November 28, 2014

Paid Apps that Pay Off: $150,000 in a Month

We all know the Android Market’s bad rap: developers can’t make money on paid apps. Rovio said so. Larva Labs said so. Even Google said so recently, admitting that the number of paid app purchases are not increasing as they should with the increases in use of Android in general. So it must be true, right? Should Android developers forget about paid apps and just monetize with ads?

Well, maybe not. There are counter-examples to the conventional wisdom, examples of developers whose paid apps have generated a decent chunk of revenue. This series of posts will look at a few examples, including one developer who brought in more than $150,000 in revenue in less than a month from a single app.

Example 1: ADW Launcher EX

ADWLauncher EX, the highly customizable home replacement by AnderWeb, hit the Market on December 24, 2010, selling for more than $3.00, and topped 50,000 downloads in mid-January. Though specific revenue numbers are not available, it’s clear based on price and downloads alone that the app managed to generate more than $150,000 in its first month on the Market. And that despite being in a category with strong competition.

How did he do it? The developer already had a loyal user base for the free version of ADW Launcher and his other apps, which have been on the Market for several months.  When news of the paid version hit, users who already trusted his work responded quickly.

But despite the success, the experience has not been entirely rosy for AnderWeb. He noted that hundreds of orders each day are cancelled by Google (i.e. not user-requested refunds) due mostly to users whose banks do not allow transactions in another country’s currency. For U.S. developers, recent Market changes should address this issue, but international developers like AnderWeb will have to wait for the changes to roll out more widely. Additionally, Google Checkout’s vendor interface does not provide him with sufficient data on his sales to get tax information he needs to report.

Keep an eye on AndroidGuys in coming days for more case studies of developers whose paid apps have paid off. And you’ll find even more examples in this list of dozens of apps that, based on price and minimum download numbers, have each generated more than $100,000 in revenue.*

*Assumes the current price is representative of the price over the course of the time the app has been available and doesn’t take refunds into account. The list was manually compiled and is not exhaustive.



  • Chahk

    Really happy for Ander and other Android developers who make it big. Goes to show you that quality apps do pay off, no matter the platform.

    • acupunc

      I think that’s true. I also think a lot of developers wanted to create the next fart app and get rich on Android, but Android users seem a little more intelligent than that so it isn’t happening–they want quality apps.

      I do find it strange that Google isn’t busting hump to get the app market to where it needs to be for all markets–when you got 200k+ apps you need to make sure they can sell everywhere and as easily as possible.

  • FDR

    Good for him!

    Let’s hope Google brings Android market up to full international compliance ASAP and does right by their enthusiastic developers. We need those guys and so does Google – ask Nokia what it’s like after you’ve kicked your international devs (and owners/app-buyers) around for too long. As CEO Stephen Elop told his employees yesterday, it ain’t pretty. :-P

  • Mark

    Not quite. It shows that SOME quality apps pay off. There are hundreds of quality apps that make next to nothing.

    • FDR

      What else is new – it’s the same story every year in every sector of every market, around the world.

      Ask the OS guys at Palm.

    • Chahk

      I never said that ALL quality apps pay off. The point is that this developer seems to have found the good formula: build a really good free app (even without ad support) to build up customer base, and then release a paid version which builds more features on top of the free one.

      • Chuck

        Exactly. And in the next two posts in this series, I’ll profile two other developers who’ve also found successful formulas. There are many ways to skin this cat.

  • Mysterious Developer

    The “list of dozens of apps” is actually 46. Out of 200,000. Whop-pity Effing Doo. That’s not business, it’s luck. Lottery winners make more money, and there’s alot more than 46.

    Can we just admit that Android users are cheapskates already? These people are not worth developing apps for. Let them rot.

    Can’t wait for the xoom to fail with it’s $800 price tag. $800. On android. Please.

    Yes let’s abandon iOS for the 3 fandroids at can actually afford the only real android tablet. FAIL.

    • GK

      To be fair, most apps in the Apple iTunes App Store don’t make very much money either. For now, the odds are better at making money with iOS, but not dramatically better, and there isn’t a guarantee, particularly when you app is fighting for attention with 300,000 others.

      Success in any app store isn’t so much about which platform you pick as it is about marketing, promotion and visibility of your app. The app stores provide a simple and convenient way to handle distribution (yay app stores!), but as anyone who builds a product an tell you, distribution is only part of the picture. If no one knows about your app, they are unlikely to find it on their own and buy it.

      • a mysterious troll

        So if android is so terrible..why are u reading these post. Is apple camp getting boring? Must be to come here trolling.

    • Chahk

      Right. Let’s ignore the platform altogether, because Android having surpassed iOS in both daily activations and ad imprints is just a fad. Because his holiness Steve Jobs said so. Keep on trolling, iFanboi.

      • James

        No way. Are you telling me that flooding the market with handsets, and being much cheaper (on average) than the iPhone will result in increased market share? I can’t believe that. Next you’re probably gonna tell me that Ford sells more cars than Ferrari.

        Which Android handset manufacturer is more profitable than Apple again?

    • Critique

      I’m getting swayed by Apple, I have to say. I have to admit also that Android users. 90% of them, are cheap. Everyone wants free apps. No one wants to cough up a few bucks for a great piece of code but would easily do so when buying gum or such shit.

