Ask HN: Has anyone made any serious money selling Android apps?

147 points | by ghoomketu 13 days ago


  • ageitgey 13 days ago
    In my experience, the time to make money selling mobile apps was 2008-2012 or so. The market is totally different now.

    In my opinion, has never been harder to make money charging money for apps:

    - Competition is huge (including underhanded competition that will clone any successful app instantly)

    - Customer appetite to pay for "apps" is near zero. Customers don't even want to download more apps, let alone pay money for them.

    - Programs like Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass have further eroded the idea of paying for apps

    - Ad-driven trash apps and poor app store ranking/discoverability have further driven consumers away from trying new apps in app stores

    Of course lots of successful businesses use apps as part of their business model. But very few are making money from selling the app itself unless they have a really good niche figured out.

    • Eddy_Viscosity2 13 days ago
      I agree with this, personally I stopped installing new apps a while ago and use the browser more. I see apps as just security and privacy nightmares and forget about getting me to pay for them. Not to say I won't pay for good things, I have a number of subscriptions to various web services. There are a few exceptions where I have to install and use an app, and I resent each of those situations.
      • woojoo666 13 days ago
        I use F-Droid for pretty much everything now. They've had zero malware, and are very good about privacy. While the app selection is much smaller, I've been pretty happy with what I find there, at least for apps that were released within the past few years. Examples: Florisboard, Aegis Authenticator, Material Files, Finamp, Newpipe, Shelter, Connectbot, and anything by Simple Mobile Tools
        • cobertos 13 days ago
          Commenting to remind myself to check these out later.

          I've also found SunTimes, SMS Backup+ (for SMS, MMS, Call log -> SMTP email), Markor, LawnChair, OpenCamera (specifically for manual camera control like exposure and focus), NewPipe, Aegis Authenticator, and FluffyChat to be really useful.

          • 2Gkashmiri 13 days ago
            Simple mobile tools recently fucked their gallery by removing password protected hidden folders for some bullshit reason.

            The only fuckup they've done so far.

          • xchip 13 days ago
            Thanks for your list of apps, there were a few I didn't know and that are what I had been searching for :)
          • klausjensen 13 days ago
            I hate installing new apps as well and prefer mobile websites for most things.

            So on a new project, we just created an amazing, reponsive web-app.

            The most frequent feedback we got from users we showed it to was: "That's awesome! When is the (IOS/Android) app ready?"


            • tpoacher 13 days ago
              just ship a launcher that opens the webpage with the address bar disabled :p
              • runjake 13 days ago
                No need to ship a launcher. You can already do this on iOS/iPadOS:


                When you tap on the icon on the home screen, it'll open up in Safari without any browser chrome visible.

                • tpoacher 12 days ago
                  Yes but then users know it's a weblink, and you're back to square one: "when is the Android/iOS app coming out?"
                • klausjensen 13 days ago
                  Apple will not accept that, unfortunately. :(
                  • bradgessler 13 days ago
                    They will accept apps if it does something lame like implement login natively and have a bottom menu bar launcher.

                    I hate to say it, but I’d probably pay apple a cut if they’d let me distribute PWAs through their App Store without going through the trouble of building a lame native wrapper.

                  • quartzic 13 days ago
                    Or a PWA!
                    • aaaaaaaaata 13 days ago
                      These two are not mutually exclusive, and well supported by most app stores now.
                      • klausjensen 13 days ago
                        Apple rejects apps that are just wrappers around a website. :(
                • nmstoker 13 days ago
                  Similar views here.

                  It has recently become even worse as the Google Store no longer shows permissions.

                  • jxramos 13 days ago
                    Same exact sentiment and behavior on my end. I’ve become what I call “app-averse”
                    • moneywoes 13 days ago
                      Would you be more likely to pay for a chrome extension?
                      • bobkazamakis 13 days ago
                        I will never pay for a chrome extension because of the threat vector it allows for malicious actors. Yes, maybe you've got a great extension, but you require DOM access for every page I hit. Maybe I even trust you completely! But

                        I can't trust that next week a bad actor buys you out and drops in a browser exploit.

                        • afpx 13 days ago
                          Reminds me of people at work who blindly download and run github repos.
                          • xeromal 13 days ago
                            Yeah, I always get the heeby jeebies when I'm about to use a new github repo at work. I tend to add creedence to projects that have loads of stars simply because someone would've complained in the issues section if some nefarious things were afoot. Obviously this isn't foolproof.
                        • toyg 13 days ago
                          Most people don't even know what those are.
                          • Eddy_Viscosity2 13 days ago
                            Potentially, provided I found it both useful and trustworthy.
                        • octobus2021 13 days ago
                          I started a company making and selling Android games (phone and tablets) around 2010. Made 5 games with 0 revenue, however couple years later Google Ads found widespread fraud and they re-distributed some earnings and I ended up with a few hundred $$ (I spent several thousand on those games working with remote designers/developers, marketing, etc).

                          It was already really REALLY BAD. People would "re-skin" games, so they would make a game (or more often just steal one and re-package as their own) and replace graphics/audio to make it look different even though it was the same game. If I recall correctly some managed to have almost a hundred re-skins of the same game. Of course the more games you have as a publisher the higher you are in the search results/easier it is for you to get new installs. Click fraud was rampant even then, with cloned and fake SIMs, real and virtual devices, botnets... It was nearly impossible to make anything in that market back then so I folded around 2012.

                          Of course it's loser's perspective, maybe somebody else has more optimistic take :-)

                          • the_only_law 13 days ago
                            > It was already really REALLY BAD. People would "re-skin" games, so they would make a game (or more often just steal one and re-package as their own) and replace graphics/audio to make it look different even though it was the same game. If I recall correctly some managed to have almost a hundred re-skins of the same game

                            Mobile games are a pit.

                            Modern phones can run pretty impressive stuff now, hell iOS has Civ 6 and Total War Medieval 2 ports.

                            But instead the stores seem to be filled with endless reskins of the same tired concepts as a decade ago.

                            And then the ads are all lies. They'll legit just rip some footage from a well established and well liked PC game, say Age of Empires II, and use that in their ads when the actual game is just a shitty Clash of Clans ripoff.

