The mobile app development industry is booming, and with billions of smartphone users worldwide, it’s no surprise that developers are eager to capitalize on this trend. However, choosing the right business model is crucial for the success of a mobile app. In this article, we will delve into the top 10 business models for mobile app development in 2023, providing insights into their advantages and potential drawbacks.

Freemium Model

The freemium model is one of the most popular and widely adopted strategies for mobile app monetization. It involves offering a basic version of the app for free while providing the option for users to purchase premium features or content. This model allows users to explore the app’s functionality before committing to a purchase, making it a user-friendly approach. However, it’s important to note that only a small percentage of users typically convert to premium, so a substantial user base is crucial for success.

Example: Spotify

  • Features: Spotify offers a free version with ads and limitations, and a premium version with ad-free listening, offline downloads, and additional features.
  • Factors: Attracts a large user base with the free version, encourages premium subscriptions through a trial period.
  • Costs: Development, licensing fees, ad costs, and premium subscription revenue.

Advertising Model

The advertising model relies on displaying ads within the app to generate revenue. It’s a viable option for both free and premium apps and is relatively easy to implement. However, developers must strike a balance between ad presence and user experience, as intrusive ads can drive users away.

Example: Facebook

  • Features: Facebook displays targeted ads to users within the app.
  • Factors: Balancing user experience with ad revenue, engaging advertisers for ad space.
  • Costs: Ad integration, user experience maintenance, and ad network commissions.

Subscription-Based Apps

The subscription model involves charging users a recurring fee to access the app’s premium features or content. This model is particularly effective for apps that provide ongoing value, such as streaming services, news apps, and productivity tools. It guarantees a steady stream of income but may limit the user base.

Example: Netflix

  • Features: Users pay a monthly fee for access to a vast library of movies and TV shows.
  • Factors: Limited to subscribers, pricing tiers, and content selection.
  • Costs: Content licensing, development, user support, and marketing.

In-App Purchases

In-app purchases allow users to buy virtual goods, services, or content within the app. This model is commonly used in gaming, social media, and educational apps. Developers must ensure that the in-app purchases are relevant, fairly priced, and clearly communicated to users.

Example: Candy Crush Saga

  • Features: Users can purchase in-game items, lives, and boosts to enhance their gameplay.
  • Factors: In-app purchases are relevant to the game, and pricing is competitive.
  • Costs: Game development, in-app purchase system, and updates.

Premium Apps

Premium apps require users to pay an upfront fee to download and use the app. This model is suitable for apps offering unique, high-quality features or content. However, convincing users to pay without a trial period can be challenging.

Example: Procreate

  • Features: A one-time payment provides access to Procreate’s advanced drawing and illustration tools.
  • Factors: Convincing users of the app’s value before purchase.
  • Costs: App development, marketing, and app store commissions.

Sponsorship Model

Sponsorships involve partnering with businesses willing to pay for promoting their products or services within the app. This model works for both free and premium apps and can provide an additional revenue stream.

Example: Red Bull TV

  • Features: Red Bull sponsors content on the app, including extreme sports, music, and lifestyle shows.
  • Factors: Finding sponsors aligned with the app’s target audience.
  • Costs: Sponsorship negotiations, content integration.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a strategy where developers earn commissions by promoting other businesses’ products or services within the app. It is effective when the app’s audience aligns with the products or services being promoted.

Example: Amazon

  • Features: Amazon’s app enables users to purchase products with affiliate links, earning commissions for affiliates.
  • Factors: Relevance of products to app’s users and clear disclosure of affiliate relationships.
  • Costs: Affiliate program integration, marketing, and affiliate commissions.

E-commerce Apps

E-commerce apps allow users to browse and purchase products or services directly within the app. Retailers, restaurants, and service providers often adopt this model, provided the app offers competitive prices and a seamless shopping experience.

Example: Amazon Shopping

  • Features: Users can browse, purchase, and track products from Amazon’s vast online store.
  • Factors: Competitive pricing, user trust, and a seamless shopping experience.
  • Costs: E-commerce features, payment gateway integration, marketing.

Commissioned Apps

Commissioned apps are customized solutions developed for specific businesses or organizations. Developers earn a commission on each transaction facilitated by the app, making it a profitable option.

Example: Uber for Business

  • Features: Uber offers customized solutions for businesses, allowing employees to book rides.
  • Factors: Identifying businesses willing to pay for customized solutions.
  • Costs: Custom app development, transaction tracking, and commission management.

Data Monetization

Data monetization involves collecting and selling user data to third-party companies for various purposes, including targeted advertising and market research. This model can be lucrative but must be executed with respect for user privacy and compliance with data protection regulations.

Example: Facebook

  • Features: Facebook collects user data and provides advertisers with targeted ad opportunities.
  • Factors: Prioritizing user privacy and compliance with data protection regulations.
  • Costs: Data collection infrastructure, compliance efforts, and marketing to data buyers.


Choosing the right business model for your mobile app is a critical decision that can significantly impact your app’s success. To make an informed choice, consider factors such as your target audience, the app’s value proposition, market competition, and your budget. You may also explore the possibility of combining multiple business models to maximize revenue. Ultimately, success in the mobile app development industry comes from not only creating a valuable app but also choosing the right path to profitability.