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The Business Side of iOS Development: Monetization Strategies

Let’s dive into how to make some cash from iOS apps. Whether you’re a solo iOS developer, in a dev squad, or just have an app and wonder how it can make you money, these tactics are your golden ticket.

Freemium Model

Here, your app’s on the house. Got some swanky extra features or content? That’s where users will need to shell out a bit.

Why it works:

  • Low entry barrier: Offering your app for free attracts a larger user base initially.
  • Upsell opportunities: Users who love your app can choose to unlock extra features, creating a steady stream of revenue.
  • User engagement: Free users can still enjoy your app, potentially leading to higher engagement and word-of-mouth referrals.


  • Dropbox: Offers free storage with the option to upgrade for more space and advanced features.
  • Candy Crush Saga: Lets players buy power-ups and extra lives within the game.

Subscription Model

Users pay a regular fee (monthly or annually) to access your app or its premium content.

Why it works:

  • Recurring revenue: Provides a steady income stream.
  • Continuous updates: Subscribers expect regular improvements and updates to the app.
  • Premium experience: Users who subscribe feel they’re getting extra value.


  • Netflix: Offers monthly subscriptions for access to a library of movies and TV shows.
  • The New York Times: Provides content behind a paywall for subscribers.

In-App Purchases

In-app purchases involve selling virtual goods, services, or content within your app. This can include items like virtual currency, power-ups, or digital products.

Why it works:

  • Impulse purchases: Users may buy in-app items on a whim, especially in freemium games.
  • Personalization: Allows users to customize their experience.
  • Monetization for free apps: Can generate revenue even if your app is free to download.


  • Clash of Clans: Sells in-game currency, gems, and other resources.
  • Tinder: Offers premium features like unlimited likes with a subscription.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing involves promoting other products or services within your app and earning a commission for each sale or action generated through your referral.

Why it works:

  • Diversified income: You can monetize your app without directly selling anything.
  • Passive income: Once set up, affiliate marketing can generate income without ongoing effort.
  • Relevance: Promote products or services related to your app’s niche for better results.


  • Amazon Associates: Promote Amazon products and earn a commission on sales generated through your affiliate links.
  • Airbnb: Earn a commission for referring users who book accommodations through your referral link.

Sponsorships and Partnerships

Collaborate with other businesses, brands, or influencers to promote their products or services within your app in exchange for sponsorship deals or partnerships.

Why it works:

  • Additional income: Sponsorship deals can provide a substantial boost to your revenue.
  • Increased exposure: Partnering with established brands can help you reach a wider audience.
  • Cross-promotion: Partner apps may promote your app in return, leading to more downloads.


  • Nike Run Club: Partners with Nike to promote their products to users.
  • Instagram: Collaborates with influencers for sponsored posts.

Selling the App

A more traditional approach is to sell your app directly to users in the App Store. 

Why it works:

  • Immediate revenue: Get paid upfront when users purchase your app.
  • No revenue sharing: You keep all the earnings from each sale.
  • Predictable income: While not as consistent as subscription models, it can provide a steady stream of income.


  • Monument Valley: A visually stunning puzzle game that users purchase to play.
  • Procreate: A popular digital art app available for a one-time fee.

Donations and Tip Jars

Allow users who love your app to make voluntary donations or leave tips to support your development efforts.

Why it works:

  • Community support: Some users are willing to contribute to the apps they love.
  • Low friction: Donations can be a quick and easy way for users to show their appreciation.
  • Supplementary income: While not a primary source of revenue, it can provide extra funds.


  • Wikipedia: Relies on donations to keep its platform free and ad-free.
  • Podcast apps: Many podcast apps offer the option to tip podcast creators.

Hybrid Models

You don’t have to stick to just one monetization strategy. You can combine several approaches to diversify your revenue streams.

Why it works:

  • Risk mitigation: Multiple income sources can help you weather fluctuations in revenue.
  • Catering to different users: Different users may prefer different payment models.
  • Maximizing revenue potential: Combining strategies can increase your overall earnings.


  • Spotify: Offers both free, ad-supported streaming and premium subscription tiers.
  • LinkedIn: Provides free and premium subscription options with additional features.


With the right approach, your iOS app can not only enhance people’s lives but also bring you a rewarding income stream. Good luck on your iOS development journey!


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