                            • freemint 13 days ago
                              If you wanna get an idea how really bad the situation was/is i recommend this GDC talk.
                            • afpx 13 days ago
                              Poor discoverability makes for such an awful user experience. Google and Apple have no incentive to improve their search. It's easier and more profitable for them to shill out their promoted apps.

                              It's like if we were given the Internet in 1990 but forced to use AOL to search, forever. Someone please disrupt app search.

                              • jamil7 13 days ago
                                > In my experience, the time to make money selling mobile apps was 2008-2012 or so. The market is totally different now.

                                The market is very different I agree but I'd disagree on the money part. Subscription B2C business models are normalised and there's a lot of companies making a lot of money in both app stores right now. In fact I think you can probably make more money now than you could in 2008-2012. Granted it's all a lot more sophisticated and requires more up-front capital, larger marketing budgets and larger teams than it used to but the money is there.

                                As far as I see, people are installing less apps but the few they have they're spending more time and money in.

                                • orangecat 13 days ago
                                  Granted it's all a lot more sophisticated and requires more up-front capital, larger marketing budgets and larger teams

                                  Yeah, that's pretty much the point. In 2010 I released a paid app developed in my spare time, did zero marketing, and made around $10k after app store fees and taxes. That would never happen today.

                                  • jamil7 13 days ago
                                    Yeah paid upfront and zero marketing won't get you far anymore but that's true everywhere in software now.
                                • rasulkireev 13 days ago
                                  > Customers don't even want to download more apps, let alone pay money for them.

                                  Interestingly, I found myself thinking about this and thought about it a little different. I indeed want to have as little apps on my phone as possible, but that made me want to increase the quality of those apps. And thus I wasn't against paying for those if they are indeed better quality.

                                  It's like with cooking. If your dish uses less ingredients, you can focus on better quality ingredients then.

                                  • bombcar 13 days ago
                                    The problem is almost all apps are just a wrapped webpage anyway - I want apps that keep working (to the best of their ability) offline, which very VERY few do. Kindle and HERE maps are some of the ones I can think of.
                                    • gigaflop 13 days ago
                                      Apps should fill some kind of utility for the user. Once I have my utilities covered, why would I want to get something else that does the same thing?

                                      So, once I have my needs covered, I have very little desire to go hunting for something new.

                                    • hgazx 13 days ago
                                      The situation of games is dire. I wish there was a good rpg that I could pay for upfront, without micro transactions. I don’t even look for one because it’s unlikely to exist.
                                      • coopierez 13 days ago
                                        If you haven't played them yet, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy I-VI are all available on mobile app stores. DQ IV-VI in particular are very charming and hold up well (imho!).

                                        If you're more of a western RPG guy I believe Icewind Dale and Baldur's gate are on there too.

                                        • antifa 13 days ago
                                          I'd be hesitant to pay for a Square Enix game on mobile. There are horror stories about the devs forcing users to be online and then also accidentally deleting the forced-online game saves.
                                          • coopierez 12 days ago
                                            I agree that there are... issues with Squenix games from time to time on mobile (e.g. font issues on the new remasters of FF I-VI), but none of the games I mentioned enforce cloud saves.
                                          • marlowe221 13 days ago
                                            This person knows what he/she/they is talking about!
                                            • jtbayly 13 days ago
                                              How do you know he/she/it doesn’t identify as a microchip?

                                              “Person” is so speciesist.

                                          • hadlock 13 days ago
                                            Yeah I own a nintendo switch for games. One store for all my home and mobile gaming (for what little travel we do these days, where I'm not driving the car). I have no desire to get on the microtransaction treadmill as I am not part of the 3% or whatever of users that provide the majority of their revenue. Nintendo Switch has more than enough jrpgs to last a lifetime. Even charges off the same connector as my phone.
                                            • egeozcan 13 days ago
                                              "Divinity: Original Sin 2" is available on the iOS app store. It's the best game overall (not just among the tactical RPGs) I've ever played in my life.


                                              • vicek22 13 days ago
                                                I find that the ports of older PC RPGs are the best for paying only once and getting the full uninterrupted game.

                                                Knights of the Old Republic I and II are the best IMO.

                                              • gesman 12 days ago
                                                Already successful business will strengthen their presence with app but not through app.

                                                App-based business models are recipe for disasters. Many horror stories of app banned because scammy competitor complained. Apple or Google won't care.

                                                High app rating for new app is a sure sign of cloned app or scam.

                                                I won't download 95% of apps if i see "includes in-app purchases". Special purpose apps like "All Trails" or specialized aggregators/organizers that require lots of work to deliver - typically justify the cost.

                                                Cute calculators that require recurring payments to disable annoying ads is complete nonsense

                                                • monkeybutton 13 days ago
                                                  >Customers don't even want to download more apps, let alone pay money for them.

                                                  I'm at the point where each OS update means another app gets purged from my phone.

                                                  • jxramos 13 days ago
                                                    Can you elaborate further. What’s the relation or workflow to the OS update that connects to native apps exactly?
                                                    • withinboredom 13 days ago
                                                      The update takes up disk space. Ergo, if you have "too many" apps, you have to delete some to make up room for the update.
                                                      • monkeybutton 13 days ago
                                                        This is it. Even with keeping photos and music on a micro SD card, the internal storage for the OS and apps is often woefully undersized.
                                                  • lakomen 13 days ago
                                                    Good summary. Every time I install some random new app I feel like I exposed my phone to predators. As a result I don't even install new apps anymore, and when I do they get uninstalled quickly because they're really hostile. Let's take Twitter, you install it, it wants to know you date of birth and your phone number. Absolutely not. Facebook, if you have it and Instagram installed and allow "media access" it scans your phone's ssd to detect instagram then proceeds to annoy you to asking if you that's your instagram account and if you want to connect those. No I do not, I'd rather unistall both so you can't further spy on me. And many many more such examples. I just pick the 2 most prominent.

                                                    Also I don't see the phone as a proper OS where I would spend money on. It's a gadget, a plaything and my head hurts if I use it too long and I need some time to recover.

                                                    • altdataseller 13 days ago
                                                      There's usually tight period where you can make money when these new ecosystems pop up.

                                                      With Android/iPhone, it was clearly 2008-2012, as you mentioned.

