Reskinning can actually give an app a new lease on life – that’s just actually the beginning. An app that reached the end of its lifespan is not totally lost. Cited benefits of app reskinning are more on the business side of things especially to a developer’s app portfolio but let’s stop for a while and consider the benefits of app reskinning on a single app – on a single source code that had seen better days.
Reskinning can upgrade apps through the following:
UI and UX Design
Design trends come and go. An app designed according to last year’s trend can look dated fast. App reskinning can keep your app look fresh and current or even timeless. Design trends don’t only emerge because of popularity but also because of its practicality. Technological advancements greatly affect platform-specific design practices and guidelines. Apple design elements changed a lot with the release of iOS 7. The Android Lollipop update had the similar effect. Apps made before these major updates may have design elements that don’t conform to the new clear and minimalist approach in UI and UX design.
OS and Device Compatibility
Both Android and iOS have regular OS updates. Existing apps need to evolve to adapt to new features and keep up with the OS’s technological demands. Apps also need to be adaptive to the device hardware. New devices tend to have bigger screens, requiring new code for custom interactions. If you are reskinning a game app, it’s like upgrading the game itself.
App Monetization Networks
Not all monetization models are created equal. App monetization models don’t even perform the same way between two similar apps. The use of an app’s past performance as a benchmark would be excellent when employing a new monetization strategy. The beauty of reskinning is that you can explore new markets with minimal risks. You can graduate from banner ads to interstitials like offer and reward walls. Upgrades on in-app purchases can include items that improve the user experience. A great example would be options to remove ads.
Rapid Development and Deployment
The app industry is quite competitive. The supply of apps far outweighs the demand. It is vital to either be the first or the best app. That’s why developers now aim to shorten the development lifecycle of apps. With shortened development cycles you gain an edge against competitors. Additionally, it is also a means to lessen the cost and stretch profits. Instead of launching a new app, it would be more practical to reskin an app especially if both apps have similar functionality. This way, you can focus more on marketing the app.
App Store Policies and Guidelines
Apps can be unfortunately caught in the crossfire of a new app store policy. It’s either you make the necessary changes in compliance with the new policy or voluntarily remove your app from the store listing. In some cases, developers are shocked to find out that their apps were removed without their knowledge. Sometimes an app loses its essence with constant content changes. But it’s also such a waste to just discard the app. Through app reskinning, modification of the app’s content is possible without the disadvantage of losing its main functionality and identity.
App reskinning is just a venture that can either be profitable or a complete failure. It all depends on how you approach and keep the venture going. Some get into reskinning for fun; some to develop a budding career and then there are those who want to play the game. No matter what role you play in this industry, your success will depend on how much you’re willing to risk and how ready you are to lose.
How much would you really earn?
Source codes in some mobile app marketplaces include information about the amount that it earned for its owner. Most of the time, the figures are accurate but there’s no assurance that you can earn more or even close to that amount. But while it isn’t very reliable, these figures can help in ascertaining the earning potential of your reskin.
Most of the time, app reskinning is promoted as one of those new age passive income opportunities – not as a quick-rich fix. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t any reskinners that made it big. Let’s take a peek into real developer app income and learn how they maneuver their way into the competitive industry of app development. (Hint: Some luck is needed!)
A Look into App Income Reports
Reskinner No. 1: Chris Punke (Made his $30 crap out $1,673.73)
Punke decided to give reskinning a try after the world became crazy over Flappy Bird. He doesn’t like the game but he thought that he could have fun creating a clone similar to the ones he always sees in the app stores. In short, Punke wants to spoof the hit app. He bought a $30 source code from Ragdog Studios. It was a complete source code. The only thing Punke needed to do was change the graphics and sound assets. His app reskin was done after 8-10 hours. He called it Crappy Bird because of its – crap.
There were a couple of setbacks. First, the review process lasted for more than a week. When Punke finally published his reskin there were already lots of Flappy Bird clones in the App store. Three of these clones were also called “Crappy Bird”. One of the authors of the Crappy Bird clones started to heavily promote his app. He was leveraging on people who were constantly searching the app stores for anything close to Flappy Bird. Punke benefited from this heavy advertisement as people started searching for “Crappy Bird”, increasing his own reskin’s exposure. As a result, he earned considerable amount before his reskin tanked out a month or so after.
