How to make money with mobile apps

How to make money with mobile apps

Summary: You too can be a success at building and selling mobile apps. Read Gregory Kennedy's advice on how to develop a successful app and turn that success into a career.


As director of global marketing at mobile ad network InMobi, Gregory Kennedy has learned a thing or two about helping developers make money with mobile apps. In this Q&A, Gregory offers some advice for app developers of all platforms.

What's the key to success as a mobile developer?

[Gregory] Focus on providing customers a great value proposition. If you’re making games, they need to take maximum advantage of the mobile experience. Angry Birds is the best example of this. The gameplay is simple and you only need a few minutes to play to the next level. It’s ideal for mobile. Sustaining success in digital media is more challenging, we’ve seen huge companies rise and fall in only a few short years. Being flexible enough to evolve is key, but you also need to develop a strong sense of what works in digital and stick to it.

Once you have an idea that works, then what? How do you turn that into profit?

There are four—and only four—ways to make money with apps.  The most obvious is through paid downloads, in which you set a fixed price for your app, customers purchase it, and the transaction usually ends there.  You could also seek an exclusive sponsor for your app.  It’s not the most economically sustainable method of monetizing, but it might help you establish yourself enough to make your next app a success.  Then, there are the increasingly prominent in-app purchases, in which your customer might not have to pay anything at the beginning ("freemium"), but will have the opportunity to make purchases within the app to enhance the experience.

[Read: Survey says: Mobile gamers prefer free games that are full of fertilizer]

And finally, you can sell advertising space within your app. Provided you have a good match between app and advertiser and an installed base large enough to support the volume of impressions needed for profit, this can actually make you more money than you can with a pay-per-download model. I always recommend developers mix and match models to their particular app business. The more monetization strategies you can employ, the more money you will earn.

What about marketing?

With over one Million apps in the world, competition is fierce. You can have the greatest app in the world, but if you can’t get the word out about it, nobody’s going to download it.

Should I worry about piracy?

If you’re developing apps for iOS only, you won’t really need to worry about it. Apple is committed to copyright and has done a good job at protecting the eco-system.  But of course Apple isn’t the only player in the game, and piracy is becoming an issue with Android apps.  Here at InMobi, we’re actually working on a technology that will still display ads in pirated apps, so that you continue to make money from your advertisers.

If you don’t develop for Android you’re missing out on a huge segment of the market. In a recent Mobile Insights Report, which covered August through October of 2011, we found that 31.1% of mobile ads were displayed on an Android device. Piracy is also not an issue if you focus on ad supported apps. Plus, unlike iOS apps, Android apps are available through multiple stores worldwide, so your potential for exposure can actually be even greater.

Before joining InMobi you spent many years as an artist and creative director. Why did you transition to high-tech marketing?

I was always good at that strategy and concept aspect of advertising. I found my clients responding positively, so after a while it just made sense for me to go onto the business side full-time.  I like to jokingly say that a good creative director is 85% marketing manager, 10% high school principal, and 5% creative. When I transitioned, I only had to give up that 5%.

Topics: Apps, Android, iOS, Mobile OS, Mobility

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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  • Apple, piracy and windows phone.

    I'm not agree with this sentence "Apple is committed to copyright and has done a good job at protecting the eco-system". How many people have their iphone Jailbreaked?, and it's not so difficult to do it, my wife is a nurse and she did it by herself. There's another secondary market store where applications are free.

    And, where's the reference to Windows phone 7?, mobile world is not a couple affair between iPhone and Android.
    • RE: How to make money with mobile apps

      @kbio79 Yes it's true you can jailbreak an iPhone, but it's more difficult to do than pirating an app on Android. As for WP7 it doesn't have enough scale, yet. In 2013, with the release of some new phones, I expect it to really take off outside the US.
  • RE: How to make money with mobile apps

    you can make functional mobile apps for small businesses with Snappii web service, get them live on the appstore and android market and charge for them.
  • fifth, sixth and seventh way to make money building mobile apps

    Charge a business, institution or organization to build an app

    Charge for the monthly hosting

    Charge hourly for updating
    Jim Simpson
    • RE: How to make money with mobile apps

      @Jim Simpson Yes, charging a business for app related services is another great way to profit in the app space. Also, there are a lot of new tools which make app development faster and easier.

      Check out it's my pick for a cross OS app development platform.
  • RE: How to make money with mobile apps

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  • How to make apps

    Mobile app is a great way to make money. I'am not a developer, but I think the key to success is to is to find a good idea first, then to find the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to create your application. As for me, I found this way - using online mobile app builder This service helped me to create apps without any programming skills.
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  • You can submit phone apps

    if you advertise your app, you can submit app to my site
  • One sure way to make money with apps is thru an affiliate program

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  • good article

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    There are lots of ways you can work at home and earn good money
    For example, marketing via e-mail to tangible products and electronic products
    Digital products and the marketing of products and companies take a commission rewarding and much much more
    But you need to take the right path and a good plan and the most important thing do not despair
    Unfortunately a lot of people give up and get bored quickly
    This work needs patience to see in your mind and your heart to what you love and work in what is witty
    Will fail in the beginning do not give up because the first is the failure continued success and continued whatever the circumstances
    And you will reach your goal, God willing, finally luck to you and all .
    Here are some ways to find market and ideas that will help you :