                                                      With Google/SEO, it was 2004-2010 (right before Google Panda/Penguin algorithm).

                                                      With Facebook ads/Shopify/DTC, it was 2010-2016.

                                                      With SaaS, it was 2010-2016, IMO.

                                                      • neves 5 days ago
                                                        And some apps, like Tweeter and YouTube, have better experience in a browser with an uBlock Origin or using the Brave browser.
                                                        • andyjohnson0 13 days ago
                                                          Agree. I'd be very reluctant to pay for an app. Depending on need I might pay for a service that is delivered by app and browser, but I probably wouldn't bother with the app unless I was frequently interacting with the service on a mobile device.
                                                          • criddell 13 days ago
                                                            Although I'm not a mobile app developer, I wish the app stores made it easier for developers to charge for upgrades. There are some excellent apps out there that feel like they are too inexpensive. The purchase model with crazy low prices doesn't feel sustainable.

                                                            For example, Procreate on an iPad with the Pencil is probably my favorite program for any platform from any time. I think I paid $10 years and years ago. Since then the creators have continued to develop the program and it's way better than it was when I bought it. I would have been more than happy to send them another $10 here and there for some of the significant updates.

                                                            However, I don't like the subscription model unless it's implemented like JetBrains does it where the subscription fee entitles you to updates and you have a perpetual license for the software once you have it.

                                                        • desmondmcnamee 13 days ago
                                                          I have a gym logging app that’s currently making about $20k/month on Android. I think fitness is a bit of a unique market because, in my experience, people are more willing to spend money on it compared to other types of software. Last I checked we’re in the top 5 apps on the play store for our niche.


                                                          • Torwald 13 days ago
                                                            > I think fitness is a bit of a unique market because, in my experience, people are more willing to spend money on it compared to other types of software.

                                                            It is one of 3 markets that are like that: health, dating/relationships, finances.

                                                            "Fitness" as a concept pertains to the "dating/relationships" market and is therefore linked to the strongest motivator ie. gettig laid. It is also linked to health and for some it helps with their professional performance. So yeah, "fitness" hits a sweet spot there.

                                                            But really, have a seriously useful app in either one these three and you can build a business around that.

                                                            • gigaflop 13 days ago
                                                              > "Fitness" as a concept pertains to the "dating/relationships" market and is therefore linked to the strongest motivator ie. gettig laid.

                                                              Looking like an almost-Adonis certainly helps in the looks department, but if I cared only for vanity, then I'd be working to get myself a 6-pack.

                                                              I use a fitness app to help program and track my workouts, so that I can more steadily progress to lifting bigger weights, because it feels fantastic to get a new personal record in the gym. It was free, but a ~$5ish one-time fee unlocked a lot more 'nice things'.

                                                              I didn't need to pay for my use case, but chose to because the app showed that it was worth it. Now, I have a page of graphs that helps me estimate when I can expect to be setting a new 1rm.

                                                              some fun trivia: I've performed 693 deadlifts, and moved a total of 120,870 lbs of weight since tracking things in the app.

                                                            • Snoozle 13 days ago
                                                              Small world! I started using hevy in 2020 to track weights and haven't used anything else since. By the way somehow the timer noise always makes me jump.
                                                              • desmondmcnamee 13 days ago
                                                                Cool! Glad you're enjoying the app. I'll get that timer looked at ;)
                                                              • nakedgremlin 13 days ago
                                                                Would you be willing to share how that compares to your iOS side? I see you have Apple Watch support which I assume is easier to monetize for your space.
                                                                • desmondmcnamee 13 days ago
                                                                  Good question! Per user we make about 1/2 as much on Android compared to iOS, but we're currently getting 2x traffic on Android so it's pretty much a 50/50 split ~$20k each.
                                                                  • bluehatbrit 13 days ago
                                                                    Super interesting, do you think the traffic difference is anything to do with your app and marketing, or do you think it's to do with the size of the android market compared to iOS?
                                                                    • desmondmcnamee 13 days ago
                                                                      95% of our traffic is organic so it's not anything to do with marketing. I think it's just that we're ranked much higher in the Play Store than we are in the App Store atm. The iOS App Store is much more competitive (in our niche) and we haven't yet cracked the ranking algorithm :D.
                                                                      • Melatonic 13 days ago
                                                                        Support for maybe common fitness trackers or common outdoorsy type watches could be cool?
                                                                • toyg 13 days ago
                                                                  There is a lot of churn in that space, though, with apps disappearing as fast as they appear. You must be doing a very good job.
                                                                  • nimbleplum40 13 days ago
                                                                    This looks great! Does it support RPE or other similar metrics?

                                                                    I currently use Strong, but the Apple Watch app uses 1/2lb increments and there is no way to change it. Super irritating to scroll through hundreds of ticks to log a deadlift...

                                                                    • desmondmcnamee 13 days ago
                                                                      Yep it supports RPE. Just have to enable it in Settings.
                                                                      • nimbleplum40 13 days ago
                                                                        I just downloaded it and everything looks great except that the Apple Watch app also uses 1/2lb increments and I can't find a way to change that. Is there an option anywhere? I'd love to subscribe but scrolling 600 times for a deadlift instead of 60 is a big pain.
                                                                    • xwowsersx 13 days ago
                                                                      App looks great, congrats. I've logged years and years in FitNotes. Any way to import my data from FitNotes into Hevy? I would guess not, but figured I'd ask!
                                                                      • Melatonic 13 days ago
                                                                        How do you make money? Ads Im guessing? Will check this out
                                                                      • chourobin 13 days ago
                                                                        curious, is this made with react native?
                                                                      • unixhero 13 days ago
                                                                        Well done
                                                                      • brandonb 13 days ago
                                                                        I helped build an app that does ~$1m in annual revenue, and 75+% of revenue came from iPhone. That ratio seems to be in line with global stats on app store revenue, which show $72.3B of total revenue for the Apple App Store compared to $38.6 for Google Play:

                                                                        Apps are a hits-driven industry. The top apps generate about $82,500 per day but only 0.01% of apps make money.

                                                                        IMO, the Play Store tax isn't a huge deal. They've lowered their take from 30% to to 15%:

                                                                        • bombcar 13 days ago
                                                                          > only 0.01% of apps make money.