Reskinner No. 2: Walkabout Media, LLC (Just keep on going)
The man behind Walkabout Media, LLC is Harlan. He quit freelance work and started generating passive income through self-publishing, app development, and YouTube marketing. His income reports aren’t that impressive (sometimes he earns nothing for a month from his projects) but he’s actually not discouraged by it. Take for example his April and May 2015 app income report (below). Some of his apps that had gone live late 2013 weren’t earning much to make mention. But he kept on reskinning and he now has 11 apps in the App Store – apps that he reskinned by himself.
The “20 Line Slot Machine” source code was bought from BlueCloudSolutions.com for $750. It’s not cheap but since it’s a source code from Carter Thomas, Lee Rankinen and Justin Malik (the duo that runs the blog) took a shot at it. You can see below that they haven’t broken even the source code’s cost yet. But another reskin using the same source code would only cost $60 (their estimates).
These are just three app income reports representing common scenarios in app reskinning. Sometimes big revenue would come as a surprise and sometimes it can become disappointingly low to only pick up after a few months (like what happened with Flappy Bird). The app stores’ volatility is a big factor in an app’s performance. That’s why a comparison is not that reliable as a benchmark especially with app reskins.
Estimating App Income
App monetization models aren’t created equal. Even the way you use different monetization models impacts not only app income but also user experience, impressions, click through and retention.
Things are different with app reskins since retention rates are commonly low. Consecutively, download and revenue could tank after a month – really bad. This is actually normal since the initial boost of the app’s release is already gone. But this time is also a great time to test monetization models. How much would ads and in-app purchases amount to if your app tanked and you hold on it for a year? Would it be enough to give you a steady income?
For an app reskin where you spent $980 (including the source code and outsourced work without any allocation for advertisements), the least amount you can earn using different monetization models can be:
A paid app that costs 99¢ with 1,000 downloads in the first month and 5 downloads a day in the succeeding 11 months can still earn you $2,643.30. Based on statistics, the average revenue per download of an Android app is $0.01875 and $.1 for the Apple platform. So if your app had 2,670 downloads, the average revenue for Android will be $50.0625 and $267 for Apple. But also according to statistics, the average downloads per app is 60,000 for Android and 40,000 for Apple. So an average Android app will make about $1,125 and $6,000 for the average Apple app.
In-app purchases have an average conversion rate of 1% – 5% with some games reaching up to 10%. If the app had 1,000 downloads in the first month and 5 downloads a day (average freemium app download is about 10 a day) for 11 months this will be 2,670 downloads total. Calculating downloads with a 3% conversion at $14 per transaction (overall average), you’ll be earning $1,121.4.
Stanford Venture Lab has a generalized formula for calculating mobile ad revenue. It’s a long formula but it boils down to the number of impressions and users who retained the app in a certain length of time over other influencing factors. The result reveals that for every 100,000 app users, the ad revenue will be $12,240. So, if there are 2,670 downloads for a year, the ad revenue will be $326.808.
But there are different advertising models (CPC, CPI, CPM) that are used by different mobile advertising networks. Degrees of effectiveness varies depending on the average eCPM (effective cost per mille). Below is a comparison of the performance of popular ad networks.
* Ad Networks eCPM (iOS and Android) July 2015. Source:
** Based on a case study as advertised by Tapjoy. Source:
The formula for eCPM is, total earnings/impressions x 1000. Most mobile ad networks don’t disclose average figures (regional and global) for some metrics like impressions and click-through rates (CTR) that are important in estimating future app performance and revenue.
Estimating an app’s revenue can be tricky especially if the factors aren’t constant. It’s comparing a fixed price to CPC and CPI rates that change from campaign to campaign. As seen on the sample app income reports, reskinners are often near or slightly above the median in terms of revenue. This is not accounting the number of live apps that a reskinner has at the same time. But the cost of app development wasn’t considered in the statistical comparison of revenue over downloads. So it could mean that a reskinner has more leverage even to a regular indie developer since on average app reskinning would cost anywhere from $100-1,000 while an app made from scratch would cost around $1,500-250,000 depending on the complexity.
