As long as there are developers creating Android apps, the debate about free apps versus paid apps will probably continue. This is because some people will have success with a paid app and others will generate ad revenue through their free app. Both models can work, and often the success depends on the type of app written and the audience you are marketing to. Some buyers don't mind having ads appear in their free apps and will download lots of free apps and use them for a short period of time, or they will upgrade to paid apps to get additional features that were not available in the free apps.

One thing developers should remember is that a free app can help them level the playing field and build their brand inexpensively. When a large app developer enters the Android Market with a new app, they have the marketing clout and brand recognition that an independent developer does not. They can release a paid app and immediately start to see large downloads because their brand is recognized and trusted. They have already spent perhaps millions of dollars building their brand over many years. They have many followers already.

An independent developer does not have that luxury and must look for other ways to get the word out about his or her app. If you offer a free app along with a paid app, you are covering your bases, building your brand and generating some revenue. You're allowing someone to "try before they buy," which gives the buyer a risk-free opportunity before deciding to obtain the paid version. Even if he or she doesn't buy your paid app, you are building your brand and gaining recognition in a very competitive field. If the buyer likes your app, he or she will be inclined to tell others about it and will also be inclined to look at what other apps you have for download and sale.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that people are not price sensitive, even at $0.99! With so many apps to choose from on the Android Market, one cannot possibly buy even a fraction of the available apps. Buyers are selective in what they download for free and especially selective in what they purchase.

In this chapter we will review the different approaches to monetizing apps. Take a close look at the type of app you are marketing. Game apps tend to do very well with free and paid versions. Games are generally easier to delineate between free and paid as well. For example, you can limit the levels of play in the free app or the number of weapons in the game. Non-game apps are more difficult to limit on features, but can be done with some thought. An educational app can offer the first set of test questions in the free version, but require purchase of the paid app to obtain all the questions.

Table 14.1 illustrates the different app-development strategies you can consider when building your app marketing plan. Ultimately you will have to decide which approach works best for you and also what your budget will permit you to accomplish. One other point that's worth mentioning is that you can always start out with a paid app and then offer a free version later on to help boost your sales. Many developers have had strong success in reigniting their app sales by going back and introducing a free version with ads later on.

Table 14.1 Multiple Development Strategies You Can Pursue When Creating Your App Marketing Plan

Development Approach



Paid app, standalone

Lower costs and faster time to market.

Many competing apps, limited brand recognition, and slower sales until you build a following.

Free app, standalone

Likely to experience multiple downloads quickly. You can build your brand.

You must rely on ad revenue, which may or may not result in significant revenue.

Free app and paid app

You can build a following, offer in-app purchase inside the free app, and achieve ad revenue and paid app revenue simultaneously.

It's more costly to build and support two slightly different versions of your app.

Paid app, with ads

You can sell the app and gain some ad revenue.

This strategy is not widely used and you are unlikely to achieve significant revenue from either approach.

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