Monetize Your Free Android App by Creating a Paid App to Unlock Additional Features

by Chris Bennett

Trying to figure out how to bring in more revenue for your Android app? Try adding a paid version, which would be used to unlock features in the free version.

There are several different methods of monetizing Android apps including ads, pay services as well as a paid version of the app itself. Often there is a need to create a lite version of your application, which includes reduced functionality and/or ads. Depending on the design of your application it may be possible for a user to purchase the paid version and uninstall the lite version. However, if your app includes local databases, preferences and/or local files, which must be retained, then you would not want the user to uninstall the lite version as it would wipe out their information. Thus you would want to provide the user with the ability to purchase a paid version that would unlock additional features in the free version.

At a basic level, your free application would need to direct the user to the paid version in the Android Market whenever the user tries to access a feature that is unlocked by the paid app. The following code snippet demonstrates one method for directing the user to the paid application.

Intent goToMarket = null; 
goToMarket = new

An important item to note within the Intent is the market:// URI. The package id used in the URI is case sensitive so this Intent will only work if it is an exact match for your paid package id. Next, your free application will need to detect the presence of the paid app and allow the user to access the appropriate functions. There are several different ways to accomplish this with varying levels of complexity. The simplest method is to look through the list of installed applications for one that matches your paid version. Here is an example method that allows you to do just that.

public static final boolean IsPaidVersionInstalled(Context ctx) 
 String PaidPackageName = "com.my.paid.packagename"; 
 //Grab the Installed Application Info to try to find the one we are looking for 
 List list = ctx.getPackageManager().getInstalledApplications(PackageManager.GET_META_DATA); 
 //Loop through the packages and make sure the donate package is actually installed 
 int i = 0; 
 for (i=0 ; i { 
 ApplicationInfo ai = list.get(i); 
 if (ai.packageName.equals(PaidPackageName)) 
 return true; 
 return false; 

This method, IsPaidVersionInstalled, first pulls back a list of installed applications and loops through the list looking for the package id of the paid app. Thus you could use this method to determine if the user purchased the paid version and if not, display a pop up message and send them to the Market to purchase it.


The above code blocks provide you with the ability to detect the presence of a paid version and/or send the user to the Market to purchase it if desired. This approach is simple to understand; however, it does have a flaw. Simply detecting the presence of a paid version does not guarantee it is the paid app you created. Someone could create a dummy app with the identical package name and install it manually on to their devices. While this is fairly unlikely it is recommended to add a second factor for verifying the creator of the paid application. There are a couple of methods for accomplishing this such as creating a custom provider within your paid app, then build code within the free version, which would periodically query the provider. In any case, adding the ability for a free app to detect a paid version is a simple process, which can drastically increase the ability to monetize your app.

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This article was originally published on Friday Nov 4th 2011
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