                                                                          This is the key stat - you can sell your app and maybe make some coin, or you can make it free and shove it full of ads and definitely get some (small amount) of coin.

                                                                          Making a big success is unlikely; but if you find a targeted niche that you're already involved in you may be able to make a small success.

                                                                        • mdavis6890 13 days ago
                                                                          I really want an app-store filter for paid/free apps, where I can filter OUT the free apps. Anyone else?

                                                                          I feel like a big part of the problem is that the entire space is filled with junky 'free' apps, and getting to something high-quality is difficult. And so we're trained not to value apps because they're awful, and therefore not worth paying for anyway. A vicious cycle.

                                                                          If the apps are reasonable quality and solve a problem, what's $5 or even $10? Many people spend around that for a cup of coffee that will be gone in 30min. I'd happily pay that for a good app - if only I could find one.

                                                                          I'd LOVE to see super-cheap subscriptions too - like maybe ten cents or even less per month. This solves another issue: Once a dev has gotten most of the one-off sales they can, there's not much incentive to maintain the app. A subscription model is much better for this, but for most simple utility apps it needs to be very cheap.

                                                                          • superasn 13 days ago
                                                                            Some guy created this play store search alternative(1) that lets you find apps by filtering IAP, Ad free, etc. It's very useful but I think it's on a small server so it takes a lot of time to search. Still very useful imo.


                                                                            edit: sorry it looks to be down right now. Was working before last time I tried. I'll just leave my comment here in case he updates it again.

                                                                            • kaba0 13 days ago
                                                                              I believe the most sustainable and fair payment model is paid app at version X, which will get bugfixes indefinitely (or for a long time at least), but no new features. Later a new paid version comes out that will contain the new features, but that way existing users that find the previous version they paid for enough can continue to use it, yet the developer gets a steady stream of money as presumably many of the users will buy the newer version.

                                                                              See the Reeder app for an example.

                                                                              Though this doesn’t work where service fees are part of the equation, perhaps the best way to handle that would be passing the cost down to users through an optional subscription.

                                                                              • mdavis6890 13 days ago
                                                                                You're describing the way software used to be sold, and that worked fine since really there was very little that needed to be patched over time. It wasn't connected to anything. There was no internet and barely a network. It ran on one specific OS/version that was expected to remain static over years. And app compatibility largely fell on the OS vendor anyway. If your app broke with a new version it was their fault.

                                                                                Things have changed now.

                                                                                "paid app at version X, which will get bugfixes indefinitely" - Would you continue maintaining some old version of an app you wrote three years ago that nobody buys anymore? I certainly hope not.

                                                                                • kaba0 12 days ago
                                                                                  There are different levels to maintaining. I would definitely try to support it to the max for an overlapping window with the new version (like a year?) and in a much lower-level mode after that. I don’t think software should break all that much once it was that battle-tested, but sure enough it can happen. After a time I would probably only care about personal emails notifying me of a bug, and if it is a quick-enough change, maybe will do it.
                                                                              • sdk16420 13 days ago
                                                                                There appear to be few good apps left that do not use a subscription model, and when they do, more often than not they charge at least €5/month, or a yearly €40 subscription. I remember around circa 2012, apps like Nova Launcher and Titanium backup were considered expensive, at €7 or so. Another example, I have a grandfathered subscription on Sleep Cycle for €2 a year, if you would take a new subscriptions it's €30 a year.
                                                                                • water554 13 days ago
                                                                                  So many people even on HN complain about something as trivial as a $1/mo price change (digital ocean). I don’t get the mentality but it exists. That’s a great idea about micro subscriptions. I wonder if the friction is the same between $1 and $0.10 though.
                                                                                  • dotancohen 13 days ago
                                                                                    I have on the order of 100 semi-interesting things that I'd like to subscribe to.

                                                                                    If they're all $10 per month, $1000 total, I cannot afford to subscribe to all of them and I'll likely subscribe to none of them.

                                                                                    If they're all $1 per month, $100 total, I could afford to subscribe to all of them but I won't. I'll pick one or two killer apps and only pay for those.

                                                                                    If they're all $0.10 per month, $10 total, I will subscribe to all of them, and maybe after some time weed out one or two that I never use.

                                                                                    • mdavis6890 13 days ago
                                                                                      Probably the friction scales more with transaction count than overall cost, so you're getting at a real issue. It would be a pain as a vendor to deal with a zillion little one-cent transactions.

                                                                                      Still I think there are workarounds: Maybe I can pay Apple $20/mo for 2000 'points' that I spend on whatever subscriptions I want, and they pass the points/payments along in bulk to each vendor. Not sure.

                                                                                      • ipaddr 13 days ago
                                                                                        People have more than one server usually.
                                                                                      • kitsunesoba 13 days ago
                                                                                        I totally agree. Especially one time purchases below $20 are peanuts in the grand scheme of things for quality apps that will never nickel and dime me or nag me about IAPs.
                                                                                      • cwoolfe 13 days ago
                                                                                        Android and iOS app developer speaking. If you've got Android development skills, the easiest money would be to get a normal job with a normal company developing their app. If you're interested in long-term gains, invest 50% of your salary into index funds. They are are currently offered at a big discount because we're in a recession!

                                                                                        Most of the mobile industry is normal companies who need developers for their app, in the same way they need developers for their website. The image of the lone app developer making some passion-project app and posting it up on the store to sell for millions gained some popularity because it's so inspirational, but that's not how most app developers make money, especially in 2022. The market is over-saturated.

                                                                                        If you are more interested in a risky passion-project than a normal job, then the emerging market of VR gaming apps on Oculus still shows some promise.

                                                                                        • ryandvm 13 days ago
                                                                                          I made about $5K selling a live wallpaper that showed local weather radar. I originally just made it for myself, but then decided to release it on the app store.


                                                                                          I never marketed it properly though and so the bottom fell out of my sales to the point that I was making almost nothing from it, so I made it free.

                                                                                          That was project that taught me that marketing is more important than technical achievement.

