market.  The number of daily Android device activations keeps rising – Google reported last week that 400,000 Android devices are activated each day and there are 100 million activated Android devices out there.

If you don’t want to ignore 100 million Android devices, you could sell an iOS version and “give away” an Android version of your app.  That’s what Rovio, publisher of the wildly popular Angry Birds game series, did.  Both iOS and Android versions of Angry Birds have in-app advertising, although the Android version has far more. Mashable reported in December 2010 that Angry Birds had been downloaded 42 million times, with 30 million of those downloads being free versions of the game.  Although those numbers are now outdated (Angry Birds hit 200 million downloads earlier this month), the mix of free to paid downloads is instructive.

If you’re not a big fan of in-app advertising or your app is just not right for that model, there are other ways to monetize an app other than selling it or loading it up with advertising.  The most obvious is the freemium model we described in our post on how to make money giving apps away – give your app away and then sell upgrades, additional content, new levels or weapons for game apps, etc.  Whichever monetization model you choose, one thing is certain – 100 million Android device users want apps for their devices.  Your challenge is to find the best way to monetize your mobile app idea.

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