App Development: Tips On How To Make Money from Your App

So...You've had a great idea, you've done the research, you've put the time in, and sweated blood and tears to get the application perfect. What now? How are you planning on making a return on it? Lets go through some options.

Beta testing

Before publishing the app on Google Play, the Amazon App store or Slideme, have you thought about beta testing your app? At some point, after the self-testing, automated tests (https://code.google.com/p/robotium/) and UI tests, the app needs to be placed into the hands of a preferred selection of humans who will then do their level best to break the app. It's always best to try to find bugs on a small-scale, rather than release the app to the general population and get overwhelmed by the masses of complaints if the app has a show-stopping error. You should also receive more articulated bug reports from the selected beta-testers than the ordinary user.

Beta testing your application on Google Play can be a good way to test your app and also to create a fan base.How do you do this?

First, you need to set up a Google Group or Google+ Community, then you can get in touch with a respected tech website (such as https://www.androidheadlines.com)  to ask for beta testers from its readers, just like Dryft did here.  It gains your application much-needed publicity. It also means you can iron out any little (or big) wrinkles that may exist on your app, and afterwards allows you to concentrate on providing new features to the app, rather than putting out fires everywhere. One of the benefits of beta testing via the Google community is that you can have staged rollouts of the app, even having two different versions of the app running at the same time between the test group.Google provide a great little guide to beta testing here.Now you have a small following of beta testers and let's say that, after a little while, your application is ready for publishing.

Ah, you have a question. How has beta testing helped you monetize your application?

You would be correct in that beta testing hasn't earned you anything. But....beta testing has given you a small group of people who will spread the word through word of mouth, or the various forums and blogs that they visit. This will hopefully create a groundswell effect for your application. The more people talking about your application the better!

Choices

Now you have some choices to make. How are you going to get the finished application to the public? Lets say, for simplicity, you choose to publish your application via Google Play.

Should you make your application a Free App?

If your application is a utility or an application that runs in the background, then no, probably not. Generally it seems that the social networking apps have the best success with this model; where the application is created and a large group of users engage with the application, month after month, in the hopes of finding a way to earn money out of the users at a later date.This is similar to what Twitter is attempting to do at the moment.

It's also possible that another company could buy your application from you; much like Google did with Waze and Facebook has done with Instagram.

Is it better to charge a one-off price for your application?

This is a strategy that works well with game apps as well as utilities. If you have a must have application such as Root Explorer or Titanium Backup (my favourite utilities) or a must have game, then you can get this model to work; however if it's just a nice to have application, then it may take a lot of work to try to create the hype to turn the app into a must have.Charging a one-off price also means that users are entitled to free updates for the lifetime of the application without having to contribute anything further.

What about adding advertising to your Free App?

A popular model for monetizing applications is adding advertisement banners or pop ups to them.This tends to suit applications that users stay engaged with, the reason being that the ads only earn you money whilst the user is actually using the application. If, for example, the user hasn't opened the application the last 30 days, that would mean that the advertisements would not have earned a penny.  This model tends to work well with social apps again; games, or news readers which are apps that the user tends to stay engaged with for extended periods of time. You might also only earn money when a user clicks on the actual ad, which is another very important point to keep in mind.

Can you charge a fee to remove ads from your app

There is also an option to charge a fee to remove advertising from an otherwise free application. A good example of this would be Rovio, who released a free version of their Angry Birds game which contained banner advertising and then, after a short time, Rovio also released an Ad-Free version that removed the ad banners for a small fee of 99c.It's a good option to take if you aren't sure about which model to follow and can lead to dual monetization, as in you may have enjoyed a period of users using the app daily(especially if it's a game), earning money via the advertising and then you also receive the one-off payment from the ad-free version, possibly at a time when the users' interest is beginning to wane. Other good examples of this would be Astro File Manager and Friendcaster, both of which have ad-free versions for users that are irritated by the ads.

I've heard about free apps with in-app purchasing, what is it?

This is an option many games take. It is known as the Freemium model.A popular example would be EA's game, Real Racing 3, which is free to download and play, but to advance at anything other than a snail's pace, you have to make in-app purchases in order to purchase new cars, or upgrades to cars.Basically you get the fundamentals for free, but you have to pay in order to access the extras that you want. Players are also required to maintain and service their vehicles; if the player does not perform such maintenance, the car's performance will suffer dramatically.Performing maintenance and upgrades requires in-game cash and also takes up real-world time, often up to several hours, depending on the car being serviced.

It's a much publicised and criticised strategy. Whilst the game itself has received many plaudits, the freemium model it follows has garnered much criticism. It's a delicate line to tread.Some other apps that use this model well are Spotify and Helium Premium. Sometimes developers will 'throw in' extra features as well, for example the ads have been removed and a number of new features added, such as Android to Android app sync, Cloud backup and restore to Google Drive/Dropbox. It gives the impression of added value, as well as providing an incentive for normal users to upgrade in order to access the additional features.

A couple of important Factoids

  • Free apps can never be converted into paid apps. You can, however, sell products and subscriptions via Google Play's In-app Billing service.

  • If you publish your application as a paid app, you can change it at any time into a free app; always remembering that it can never be changed back into a paid app.

  • Remember to set up a Google Merchant account before publishing your app, especially if it is a paid app or is to offer in-app purchasing.

Wrap up

Whilst this is not an exhaustive list of ways to monetize your app, it should provide a good starting point.We can help get you users by visiting our android app marketing page. If you are developing an app, it's always a good idea to figure out which model you are going to follow before the app is published. Quite often it can mean changing the app to suit the chosen model. Coming back to the beta testers; they can often provide valuable feedback on pricing and strategy. Remember though, the buck stops with you, the developer.

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About the Author

Peter Holden

Senior Staff Writer
I've been an Android fan ever since owning an HTC Hero, with the Dell Streak being my first phablet. I currently carry a Samsung Galaxy S5 and a Tab S 8.4 LTE around. When not immersed in the world of Android and gadgets, I'm an avid sports fan, enjoy travelling(currently living in the UK), and like all South Africans, I love a good BBQ (Braai).
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