                                                                                          • david422 13 days ago
                                                                                            I've made a few apps. Some were even quite popular. But eventually they all lost traction. So I agree - marketing is a _very_ large part of app development that I wasn't interested in/neglected. To make an app successful, it really needs to be _the_ focus, with constant support and updates.
                                                                                            • giarc 13 days ago
                                                                                              Why not find someone and give them 50% cut of future revenue? You can show proof that it would make money, and there's no downside to you if they are able to extract more out of a dead app (unless it needs a bunch of updates and maintenance).
                                                                                              • Vespasian 13 days ago
                                                                                                Just a side question: Any reason you did restrict it by country?

                                                                                                I suppose you have only data for certain locations so that would be the most logical explanation to me

                                                                                                • ryandvm 13 days ago
                                                                                                  No reason other than that it uses public domain imagery from the US National Weather Service. It could certainly have been expanded to use other countries' radar data if I had the resources.
                                                                                              • yccheok 13 days ago
                                                                                                It is still possible. I have been doing so for a few years, by focusing on single note taking app


                                                                                                Here's my take :-

                                                                                                1) Just like in other businesses, it is a competitive market.

                                                                                                2) However, it is also full of limitless opportunities. Google Play store helps you to reach worldwide end consumers. Only a few channels can do that with a frictionless payment system. Google Play store is one of them.

                                                                                                3) Since it is a highly competitive market, you need to know your niche and know who your targetted customers are very well. Then, we provide a solid solution to fit customer needs.

                                                                                                4) Play store tax is not a concern. Once you publish the app, the only main concern is how to market the app and how to pitch the app so that consumers will choose your app over the others.

                                                                                                5) With some luck, one will hit overnight success. But, the chance is rare. Most of the time, we need to invest a lot of resources, and success is not guaranteed.

                                                                                                • jdthedisciple 13 days ago
                                                                                                  Mind elaborating a bit? How is your app doing? What's your model - a free and a paid version or just ads?
                                                                                                  • yccheok 13 days ago
                                                                                                    There are a few ways for us to make money.

                                                                                                    1) We offer 1-time in-app purchases. The price tier ranged from $30.99 to $0.99 (We offer promo prices to users when they share the app with enough people)

                                                                                                    2) We offer a monthly subscription model of $5 per month when the user requires better cloud storage to store their notes, image attachments, and voice recordings -

                                                                                                    3) Every 1-time in-app purchase comes with a 7-day free trial. After 7 days of the free trial, we provide an option for users to watch video ads in exchange for additional 2 days of the free trial.

                                                                                                    4) We decide not to show banner ads/ full-screen ads. Even though it will make us earn less, it will provide a better user experience, gaining a better user retention rate and better app reputation.

                                                                                                  • holgersindbaek 13 days ago
                                                                                                    How did you market your app to the point that it has 1m+ downloads?
                                                                                                    • yccheok 13 days ago
                                                                                                      First, we need to agree that "A great product will speak itself" is total BS.

                                                                                                      But, in order to outpace millions of other apps in long run, we need to perform the following

                                                                                                      1) ASO App store - So that our apps are searchable with the right keywords

                                                                                                      2) Localization App store - So that our app can reach more users

                                                                                                      3) A/B testing App store - So that we will find out what is the most effective graphics asset

                                                                                                      4) Paid advertising - So that you will get real users

                                                                                                      5) ... (other marketing activities)

                                                                                                      As we can see, all the above activities require a substantial amount of money (We need to hire people with the right skill to complete the task or pay our ads network)

                                                                                                      I think knowing how to spend the marketing money the right way, is the key to success in Google Play/ Apple App Store.

                                                                                                      I am still learning the hard way, though.

                                                                                                  • porbelm 13 days ago
                                                                                                    Bertheussen IT, the company (one guy) behind Wordfeud, made millions. $20 million ish over a few years actually.


                                                                                                    • napolux 13 days ago
                                                                                                      My experience on iOS: even with an app featured by apple I didn't made much (around 100$/month before fading away). The app was a paid app with IAP. Then moved to freemium... Still no success. Other apps I've made were always around 5$ per month.

                                                                                                      I strongly believe that the "non-gaming" app business is flawed. Or you offer a superb app for peanuts (e.g. Procreate is wonderful, but I paid it 10$, and it's worth way more IMHO) or you trick people with subscriptions which are really sketchy to me.

                                                                                                      Games are a different story btw.

                                                                                                      • ghaff 13 days ago
                                                                                                        I'm not sure subscriptions are a "trick" but random little subscriptions are very off-putting to me. Every one is a money leak. I'll very deliberately pay for some that provide me value--a handful of streaming services for example. But not some random utility app that costs $5/month.
                                                                                                        • napolux 13 days ago
                                                                                                          > But not some random utility app that costs $5/month.

                                                                                                          that's what i'm talking about when i say "sketchy"

                                                                                                        • mattgreenrocks 13 days ago
                                                                                                          Seems like consumers are way more price sensitive these days, and can accurately assess whether they are getting value from a subscription.
                                                                                                        • doix 13 days ago
                                                                                                          During the very early days of Android (2010, I think) I made some terrible arcade games. They made about 100$ a month from ads and I sold the rights for distribution in Korea for 600$ a game to a company that no longer exists (ubi-nuri). Live wallpapers became a thing at some point, and I sold some procedure generated garbage for $0.99. I think I made somewhere between 3-4k GBP out of the whole thing.

                                                                                                          Then the market got very competitive, the "recently updated" section was removed and everything died immediately for me. I have no idea how you would get users now without an advertising budget.

                                                                                                          • kbridger3 13 days ago
                                                                                                            It is still generally harder to make serious money from apps but possible.

                                                                                                            Also, games are very different than Apps. People are more willing to spend money on entertainment than apps. Some exceptions are dating, health, finance though.

                                                                                                            Back in 2014 and 2015, I launched an app on windows phone and android respectively. They both made a few thousand within a couple of months. I discontinued them, but mostly because the competition on Android was too much and I was unsure about the product strategy going forward. Fast-forward years later, and several of those competitors also shut down, leaving room for other apps in that space to grow and take more marketshare. I really think you have to just keep at it.

                                                                                                            I actually think Apps were difficult to make money from years ago but that was because several factors such as competition, consumer spending habits, lack of incentives from iOS/play stores.

