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I've seen a decent amount of talk around indie apps and how much success they've had monetarily, so I decided to do this post outlining some reflections on how Steps+ has done over the years.

What I hope here is that people can learn about certain business model decisions, learn from some large mistakes I've made, and maybe learn a bit from some of the good decisions I've made.

Some History

I built and released Steps+ at the end of 2013 as an app I mostly made for myself - I really never expected to make much from it.

The app was pretty simple (and in many ways still is) - it displayed the list of the user's steps based on the newly announced M7 chip in the brand new iPhone 5s. I build Steps+ because I use and love it, and I care about the users who use it - if this wasn't the case I don't think it would have even made as much as it did.

How did Steps+ gain so much traction? There were a few blog posts and features over the years - but really I think it is mostly luck. The app gets pretty decent rankings in search - which helps.


  • Steps+ regularly has between 28k-40k sessions per day.
  • I spend around 5-10 hours on average working on Steps+ per week now (hasn't always been like this - I took a few years off, oops)
  • Steps+ makes less than 1k a month


In App Purchases
First up, here is a bit about the IAP purchases. Steps+ offers a Tip Jar (that also removes the ads) - there are three options (regular, larger, and giant tips, essentially). The total revenue is around 1.89k USD since 2013.

Revenue from IAP since late 2013

Most recently, Steps+ does around 40-50 USD per month in IAP from the Tip Jar - and overall the trend is going up, but nothing ground breaking or major spikes ever.

Ad Revenue
In 2016, I decided to add advertisements on key screens in Steps+ - along with this, I changed the Tip Jar to also Remove Ads. This change was large - and resulted in more Tip Jar sales after mid 2016 (check the above graph).

Since introduction of the advertisements - they have resulted in 24.6k USD of revenue. Obviously, this is far more than than the IAP - but perhaps less than you might imagine. The app has served over 15 million ads.

Below is a graph since 2016 - the X axis is horrible by listing random days between now and 2016 - but /shrug.

Revenue from ads since mid 2016


First lesson
The first lesson I have learned is that the business model is super important. Steps+ is freemium - but without a lot of in app annoyances to upgrade or a large reason to upgrade. After adding ads - that was enough for some people to tip - but not significantly more.

One of my upcoming priorities for Steps+ is that I add some sort of real incentive to upgrade to something more sustainable (a 9.99 USD full version, or 0.99 subscription?).

I think freemium is a decent model - I just am doing it wrong for a couple of reasons:
  1. I give too much away for free
    • Every new feature I have built since 2013 has been free
    • Major, major features are all free and probably shouldn't be (calendar screen, insights screen, etc)
    • I felt like for so long, that if I kept making free features away that it would spur more tips or large amounts of growth - it doesn't so don't fall for that!
  2. A Steps+ session is pretty short lived - so for ads to load and then to catch the attention is not as common as with other apps.

The business model that I am going to aim for in the future (either with Steps+ or future projects) - is either going to be paid up front, or better freemium than I am doing here so far.
Second lesson
Secondly, taking a few years off definitely affected my daily income from Steps+ even now, I should have kept up and updated at least once every 2 months - and posted about them. This would have at least kept it growing a bit, and assured users that Steps+ has a future.
Third lesson
Another lesson is that while I have many apps / projects published - Steps+ is by far my largest which makes it relatively risky for me. Luckily, Steps+ income isn't what I support myself with solely - however I'd like to keep growing and diversifying my audience and products.

I need to do better cross promotion, and marketing (social, email) than I have done. While I have a decent following outside the app - it could be much larger if I pushed it a bit more inside the app. This is just a really hard balance with annoying the users, so I havent really tried this yet.
Fourth lesson
About a month and a half ago - I started using the built in rating API - and I've gotten about 100 in the USA since then. These ratings are triggered after many times of the user meeting their goal or getting an achievement. Steps+ has a 4.78 rating on the App Store - which I think helps search rankings and with new users.


Steps+ has a pretty large user base, compared to a lot of applications - something I am incredibly grateful for (and is why I work on it, even though it doesn't make that much money). I adore the people who use Steps+.

The next couple things I am planning on doing soon to help Steps+ grow and potentially increase revenues:
  • Support a Today Widget - it's bad that I don't have one yet. Fixing this soon if all goes well. This will help with retention and growth.
  • Change the Tip Jar model
    • A full version of the app (either 9.99 USD full version or a small subscription)
    • The full version has to have more attraction than just removing ads, at some point
  • More blog posts about Steps+ right here - I want to share more about Steps+ (marketing, revenue, engineering, etc) with the world

My main recommendation for fellow app developers is - do not follow my business model (bad freemium) and instead either charge for your software or do an improved freemium (less given away for free, larger full version price). The more you give away for free doesn't equate to more of anything - be reasonable about what you add for free and what you charge for.

Thanks for reading/checking this small post out - you can download Steps+ if you want here: Steps+. I do also need more TestFlight beta testers - so if you'd like you can also download the beta.