      Besides, there’s no hardware fragmentation in the iOS ecosystem, and only 2 devices to test for. Also, I’ve seen over the years, that for the same reason I hate Apple, with its closed system of everything, it really is a big plus when you look at Apple as a developer. Apple fanboys are happy to cough up the greens for a good looking app. Whereas in Android I guess, the user will already be searching for a free alternative to the good app but which unfortunately for the cheap user has a price tag to it. Now i’m not hating on the Android users, I will be one soon. Yes. I love the interface, the gaming and customizabilty offered by Android. As a user I will love to use it. But as a developer, considering all the factors I wrote above, I’d have to say, to make a few grand off your good quality work, Apple’s the way to go.

      And did I also say, that Apple provides tax help to you and has coverage for paid apps in 90 countries? I mean, that compared to so called million-devices-activated-in-a-day dogmas of Android in which out of those million users activating those devices, only about a handful would be paying customers and probably somewhere where ability to pay for apps isn’t yet supported by Google, is 10x better because quality beats quantity. It’s simple maths.

      Say your app is priced at $1. For a month, in Apple AppStore, say out of a 1000 users, 100 users buy it, others just look and leave, or try and get refund.

      You make –> $70/month. (Apple takes 30%)

      Now in Android I’m sure the same stat will definitely not hold. Because, I hate to put it, MOST Android users are cheap. I’m gonna say it myself. I’m gonna remain a cheap bastard until the day I make a 100 grand. I’d happily for EA’s games on Google Play.

      Still, lets say you put that same app with ads. You get 1000 downloads in a month as you did in the Apple store.

      Say CPM = $0.5 for whatever ad network you are using. What do you make? 50 cents! Lousy 50 cents!

      Sorry, I think I’m gonna leave the Android developer camp and head over to iOS as soon as I accrue enough money to buy a Mac, an iPhone, and an iPad to start the development.

  • anakin78z

    Keep in mind that downloads don’t equal purchases and google still keeps 30%,which ends up being quite a lot when you finally see those numbers. I’m sure that anderweb is doing alright, but there is no guarantee that these other apps have made anywhere close to $100k.

    Its good to see that there is some success though. I do think that android users are less likely to buy apps for some reason. I’m looking forward to in app purchases. Maybe once a user has used an app and can see value in it he/she is more likely to pay for it.

    • http://www.chuckfalzone.com Chuck Falzone

      You’re right; I have limited information from which I can only make fairly crude calculations. But I’m using the minimum downloads: if an app is in the 10,000-50,000 category, I’m calculating assuming it has exactly 10,000. The undercounting there should make up for overcounting elsewhere for the most part. But yes, it’s not really rigorous.

      And yes, I’m counting revenue before the Market’s 30% cut.

  • Daniel

    LarvaLabs says they cant make money off Android Market? Why would they say that? *irony*. They sell a homescreen for $6

  • timmyjoe42

    Keep in mind that some apps get purchased when they are on sale, reducing income. Also, I purchased Audio Manager Pro ($2) for half price during a sale. I have since found a better free app out there called Quick Profiles which is free. So even if someone makes a great paid app, it may not be as good or good enough to warrant spending money on it if there is a free or ad based version.

    I would like more developers to release ad free versions of their apps. There are many apps that I use where I would prefer to pay to get rid of the ads to improve the screen clutter, and accidental clicks, etc. (and effectively reduce data transfer, which should theoretically reduce processor use and save battery.)

    • xarophti

      I’ll second that. I’ve told developers so. Case in point: Graffiti for Android. The latest update included ads. A good number of us let the developers know that we’d support a paid version to get rid of the ads. They put one out. We’re buying it. (Admittedly, dedicated Graffiti fans ARE a small universe.)

  • Matt

    For example. UrsaNotes, a great app, quality, making next to nothing.

  • http://nercia.com Nercia

    The fact is, in MOST countries you cannot buy paid apps from Android market.

    Maybe that’s the reason ? ;)

    I know, US is big, but there are people elsewhere, too.

  • bomber

    If a game like Sims 3 makes an estimated $100k (introduction price was $1) then this has still a long way to go.

  • http://profiles.google.com/midtra52 keith dontmatter

    We find so few examples of Android developers making money. All over the internet we see the same story about the guy that made the car locater app. It’s the only example we see. It seems as though google is promoting that example to try to drive more developers to make even more free apps for Android. The whole platform is doomed though. Google doomed it from that start by promoting the whole free atmosphere and trying to force developers into having no other option than to put googleadsense in their apps. I feel this was googles plan all along and we all know adsense makes a fortune for google but not anyone hosting the ads.

    • Critique

      totally dude.. you are stating THE point. Google’s evil plan is just that. Get thumbsup from the open source community for open sourcing the Android OS, as well as keep earning the zillions from ads in the android apps rather than a few billions like Apple with its closed environment

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shawn-Ruse/100001265795576 Shawn Ruse

     Android is OpenSource so the monetary gain for paid apps will be way smaller than closed systems such as the iPhone. The best way to make money is by being a part of the OpenSource community and making a name for yourself. 

    • Critique

      So how many millions did you make?

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  • Xoxjadexox7

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  • Xoxjadexox7

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  • Xoxjadexox7

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  • Xoxjadexox7

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  • Xoxjadexox7

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  • Farrah Collins

    I don’t know about paid apps but I think http://www.formvote.com is a pretty cool one.