But as what the numbers are showing, reskinning only offsets the cost, but not necessarily increases profit. The problem of profitability and sustainability in the app development industry is not only limited to reskinners. Even some app development companies are struggling to get out from the app poverty line.
The App Poverty Line
About 60% of app developers are considered to be below the app poverty line. These app developers earn lesser than $500 a month – an amount not even enough for subsistence much more in covering development costs. Only 10% of app developers are in the “safe zone”, earning about $10,000 a month. Reports say that app stores cannot sustain the rising population of developers and their apps. It doesn’t help that indie developers and small app development companies are seeing it harder and harder to compete with the app stores’ “Top 1.6%”, composed mostly of the big names and earning more than twice than that of the rest of the other developers combined.
With this in mind, it seems like app reskinning cannot become a main source of income. Former reskinners that are now selling source code earn more than the reskinners they cater to mostly because the risks are almost non-existent. But this doesn’t mean that there’s no chance of making it big, the probability isn’t just cooperating – yet. But there are actually ways to make reskinning pave your way into success.
How to Stretch App Income
Volume is the key. The first reskin you publish may cost up to $1,000 but publishing another reskin of the source code can produce a real profit. You can save a lot if you did these things in your first reskin:
Buy a multiple license source code. You can reskin to your heart’s content and if the first app reskin fails, you can just tweak some aspects of the reskin like slight changes in the UI or sprites.
Buy in bundles. Graphics and sound assets that come in bundles can save you not only money but also time. You can tweak the assets (a few color changes here and there) to mix and match them with your next reskins.
Find good outsourced work. There is no shortage of freelancers to outsource – it’s harder to find a freelancer that would suit your needs and expectations. You may have hired a great graphic artist but his style doesn’t suit your tastes. You’ll waste time and money while being unsatisfied with the output. This will make you lose the advantage of fast publishing. You can save as much as 40% from the amount you spent on your first reskin. But if you want your next reskin to be quite different from the first, it would take almost as much time as the first reskin. An app created from scratch would cost as much as 10-20 app reskins so it’s still a bargain.
If your app starts to tank and updates aren’t helping in lifting up the numbers, pull it out of the store and repackage it, giving it a new title or other features so that it can benefit from the boost that a launch creates.
Set your goals into scaling from the beginning. If you’re just thinking of making app reskinning a new source of passive income, you would almost subconsciously take things slow with minimal risks. But if you want to make it big, you should keep the mindset of growing the business model from the very beginning.
Never cease to track your app. App analytics can actually give you good insights into your targeted market and how people that download your app behaves. Tweak and rework your ASO and ad filters from time to time to adjust to seasonality and keyword trends which can boost your downloads. Also, by tracking your app’s performance, you can immediately see what doesn’t work like an underperforming ad network or in-app purchase.
Online passive income opportunities had come and gone in the past decade but some are still profiting from it. After the fad is gone, only those who are willing to work hard and have a clear perspective for growth would remain. The numbers may not be promising right now but it doesn’t mean that it would never be. Just like the Android app developer, Maty who waited for more than two years before his apps took off. Maybe the real investment in app reskinning is the time it would take before you finally master the app stores and not the cost of a single app – which if you think of it, is a better ROI.
Color. It affects our mood, perception of things and even our app choices. It is almost second nature for some to categorize things according to colors among other characteristics. Some apps use colors to catch attention, define mood and character, and to convey an industry standard. It can’t be denied that color is at the forefront of app design.
To see how colors influence the design of apps, here are the common colors used in the icons of some of Apple App Store’s top apps:
According to an analysis conducted by Colin Eberhardt, majority of app screenshots favor shades of blue, orange and red. It’s quite surprising to note that some, if not most of the top apps don’t follow common app color conventions. For example, Eberhardt’s analysis showed that screenshots in the game category on average use mostly shades of red and orange with some shades of blue. Shades of green and purple used very sparingly, yet these two colors are among the top five used by the top apps of this category. The same can be said in the food category where the top apps used pink and shades of green, colors that aren’t quite popular in the category.
