How to Get Free Apps on Your iPhone Without Hidden Costs

June 26, 2013

Free iPhone appsApple’s App Store has seen over 50 billion downloads since its inception. Some of those apps are paid, other iPhone apps are free with ads, and a minuscule amount are free without ads. Considering Apple gets a 30% cut of any paid app download they’ve made quite a bit of money thanks to the developers that publish those apps.

With over 900,000 apps in the App Store (and about 375,000 of them optimized for the iPad) there is truly a staggering amount of options. While some paid apps are truly worth the price of admission, many times a free app can get the job done if you know how to look for them.

How to Get Legitimate Free Apps for Your iPhone

There are four types of free apps you can get on your iPhone and not all of them are good:

Free Apps with Ads

The developer or teams of developers that put together an iPhone app have spent countless hours working on it. From a pure economic perspective if they put out a great app that users love they deserve to generate revenue and hopefully a profit off of that app. With enough profit they will be incentivized to create another app in the future that hopefully users will also love.

One way developers can generate revenue without charging for the actual app is through ads inside of the app. While some users find this unsightly or annoying it really is a simple choice of supporting the developer if you don’t want to buy the app outright.

Free Apps with Micro Purchases

Another trick developers will use is what is called micro purchases. This is done a lot with games. The app is free and without any ads, but you have to buy upgrades of some kind to move forward in the game or to level up to a certain level. These micro purchase transactions get a lot of parents angry at Apple because often their children know the password to the App Store account and end up buying thousands of dollars worth of points, coins, or other game perks. So if you have children, be careful about giving out your password!

Free Apps with Pro Versions

Developers will sometimes publish a free “lite” version of an app to entice users to buy the full version. Sometimes the lite version is enough for basic use and sometimes it is so heavily locked down that it doesn’t do you any good so you are forced to upgrade to the “pro” version.

Free Apps from the “Black Market” of Apps

You can also get apps from the jailbreak online app store called Cydia. Apple locks down their phone software and developers are constantly trying to find a way to crack the code in order to open up the full features and capabilities of the phone. Once a phone is jailbroken you can use apps that Apple won’t allow in the App Store from places like Cydia.

Where to Find Free Apps

If you are looking for free apps, here are some options:

The App Store

Naturally you can find just about any app you want in the App Store. It just might come with some of the restrictions mentioned above like ads or micro purchases.

App of the Day Websites

Another option are the countless numbers of “app of the day” websites. App developers will advertise on these sites to be featured for a day in order to drive up interest and downloads. These apps might come with the same hangups mentioned above depending on what the developer includes.


Lastly you can try the more secretive app marketplaces like Cydia. (Be careful trying to jailbreak your phone; if you don’t know what you are doing you can end up “bricking it” which means turning it into a nice fancy paperweight that won’t turn on.)

It should be noted that just because an app is in the Cydia marketplace it doesn’t make it an illegitimate or illegal app. Sometimes developers just open up functions on the phone that Apple doesn’t like, so they disallow the app from the App Store. Those apps end up in places like Cydia.

Do you know of any other ways to get free apps? Leave a comment!


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Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for, Discover Bank, ING Direct, and many others.

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