App Reskinning as a Main Source of Income

Is App Income Reliable Enough?

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.

Crappy Bird App Income

Crappy Bird App Income
Punke’s app income was considerable. Image Source


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.


Harlan Income Report
April 2015 Harlan Income Report


Harlan Income Report
May 2015 Harlan Income Report

Image Source

It’s not impressive but it’s actually how the numbers for some app developers looked before they found success.


Reskinner No. 3: (Source code test)

The “20 Line Slot Machine” source code was bought from 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).

Animal Wheel Income Report

 Not Bad. Image Source

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.


App Store Optimization: How the Top Apps Do It - Ad Conversion Rates

* 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.

App Poverty Zone

 Many reskinners are in the App Poverty Zone. Image Source:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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Pokemon GO Logo

Pokémon Go App Revenue

How Profitable is Pokémon Go?


The Pokémon Go app is said to be the biggest game app in US history, crushing records with app revenue double the industry average. But does it keep on getting better from there? Pokémon Go actually made $35 million in its first two weeks! Therefore, it seems like there is no stopping the Pokémon Go phenomenon but is the app here to stay or is it just another hype?


App Revenue and Key Performance Metrics


  • 4-5 million app installs a day
  • In the US alone, the app was downloaded more than 7.5 million times from both the Google Play store and iOS App Store.
  • Just two days after its release, Pokémon Go was installed on 5.16% of all Android devices in the US.



  • On July 14, 2016, the app reached 26 million active users for both Android and iOS and as of July 18, 2016, it dropped to about 21 million active users.
  • As of July 8, 2016, average time in app (for Android) is 43 minutes and 23 seconds, considerably higher than social apps like WhatsApp (00:30:27), Instagram (00:25:16), Snapchat (00:22:53) and Messenger (00:12:44).



  • The app’s retention rate is double the industry average with about 7 out of 10 downloaders returning to the app the next day.
  • On its first week, about 60% of downloaders from the US use it daily.




  • The app’s revenue is also double that of the average for casual games. Casual games average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) is only $0.10 while Pokémon Go reached $0.25 ARPDAU.
  • As of July 11, 2016, Pokémon Go is earning $1.6 million (for the iOS app only) a day.
  • Pokémon Go’s paid users are ten times that of Candy Crush’s.


Positive Contributors in Making Pokémon Go Stick

  1. Pokémon had been around for a decade – it’s not just a hype, it’s a cultural phenomenon. The app is just a new approach in targeting an established market. As long as there are Pokémon fans, the app will thrive.
  2. There’s much room for expansion. Pokémon Go can expand its content offerings relative to the Pokémon franchise. Right now, the app only features the original 150 Pokémons but there are about 570 other Pokémon as of Pokémon X/Y’s release and more to come with the release of Pokémon Sun and Moon.
  3. The app also has great monetization opportunities. This starts with the very premise of the game. The user either needs to spend a lot of time on the game to progress or purchase in-app items to bypass the process. Therefore, the app depends on the number of users and not on whales for effective monetization.


The massive success of Pokémon Go undeniably contributed to the boost in Nintendo shares (up to 24.52%). But an analyst believes that in order to contribute real impact to Nintendo’s profits, the app should earn a minimum of $140-196 million every month consistently.

App Monetization Strategies

Monetization is probably the main point of publishing an app in the App Store – for majority of app publishers that is. But still, a lot of app monetization strategies don’t work as expected even with record numbers of active users or downloads.


In app monetization, it is important to have insights into user behaviour and their lifetime value (LTV). It is also important to have a balance between user acquisition and revenue generation since this go hand in hand. Some app monetization models require an investment in user acquisition before any profit can be expected.


There is no single app monetization model that fits for all apps; even with paid apps, there is much room for improvement and experimentation.  In this article, we’ll have a look at app monetization models and the inherent advantages and disadvantages that comes with implementation.


Premium Apps

Apps can be purchased in the Apple App Store from $0.99 to $999.99. Only about 6% of app revenue come from paid apps without any in-app purchases.



