How do people make money by developing a smartphone app?

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I was recently asked this question in an interview on KTVK/KASW AzFamily.com.

This is a question I answer for my clients all the time. My answers really centered on these areas:

Having a good idea for an app is the beginning of the journey.

The next step is finding out what it will cost to realize your vision and get it to market. If you’re a business person you may need to find someone to translate that vision into a product. If you’re a product developer, like me, you may need to find someone to help you with the business side of things.

What if there is already an app like that?

This is probably the most common pitfall. The successful smartphone apps do something unique and interesting in a new way. Finding a way to really impress people who download your app is critical. Many apps fail because they don’t reach for creating a “wow, that’s cool!” reaction. People have so many choices for apps today, you have to create an app that people show to their friends.

What’s it cost?

It’s pretty inexpensive to create and distribute a smartphone app. But to make one that makes money, you should budget between 20K to 50K. This is because you need to commit to refining the idea, designing for “wow” and getting feedback from people who try it out. Your first release of an app gets that feedback started. Feedback from people really using the app.

How do “free” apps make money?

I get asked this all the time. There’s really two effective business models for free apps. The first is advertising, but really you need HUGE numbers for advertising to get your investment in building the app covered. The second is, if your business already has a large and engaged audience. For instance if you’re generating leads or creating opportunities for revenue in other ways already, a free app can widen your reach.

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