A quick look at "ad free" mobile monetization platforms

by Till Kottmann

If you’re a mobile developer you’ve most probably received your share of E-Mails from monetization platforms, all of them making at least one incredible claim. Some of them are especially interesting as they claim the ability to monetize your app (and earn up to $$$ per month) without having to use any ads. I hope that most of you will just ignore these E-Mails, but I for once decided to dig a little deeper into the world of “ad free” monetization. It goes without saying that the majority of the Services I’ll be looking at today are shady in some way and you should generally avoid them.

This sounds pretty promising (until you actually do the math).

Luminati

Luminati is the company operating the popular Proxy VPN service Hola VPN, which surprisingly is free. When you look a bit into how Hola works,you’ll soon find out that their VPN actually uses the internet connection from their users to proxy their traffic. As a user of Hola other Hola users access the Internet through your connection, as well as paying customers of Luminati. Their large collection of origin IPs allows easy scraping of websites without having to see any Captchas or being rate limited. The Luminati SDK allows your users to become part of the Luminati network and in return get additional features in your app.

Well I don't see anything wrong with this?

Conclusion: With Luminati you are literally selling your users internet connection.

MobKnow / MobiBurn

MobKnow and MobiBurn are very similar in that they just straight up tell you they are collecting user data. MobKnow isn’t very specific regarding what the data will be used for, MobiBurn on the other side will boast about how they help building audience data for marketing purposes. On top of that it’s also not very clear how real either of these solutions actually are, none of the partners linked on the MobiBurn site seem to actually use their SDK.

MobiBurn shall not be the solution either!

Conclusion: Do you really wanna directly sell the data of your users? Oh, and risk the chance of these SDKs actually being malware?

Huq

Huq is similar to MobKnow in that it collects user data and they sell it off to investors, governments and researchers. Huq focuses on geo and behavior data to find out what consumers are doing in the real world. As all of the other providers on this list they talk big about privacy and how much they love it, we all know this is a lie and the only reason it’s there is to comfort themselves and developers thinking about integrating their SDK. Hey, at least they seem to actually exist!

It's sellout time baby

Conclusion: Hell yes, let’s sell out to make some big data company very rich and governments very happy!

Tutela

Tutela collects network and device data from around the world to gather data about network coverage and speed out in the world. This data is then used by telecom companies to improve their network service where demand exists. I didn’t expect myself to say this today, but Tutela actually seems relatively okay. I wouldn’t use it personally, but out of the bunch it seems like the least intrusive solution which might actually be used for good.

Obviously the exact same claims as always

Conclusion: Best out of the bunch, I still wouldn’t use it though

Conclusion

Monetizing your app with (moderate) ads and iap is still the best way to monetize your mobile apps while still considering your users privacy and trust. You’re also not going to get rich using any of these platforms, they all pay relatively low rates and probably earn much more with the data collected. All in all software monetization is often shady as a whole, stay safe and keep your users safe!

Thanks for the great cover image to HrX.