Free Applications

My most-read post recently was the one on "Free Apps Business Model".

At the time, I commented that…

"It’s difficult to compete with someone who has no intention of making any money. You need a very good proposition if you intend to make money from selling a mobile application."

Since then I have thought this through some more. Before the application store phenomenon, it was only early last year (2008) that Michael Mace suggested "Mobile Applications: RIP". I commented that they had been dead for a while and the focus has shifted a long time before that to free applications…

"While I agree that creating a mobile application for sale is now a dead end (and had been for many years), the smart people have since moved on to ‘free’ applications that generate revenue in other ways (e.g. Ad funded) or provide interfaces to existing products/services that themselves provide revenue."

Are we going back to this situation? If so, we need to consider applications more as I did in 2006, as "A Means to an End".

Looking back over the last few years, it turns out nearly all of the applications I have written for clients haven’t been sold to their end users. They have been free to the user and gain revenue another way. Taking these projects, here are some ideas how you might make money from your free application…

  • Ad funded.
  • PR for an unrelated product (e.g. Carling iPhone app).
  • PR for a better full version of the application.
  • Mobile access to content on a subscription basis. i.e. Paying for content (usually via web site), not the application.
  • Purchasing real products via a mobile application.
  • Inclusion in a phone OEM or network operator offering. Bundling with a phone or service.