                                                                                                            Now, I think things are a bit different:

                                                                                                            1. Fewer apps as the tech sector has shifted to more cutting edge tech like crypto, etc.

                                                                                                            2. Quality of apps have gone up

                                                                                                            3. In-App purchases are very common as are Subscription models

                                                                                                            4. People are more willing to spend on IAP and have gotten used to subscriptions

                                                                                                            5. Stores have reduced taxes to %15 in some cases

                                                                                                            6. People are using fewer apps these days, no more app explosion.

                                                                                                            But basically, you're app has to be high-quality and useful. Also, the main drivers for app installs are still the app stores themselves, so you have to optimize for the app store. Look into ASO ( app store optimization ). Also, expect to take a long-time to build up your audience. I'm attempting to launch a new app now, and going through this process.

                                                                                                            Regarding ios vs android, it's easier to make revenue on iOS for sure, but again, if your app is high-quality and useful i'm not sure it makes a big difference.

                                                                                                            • jdthedisciple 13 days ago
                                                                                                              > Regarding ios vs android, it's easier to make revenue on iOS for sure, but again, if your app is high-quality and useful i'm not sure it makes a big difference.

                                                                                                              Why is it a "vs"? Why not just both? I thought so many tech stacks nowadays are more or less cross platform and make it relatively easy to ship to both or am I being naive?

                                                                                                              • ackbar03 13 days ago
                                                                                                                Can you explain why dating, health, and finance are different? Another comment above just said the exact same thing. I sort of get dating and fitness but I've never used a finance app on my phone before
                                                                                                                • kbridger3 13 days ago
                                                                                                                  IMO, it comes down to the basic human needs.

                                                                                                                  1. Health - Without it, you can't do much 2. Dating - The need for romance/sex/relationships 3. Finance - To ensure food/water, housing, savings

                                                                                                              • zorr 13 days ago
                                                                                                                Around 2012-2013 (I think) I had an app where I had reverse engineered the Omnifocus sync protocol so you could "use Omnifocus" on an Android phone. After experimenting with pricing a bit I think I left it at $20 and consistently had a few sales per day for months. I have received zero complaints about the price. It was a simple one-off transaction for an app that solved one specific problem well.

                                                                                                                It wasn't serious money but a nice addition to my salary at the time. I highly doubt a price point like this can still be done in the current app environment.

                                                                                                                • bombcar 13 days ago
                                                                                                                  No, it could be done, if you could identify some little niche like that, and charge for it.

                                                                                                                  Imagine some lawyer website or whatever that lawyers have to login into and it's an absolute PITA on Android, but you make an app that does that part for them, charge $100, done. (Obviously this example doesn't work, but that kind of thing).

                                                                                                                • robgering 13 days ago
                                                                                                                  This isn't exactly what you're asking, but consultancies that produce mobile apps on behalf of clients can see significant revenue. This is particularly true for apps that require user-to-user interaction or other functionality requiring a decent amount of backend code.

                                                                                                                  Unlike websites, which are largely commoditized by big players, custom apps still fetch large sums. The pros in this space charge project-based (or at least per diem) rates, so you'll need to be good at estimating your work.

                                                                                                                  • ilrwbwrkhv 13 days ago
                                                                                                                    I know 2 solo devs making over 500k per month with apps. Highly niched and competitive space though so you won't really hear much from them.
                                                                                                                    • gjvc 13 days ago
                                                                                                                      500k per month ... USD ?

                                                                                                                      Insane, or BS.

                                                                                                                      • webmaven 13 days ago
                                                                                                                        > I know 2 solo devs making over 500k per month with apps.

                                                                                                                        You said "solo", so... each?

                                                                                                                        • ilrwbwrkhv 13 days ago
                                                                                                                          Ya each of them make an avg of North 500k per month.
                                                                                                                          • xeromal 13 days ago
                                                                                                                            That's how it reads to me.
                                                                                                                          • doppp 13 days ago
                                                                                                                            Do you mind sharing what type of industry they are in?
                                                                                                                            • Grimburger 13 days ago
                                                                                                                              > so you won't really hear much from them

                                                                                                                              What do you think the value proposition is for them to share this on the internet?

                                                                                                                              HN upvotes?

                                                                                                                              • ilrwbwrkhv 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                Unfortunately I'm not in a liberty to say. But what I realized is that it is not adjacent to common internet threads. It is out there in the real world kind of a thing.
                                                                                                                          • WA 13 days ago
                                                                                                                            Every popular and useful app that also has an Android-version (Runtastic, Komoot, training apps, health apps) will have significant revenue coming from Android users in Europe, because the market share of Android in Europe is 70%.

                                                                                                                            Yes, iOS users pay more easily for smaller apps (think special Camera apps), but if you create an app that provides value on a daily basis with a subscription model, you also make money on Android.

                                                                                                                            • lawgimenez 13 days ago
                                                                                                                              Wow I have no idea Android has that large of a market share in Europe.
                                                                                                                              • caleb-allen 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                Neither do many founders and executives of American companies. Snapchat is a prime example of a company/executive neglecting Android for years, at their own expense. Their international growth was extremely hampered until they finally refactored their Android app pretty heavily.
                                                                                                                                • bakuninsbart 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                  Generally lower wages, and a lot of people here dislike the "walled garden" approach to hardware.

                                                                                                                                  First one is more relevant though I think. Even the flagship Google phones are substantially cheaper than an IPhone. You can get a Xiaomi phone for 100€ that does everything a smart phone needs to do reasonably well.

                                                                                                                              • sgt 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                Selling Android apps is really hard. I haven't met any indie Android developer able to make a decent buck (or anything at all). Rather focus on iOS development if you want to actually make a profit.

                                                                                                                                This is well known in the industry and a bit sad if you enjoy Android, but that's how it is and it has many reasons, such as user behavior.

                                                                                                                                • threeseed 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                  > especially with the play store tax

                                                                                                                                  It's the cost of the acquisition channel not a tax. And if you want to build a successful business then you better understand the difference.

                                                                                                                                  Because these days you will likely need to pay for other channels as well e.g. SEO, Paid Ads, Referral, Influencer etc. And the challenge is how you can afford this when your app is only a few dollars.

                                                                                                                                  Which is why most newer startups are doing free apps with a subscription add-on.

                                                                                                                                  • CogitoCogito 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                    > It's the cost of the acquisition channel not a tax. And if you want to build a successful business then you better understand the difference.

                                                                                                                                    I'm pretty sure the poster didn't mean it was literally a tax.

                                                                                                                                    • realharo 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                      Question is, do any apps, other than a tiny percentage at the top, get a significant number of users that discover them via the app stores?

                                                                                                                                      My guess would be most apps are discovered through other channels, and then the user just clicks a link on a website that takes them to the app store. Or they already know the exact app they're looking for, and search for it by name directly. So the store doesn't provide any value in such cases, yet they still take the 15% or 30%.

                                                                                                                                    • j_4 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                      Are you interested in games as well?

                                                                                                                                      I recently released my first game on Android, very much a commercial endeavor but with a model that I somewhat expected too friendly for its own good - ad-free demo, single IAP for the full game. It made $10k over the first month and so far it seems to be still accelerating. I'm yet to release on iOS, I expected the Android port to be a drop in the bucket but this is going to go a long way in sustaining me as an indie game dev.

                                                                                                                                      • zigzag312 11 days ago
                                                                                                                                        That sounds very good for a first game. Did it have any following before the release?

                                                                                                                                        > ad-free demo, single IAP for the full game

                                                                                                                                        Is there any backslash from the demo-only players (eg. leaving bad reviews since they need to pay to access full game)?

                                                                                                                                        Care to share the link to the game?

                                                                                                                                        • j_4 11 days ago
                                                                                                                                          > Did it have any following before the release?

                                                                                                                                          Yeah, the game first released on Steam last year and had a decent following from that, ~15k sales and ~200k activations from a charity bundle.

                                                                                                                                          > Is there any backslash from the demo-only players (eg. leaving bad reviews since they need to pay to access full game)?

                                                                                                                                          There is some backlash, but honestly much less than I expected. I tend to politely respond to these reviews that they're unreasonable, and like half get removed or adjusted. In general there have been far more people explicitly grateful for this model, saying they probably wouldn't have picked up the game otherwise.

                                                                                                                                          My game is Pawnbarian -

                                                                                                                                          For another recent-ish game that seems to have had great success with this kind of model (+ it's just a jolly good time), check out Slice & Dice -

                                                                                                                                          • zigzag312 11 days ago
                                                                                                                                            Thanks! I think it's a good model and I wish app stores supported it better.

                                                                                                                                            If store would indicate that it's a free demo and display the price for full version, user's expectations would be managed better, as many skip or just skim over a description.

                                                                                                                                            Good luck with iOS release :)

                                                                                                                                      • Torwald 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                        You ask: "Is it very hard to do that" which is a bit ambiguous as a question.

                                                                                                                                        But here are some tips for starters:

                                                                                                                                        - Pick a niche for your app that is very nerdy, don't do something mainstream, that would make too mayn people interested in your offering.

                                                                                                                                        - Do not have a website or a youtube channel that helps people use your app. obscurity is absolutely crucial for your Android apps business success.

                                                                                                                                        - Please pick a very cheap price with a crummy number like, say, $4,97 to evaporate your margins.

                                                                                                                                        - Understand that consumers hate pretty icons and nicely animated user interfaces. Your app has to look like a Linux desktop of a guy, who feels most comfortable to be in terminal all day.

                                                                                                                                        - Please make the billing process a PITA, otherwise things would be too easy! Better yet, make sure I can't even buy your app in most countries!

                                                                                                                                        - Don't invest in graphics! Make the app icon ugly und undiscernable!

                                                                                                                                        - Likewise, don't think about marketing. It is important that you just upload the app and let the app store do it's magic! It works 100%!

                                                                                                                                        - Make sure you have no customer support. If you have good customer support, that could build trust and drive sales, something we do not want if we want to be successful.

                                                                                                                                        - Lastly, let's make sure you disrespect quality programmers. Buy cheap code from a third world country! The delivered software architecture that breaks with every OS update and additional bag of bugs will be a constant maintenance nightmare. And after all, we want to have dreams, right?

                                                                                                                                        - Oh, and don't make the app useful. Make it a gimmick that nobody really needs!

                                                                                                                                        Keep the above in mind and surely, becoming a millionaire garage style with programming Android apps will be a peace of cake!

                                                                                                                                        • webmaven 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                          Use sarcasm in comments on HN! You'll be earning karma hand over fist!
                                                                                                                                        • iasay 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                          The money in the app market is making apps for other people who think they're going to get serious money. Or rarely are fronting an existing application and have a stable customer base already.
                                                                                                                                          • Humdeee 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                            I've built and maintained a small series of iOS apps since early 2015 to learn Swift at the time. My latest release was 2020 and they're all quite simplistic functionally, albeit filling a niche. Monthly proceeds vary around $800-1500 now and I'm approaching the lifetime proceeds of $30k. I have no clue what the Android environment would be like now, but likely not as successful.
                                                                                                                                            • terpimost 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                              We did a cool game. Realized that it is impossible to market to profit. No ads Unfortunately Apple removed it from app store due to some stupid reason.

                                                                                                                                              I think if your app isn’t a huge investment/hit and you are committing to long term support it (subscription) there is no way you can make good money.

                                                                                                                                              Hyper casual games are huge investments since they got good metrics (takes time and budget to achieve such) and publishers are pouring money on them.

                                                                                                                                              So if its not an app/service with subscription and its not subscription based game and its not hyper casual hit with a big publisher behind… it is got to be a good game like here But if its a good game you probably are about Steam/Nintendo/Xbox/PS

                                                                                                                                              • asfarley 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                I made a turn-counting app for traffic surveys. It’s basically a button-press counter. I needed it for my own use, and there was already one on the market for about $35 so I decided to reimplement it myself and sell it for $2. So far I have made about $88 although I have not gotten a payout.
                                                                                                                                                • marban 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                  Co-created the very first Twitter client even before the first physical device or an official app was available.

                                                                                                                                                  Got acquired by Idealab around ~2010 + Made a decent income from a Pro version before that. Left the industry for all the reasons mentioned in other comments (and wouldn't go back).

                                                                                                                                                  • bmalicoat 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                    I put a recent game out on both Android and iOS ( Admittedly it isn't apples to apples because the game modes and pricing models differ^. That said, iOS has made 10x more for me. Most of that is probably attributed to being Game of the Day and featuring in the word games section on iOS.