  • Every download has a definite ROI.
  • Competition among other paid apps is low but the market is initially small.
  • Users of premium apps tend to be more engaged and more likely to avail of an in-app purchase.
  • Developers can focus on improving the app rather than on experimenting on what freemium app monetization model to use.


  • A lot of users would rather download a similar free app that they can try out first.
  • Users would demand for the app to be of high quality and value. It could either deliver certain functionality or services, or it could be a high quality game with an excellent copy.
  • User acquisition is much more expensive.
  • The upfront payment is not an assurance of revenue since there is still the 30% cut from Apple. You need to reach a certain number of downloads before the app can be profitable.
  • Downloads are quite low (around 500 times a day for about 90% of paid apps).


Premium apps are not everyone’s cup of tea. Most developers offer a ‘lite’ version of their apps to entice (and intrigue) users into trying upgraded features that’s only available in the premium app. There’s also a balance between charging a small amount and the revenue it will generate. If you charge an app for $0.99, one thousand downloads would just be $990. If you charge $9.99, one thousand downloads would yield $9,990 but it would take longer before you can achieve that number of downloads since every increase in price tier causes a decrease in daily downloads.



The paymium app monetization model can be considered a hybrid. It is premium meets freemium in-app purchases. Users are asked to pay upfront and within the app, in-app purchases are waiting to be bought. Paymium accounts for 4% of app revenue.



  • Revenue grows even after the app is bought.
  • Paymium is excellent for proprietary content and services.


  • You need to have a strong brand. You are basically pricing your brand by selling an app for a fee, much more when you are demanding users to pay again to access certain features. Only a few brands can successfully pull this off.
  • Users may not be keen on spending additional amount on an app they already paid for.


In-App Advertising

Users don’t need to spend a cent. You are paid by ad networks to place targeted ads of brands and other app publishers within your app. This is excellent if the type of app doesn’t suit the use of in-app purchases.



  • Ads commonly doesn’t disrupt user experience and only uses a small amount of screen space
  • Good way to collect user behaviour data.
  • Revenue from in-app ads are on the rise and can be quite lucrative. Within two years, revenue from in-app ads increased by 1.7 times. It is also estimated that by 2018, the mobile in-app ad spending of ten major countries (for mobile app revenue) would exceed their spending on online search ads.
  • The in-app ad model had matured with continual innovation and adaptation.


  • A lot of users find ads annoying and screen space hogs.
  • According to reports, lesser than 15 percent of publishers make $10,000 a month out of in-app ads.
  • In-app ad revenues vary depending on geographic location.


Sponsorships (Incentivized Advertising)

Reward wall is a common example. Users are offered rewards in exchange of watching an ad from a sponsor publisher (and downloading the advertised app) or completing other tasks. You get a percentage from every redeemed reward. How much you’ll get depends on the ad network.



  • This is a better advertisement strategy. Banner and interstitial ads can become quite intrusive. Here, it’s the user’s option to claim the reward or not.
  • The promise of a reward is quite enticing for users and it can become quite profitable especially if the app has a lot of highly engaged users.
  • You can also engage in incentivized install campaigns for your app to increase installs.


  • Apple may reject apps with incentivized ads since under its guidelines, it is prohibited to promote apps other than your own and offering in-app credits to users who watch videos of other apps.



The freemium app monetization model offers a free app with “gated features” that need to be purchased in order to unlock. These features may include access to a level or items and tools that can aid in performing an in-app task. Majority of top gaming apps use this app monetization model.



  • This model is excellent in engaging users more in the app especially if the in-app items enable then to spend more time in the app.
  • It can be used in different app categories with much room for innovation.


  • Users may feel like they are being tricked if the gameplay/task is too difficult to achieve and the purchase of the in-app items seem to be the only solution to progress.
  • Users must have high engagement in the first place.
  • There’s a bad rap about the freemium model’s “misleading disclosure” about the app’s true cost.


Virtual Goods

In-app purchase is under the freemium app monetization model but some of the virtual goods for sale cannot be considered as “gated features”.  The goods are sold and used only within the app, and are mostly in the form of in-game currency or items for aesthetic purposes that aren’t really essential for the user to progress in the gameplay or task. In-app goods can either be consumable or non-consumable. There are different types and categories of in-app items that can be sold within an app.