Though the analysis done by Brandisty only used the icons of the top five apps in each category and Eberhardt used 250,000 screenshots, it is quite interesting that apps that don’t follow the ‘color standards’ in their category still perform well. This could be because of other factors that affect the use of color in apps. Some of these factors are:
Color has many facets and properties to explore. For example, the use of dark and light shades of a color creates a degree of contrast that may affect the visual appeal of the app. Categories like games, music and entertainment favor darker colors, thus a darker screen output. While categories like finance, education and weather favor lighter colors because there is a necessity to clearly convey information. Categories that use darker colors go for the impact of presentation with an emphasis on the visuals.
Muted tones also convey an air of credibility and seriousness. Apps in business-related categories are colored less vividly than apps in entertainment-related categories. This is based on a proven practice where a product can convey its function and mood with colors that are often attributed to its industry.
The Entire Palette
It’s not just about a single app color. Some apps just use a single color range to create a feeling of familiarity that enhances the user experience. Other apps with much complex navigation designs (like productivity apps) use solid colors as navigation aids, defining each category and its subcategories easily. It is important to create palettes of color that are in harmony and in context with the app’s functionality and mood.
The Psychology of Colors
As mentioned earlier, color affects our app choices – well, almost all of our life choices. Color is a big factor in brand recognition. It is such that 84.7% of consumers consider color as the main reason for a purchase.
Yellow is full of warmth and stimulants that it attracts the eye to the product but makes babies cry for some reason.
Red excites and creates a sense of urgency; it basically shouts “Buy now!”
Blue makes you feel secure like you can trust this product with your life. It increases productivity but makes you lose your appetite though you feel calm and serene in the process.
Green is the color of abundance and makes you feel like you’re just out grazing on the grass, no worries at all. It’s also an eye-friendly color.
Orange is a persuasive color. It attracts your attention and then encourages you to take action. But it can also create a sense of caution (through association with other objects).
Pink is soft, with a hint of youthful infatuation and reminds you of a little girl’s bedroom.
Black creates the impression of luxury and no-nonsense approach.
Purple is an older pink, soothing and calming with a hint of sophistication that attracts the wise, experienced consumers especially those into anti-aging products.
Some tests also revealed that there are some colors that convert higher, triggering certain subconscious responses from users. For buttons that ask for call of action, colors like red and yellow have higher conversion rates compared to colors like green and blue.
Not all cultures define colors the same way. A positive color for some may induce negative emotions for some. For example in China, the color red is dominant even in the finance sector where blue is the global favorite. But in South Africa, the color red symbolizes mourning. Mexico’s national color is green but it is forbidden in some parts of Indonesia.
App color (or just icon color) is sometimes adjusted depending on the targeted market. This doesn’t sound practical in the long run. Some developers and companies choose the color blue instead. Blue is considered to be the safest color with only a few negative associations.
How can a mere app reskin look and feel original? Is originality even on an app reskinner’s mind? It should be! As convenient it is to ride on a viral trend, it is not a sure-fire way to earn the top spot or even drive downloads and revenue. Aside from that, an app reskin that lack originality would cause a lot of criticism not only from other developers but also from users.
So how can things become a win-win situation between the app reskinners and app users? Here are ways to make even the most cloned app reskin into a unique creation:
Only use the framework of the app: its general concept and gameplay. Sometimes, even when an app reskin is visually different from the original app, the use of similar UI elements (especially if the placement and design layout are the same) and UX design would immediately give away the fact that the app is not original.
Resist the lure of imitation. There are proven and trusted design strategies; then there are original design strategies. It’s tempting to just follow a popular app design template especially if the design is considered as the de facto standard of the market. You don’t need to think of something new, just think of solutions in order to improve the existing design. Even trends don’t require every new app to be uniform.
Create your own trademark and own it. Even with clones sprouting the very moment an app becomes successful, it’s worth noting that the original still stands out. It’s mostly because app studios promote apps as if they are brands. There’s either a catchy tagline or an unforgettable character and the studios build from there. They aim for memorability, a characteristic that makes the app sell itself even without aggressive marketing.