                                                                                                                                                    ^iOS uses GameCenter for turn based multiplayer so a $2.99 IAP unlocks unlimited concurrent multiplayer games and some other modes, whereas Android is not free to play and instead is just $.99 to buy, but with no multiplayer. Probably way too many variables to provide any meaningful conclusions on the Play Store!

                                                                                                                                                    • hnthrowaway0315 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                      Only worked in mobile gaming industry. Nowadays it's even difficult for professional companies to push out profitable mobile games. One company I know about tried a couple of years, made a couple of failed games and closed door eventually.

                                                                                                                                                      I'd argue nowadays it's extremely difficult for individuals to create profitable Android games. The majority of the games are those driven by micro-transaction and/or ads and individuals simply cannot compete with professionals. On the other side, it might be possible to target a niche market and grab a few hundred/thousand bucks. For example the guy who made Wizardry clones definitely sold a few hundred copies.

                                                                                                                                                      • danamit 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                        I had an income of 2-3k monthly from Facebook apps back in 2010s. I do not advice apps since you are at the mercy of the platform and their policies.
                                                                                                                                                        • caleb-allen 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                          My dad ran a business that was totally centered around Facebook and suffered heavily when Facebook flipped a switch and disabled many of the APIs supporting my dad's business
                                                                                                                                                        • ghoomketu 10 days ago
                                                                                                                                                          Hey guys.. Just wanted to say a big thanks for all your replies. I was exploring developing an android app but after reading all these comments I'd rather stick to good old saas for now.

                                                                                                                                                          edit: Maybe i'll add an app to grow my saas than think of money making from selling apps insted.

                                                                                                                                                          • mooktakim 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                            I think the money is to build apps for others and not for yourself. You can charge a good day rate.
                                                                                                                                                            • anm89 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                              My friend makes about $300k a year on a fitness app. I can tell you it's not a get rich quick scheme. It has taken him years to build up and he was a talented programmer who probably could have made that same money at FAANG.
                                                                                                                                                              • giantg2 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                Nope. I tried monetizing one, but it was never that popular to begin with. So I made it free like my other one.

                                                                                                                                                                I wish I was making money like these other commenters. I think that's very rare though.

                                                                                                                                                                • andix 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                  The Google Play Store shows you an approximate number of installs. Check out some apps and multiply it with the price, then you have a rough estimate what people made with the app.
                                                                                                                                                                  • GTP 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                    A friend of mine made some money with Android games. I don't know how much, but enough to buy a new car and rent an apartment.
                                                                                                                                                                    • giarc 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                      That could be anywhere from $10k to $100m.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Ologn 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                      In 2011 I had a discussion with an Android programmer who told me about a throw off but popular app he and others had written, and how much they had made with the ads they put on it (in my recollection it was hundreds of dollars at that point). That was motivating, but also put the idea in my head to go with ads, not pay apps. I made a little money in 2011, but in 2012 I started making better money. Admob ads only shows me back to September 2013 right now - from December 2013 to March 2014 I had a free book app that showed over $2000 a month in ads. It sometimes dipped but made over $2000 in January 2015 as well. I don't have access to all the revenue I made at the moment, but had a few apps reaching hundreds of dollars a month, whereas the book app could break $2000 a month.

                                                                                                                                                                      I had an idea of all expenses coming from revenues, so other than the initial $25 to Google and my time, all expenses came out of revenues. Initially all apps were on-phone with no backend. Initially I showed ads but did not run ads to advertise my apps. Initially I used the emulator and not a real phone. As I made money I bought a used Android device on Ebay (less than $100 with shipping), paid $10 a month for a backend web site (paying more later) and started advertising my apps, especially new apps, or new markets for old ones. It would probably be hard to have a successful app without advertising it to kick it off nowadays.

                                                                                                                                                                      In 2016 I started writing an app to get free wallpapers, which I wrote a series of blog posts about here - (I have it on my todo list to make that old site https in the coming months, it's easy enough to do but low priority). A link to the app is on that page.

                                                                                                                                                                      Actually there is a blog post to be written of August 3rd 2018 to spring 2019 of fixing up Kotlin code (which I was less familiar with then) and other things. Aside from watching the backend server stayed up I basically abandoned the app since spring 2019 since I was busy with work and did not advertise it - and that is when it finally started making money. It made $192 in September 2019 and over $240 a month from March to May 2020. Since August 2020 it has made over $50 each month without any ads or anything from my end, so it pays for its own backend hosting, domain name registration and so forth.

                                                                                                                                                                      My day job is working on an Android app for a large company. Over one million dollars a day in revenue goes over the app for the company I work for.

                                                                                                                                                                      I did my side apps while I was taking college classes and was not focused on a good-paying, full-time, non-contracting SWE job as much, which I am doing now. Aside from monitoring the backend server is up, I have basically abandoned my side apps since contracting and then being hired by my current company, as my TC dwarfs what I made on my side apps while taking more college courses (although making over $2000 a month on my side apps while taking college courses worked for me). The Wallpapers app I released over three years ago still brings in over $50 a month, with no effort at all (aside from the very minimal effort of monitoring its server is up) from me.

                                                                                                                                                                      Insofar as advice - for making money I favor ad-based apps over paid apps. The barrier to adoption are lower, less worries about piracy, and also you may not have a success until your second or third or fourth (etc.) app - I program Android full time and still haven't fully wrapped my head around things with a stable release from last year like Hilt and Compose, so there will probably be a learning curve for people less experienced.

                                                                                                                                                                      I would also advise on focusing on big markets over niche markets. There's more competition but it's harder to make money in most niche markets.

                                                                                                                                                                      • kbridger3 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                        Could you tell me what your company is and/or what category they are in where they are making this much a day? I can understand gaming as they are very popular, I heard candy crush during at their peak was bringing in that much.
                                                                                                                                                                    • moneywoes 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                      Is app store SEO not very difficult? I feel maybe the Apple app store has more potential as there are more paying customers
                                                                                                                                                                      • urthor 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                        Know a few.

                                                                                                                                                                        They were all gambling.

                                                                                                                                                                        • aaaaaaaaata 13 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                          Build a PWA.
                                                                                                                                                                          • nathias 13 days ago