How Does a Free App Make Money?

Reagan Fausett
How Does a Free App Make Money?

You’ve heard the old adage “nothing in life is free.” But what about the things that are free? Take apps, for example. There are plenty of free apps out there that don’t take anything out of your bank account, but if they don’t charge you for anything, how does a free app make money?

There are a few ways that apps get around having their users pay for services. Let’s look at how free apps make money, and what that means for you and your children as consumers. 

1. Apps with Ads

Many companies will pay to have their ads placed within an app. These ads might be inconspicuous or a little more invasive. In many gaming apps, for example, full-screen ads will appear before you begin a new level. Depending on the app, you can exit out of the ad immediately or after a set amount of time has elapsed. Other apps feature small, side-bar ads that you can exit out of. 

Not only are these ads annoying, but some of them could be malicious or contain inappropriate content. If your child wants to download a free app, make sure you’re aware of what kind of ads they might encounter while using the app.

2. Apps with In-App Purchases

Other apps will generate profit by requiring in-app purchases to unlock certain features. These in-app purchases range in price and type. Some might be recurring fees while others are one-time purchases. You’ll likely come across several apps that claim to be “free” but merely offer a couple free features while requiring in-app purchases for the rest. 

A variety of apps utilize this strategy. Game apps might offer in-app purchases to upgrade abilities, appearances, weapons, or purchase in-app currency. Exercise and wellness apps often require in-app purchases to access workouts or health-tracking features. Even photo-editing apps require in-app purchases to use certain editing features. 

3. Apps without a Product

Now, you may be thinking, “But what about the apps that aren’t selling anything?” These kinds of apps usually don’t have an obvious product they sell, so it might seem like they’re totally free. But there’s a catch: if there isn’t a product being sold, you are the product. Social apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok earn a profit by keeping you on the app as long as possible, increasing your exposure to third-party advertisements within the app. 

These sorts of apps utilize social media algorithms to capture your attention with content you relate to or enjoy. The more views an ad on one of these platforms gets, the more money a company will pay to have the platform advertise for them. 

Staying Safe with Troomi

Now that you know how a free app makes money, it’s important to be aware of which apps your child might be downloading. While some of these apps are harmless, others may contain inappropriate content or dangerous scams. 

With Troomi, you can help keep your child safe from these types of threats, thanks to their hand-picked selection of KidSmart® Apps. This curated app collection contains both entertaining and educational apps for your kids to choose from, so you’ll never need to worry about what they’re downloading! Learn more about Troomi here.