  • The risk is low and the profits cannot be limited the way there is a limit on the number of ads you can show on your app.
  • It enriches and personalizes the user experience. A lot of users want to collect in-app items to decorate and use for their avatars. In-app items can also create a sense of mystery and keep the users interested especially when only a few items are revealed at each level of progression in the app.
  • This app monetization strategy is flexible and can be implemented in innovative ways which can also include affiliate programs.


  • In-app items can be slow to monetize since only the highly engaged users will have interest. You need to have a lot of “whales” in order to have a killing in the sales.
  • In-app items are included in the cut Apple gets from your revenue.
  • A lot of refunds can be requested since a lot of children are known to discriminately buy in-app items that according to EU officials are: ‘direct exhortations to children to buy items’.


Subscriptions (Paywalls)

This is similar to the usual “free trial” model where you get to use the product for free for a certain period of time and after that, you will be paying a recurring fee. A paywall model can also be used. Publishers have used paywalls even before the advent of apps. Readers are allowed to view a certain number of content per month; once they reach the limit, they are requested to sign up for subscription to continue viewing content.  This app monetization model is great to supplement ad sales (especially if it is declining).



  • There is a continual flow of revenue since subscriptions are more often auto-renew.
  • You are more likely to retain users in this app monetization model.
  • Users are given the opportunity to experience the app without any gated features.


  • Some users forget about the trial period and are therefore automatically charged the recurring fee without knowing it. They then consider this monetization strategy as a scheme to extort money from unwitting users.
  • The free trial model is a great bait for users but only a few percentage of these users end up buying or subscribing to the product.
  • This model is not applicable to most app categories.
Reskinning Apps Do's and Don'ts

Reskinning Apps Do’s and Don’ts – Part 2

I talked in the first part of this article about the do’s and don’t to consider when buying sources codes and when you outsource your app developpment. Now, let’s discover the do’s and don’t for a good quality app and the monetization part as well.


App Quality

Do’s :

  • Check the demo apps that some app flipping companies provide to have a gauge on the reskin’s quality. Graphics makes the highest impact on app quality so you should consider it first, together with sound and music.
  • Provide images in different sizes. The image quality may suffer if the apps are used in retina mode if you only stick to one size. This applies not only to in-game graphics but also to screenshots and icons.
  • Have a balance between user experience and monetization.
  • Aim for quality at the very beginning. This begins with the purchase of a quality source code to the total package of the app. One of the main complaints about reskinned apps is the shoddy quality. Publishing a shoddy app won’t only hurt your chances of downloads but also your account credibility. Some may brand you as a producer of low-quality apps and won’t bother look at your other apps.

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Reskinning Apps Do's and Don'ts

Reskinning Apps Do’s and Don’ts – Part 1

Buying Source Code

Do’s  :                   

  • It is best to buy source code from app flipping companies that reskin their own apps. This is to ensure that you will have a high level of support in case there is a problem with the source code.
  • Make sure that the source code supports the latest platform version. Also make sure what specific platform the source code is made for and in what devices they could work. Generally, source codes will only work for one platform and specific devices.
  • Look for a source code with cloned mechanics that you can reuse. A match-3 game format is proven to attract many downloads. You can select a source code that uses the same mechanics or rules as any of existing match-3 game apps.
  • Consider the features that come with the app. There should be something more (options for social network sharing, etc.) than the original app.
  • Buy a multiple-license app template. This will enable you to reskin the app as many times as you deem necessary using different themes that target different demographics.
  • Check for the documentation that comes with the source code. Well-structured source codes should have good documentation. The documentation is where you can find information on the procedure that the original programmer use and you can use in reskinning and then publishing the app. This usually includes instructions for inserting your account information to divert ad revenue to your account.
  • Check for the organization of files and settings. The graphic files should be arranged in a way that is easy to access with proper labels so that you know what is used in specific parts of the app. The file types for the graphics should also be the same within each source code.
  • Buy graphics together with the code. There are several source code marketplaces that also offer the services of predefined graphics that you can use for multiple reskins of the app. This can be good deal and you can also save a lot of time.

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