Repetition can do funny things to users’ minds. Just imagine downloading an app you’ve never heard of before. It looks interesting but as you open it, there’s this nagging feeling at the back of your mind that you’ve seen this app before. It could be just déjà vu, but the font is really familiar. This usually happens with app clones and apps that emulate popular apps. Do not copy design elements from other apps if said elements do not represent the brand you want to create. Create custom color palettes and avoid using typography (especially the customized ones) prominently used by other apps.
Small details matter. Sometimes injecting character or just a certain vibe about an app changes the way people perceive it. Set goals to engage users to a personal level. The main character could be a typical cute cat that is not really a standout but is animated to make different facial expressions. Interactions like this can create a unique user experience.
Good quality performance is a must. “That’s an app reskin. I’m sure it’s crappy” said a good friend but he downloaded the app anyway. The app reskin was still loading after thirty seconds…then it crashed – and that’s just the beginning. As users demand more from free apps, app reskins should aim to deliver the best quality. An app reskin after all, needs to hook the audience before the time is up.
The internet had sprouted crazy ideas over the years and it seems that the mobile app industry had inherited this penchant to sprout the craziest of app ideas. The curious thing is that a lot of these app ideas actually work! But how did these apps became mainstream? Is there some faulty wiring in our brains that make us addicted to nonsensical apps or is it just our nature to be attracted to this sort of entertainment? No matter what the real reason is, these apps are successful and we as reskinners could learn a lesson or two from these apps.
Average revenue: $356k/month
How it works:
Pou is a digital pet with a concept is similar to the Japanese digital pet Tamagotchi. Pou is a triangular alien pet (some say it’s a rock or a pou-tato) that players can raise like a regular pet. The art is simplistic but has a certain charm that engages users.
The science behind the success:
Simulation games are addictive, especially those that simulate real-life interactions where one can develop an emotional attachment, a sense of control of circumstances, personal user experience and engagement.
But not all simulation games are successful. Paul Salameh (Pou’s developer) especially put a lot of work on details and the smooth flow of the gameplay. In-app monetization in Pou isn’t also as prevalent compared to similar apps. Pou also presented an eccentric air of novelty. It isn’t the typical pet you keep at home, giving a sense of exclusiveness.
The beauty of apps like Pou is that you can virtually reskin it as many times with as many themes as possible without looking like a blatant clone. The concept in itself is very generic and you can replace Pou with any character you can think of.
Other simulation apps that surprisingly made it to the top:
Fake Smoker: The Digital Smoke
Average revenue: $10,000 (at its peak)
How it works:
iFart is a fart simulator (one of many). It is one of the many prank apps that litter the app stores. The fart machine novelty is passed on to this app with the added bonus of technological sophistication.
The science behind the success:
The gratification received from pranks is a natural part of human behavior that aims to conform and relate to other’s situational behavior. It’s either we’re on the prankster’s or the victim’s side. With these prank apps, we feel a certain sense of superiority, the more ridiculous the results, the better we feel about ourselves. Fart apps are vulgar and offensive but some of these prank app ideas actually come from recent trends that circulate around the internet. These trends seem to influence people’s opinion of acceptable social behavior.
Other prank apps that surprisingly made it to the top:
Dude, Your Car!
Average revenue: Unknown
How it works:
Hold On! is an app with only one function: you just press the “Hold On” button for as long as you can, competing with your friends through Bluetooth and checking out where you place on the online leaderboards.
The science behind the success:
Less is more. App stores are crowded with apps that offer the same functionality. The advantage of having a lot of options to choose from can also become a disadvantage. It’s the same with the option between a multiple and a single function app. Hick’s Law describes how the number of choices affects the length of time one arrives at a decision. More choices mean more time and lesser satisfaction on the user experience design. Hold On!’s direct approach, with no gameplay at all, removes any need for a certain degree of intellect and real skill, making it in a sense, an app for everyone.
Other single function apps that surprisingly made it to the top: