App re-skinning is the process by which a developer will use a source code they previously created or purchased to produce a new version of the app that has different cosmetic features but functions almost identically.
How does app re-skinning work?
An example of this would be an endless runner game that is in a jungle setting. This app could quickly and efficiently be re-skinned to take place in space or underwater. The game-play would not change, there would still be endless running and things to dodge and jump over, but it would be considered “new” and would be listed separately from the original app.
What are the advantages to app re-skinning versus building from scratch?
Building an app from scratch can be very costly and time consuming. Many novices to the realm of app creation think it is a few day process that can be learned by someone who has never coded before. This is could not be further from the truth.
The reality is that many apps takes months of time and thousands of dollars to create. Complex apps that have thousands of simultaneous users and send/receive data will cost millions and need teams of designers, coders, and developers to make and maintain them.
Enter re-skins. Re-skinning is the fast and easy way to get your own app out onto the app store without having to pony up a huge amount of capital or assemble a team of specialists.
Source codes can cost as little as $100. The amount you pay generally corresponds to the quality of the source code you receive, so like many things in life, paying up does have its benefits.
How much money can be made with this technique?
The Apple App Store and Google Play Store both have over 1.2 million apps and hundreds are released every day.
In such a saturated marketplace it can be risky to design and build an app from scratch only to have it flop and get lost in the endless abyss that is mobile app stores.
A key component that makes re-skinning viable is that new apps receive favorable treatment on most app stores for the first few days or weeks they are released. With the help of new release lists and the favorable algorithm treatment that most apps receive when first released, this initial period is crucial to the success of a re-skin.
A good few months can propel your app to rank highly in the store for your target keywords and help drive future downloads but if you are unlucky your app can easily be replaced by more re-skins in a few days time. Revenue and therefore profits for re-skins are extremely fickle and can dry up at the drop of a hat.
Most designers can expect to make a few hundred dollars at most on most of their re-skins. This would normally be considered a huge failure for an app, but because of the low start-up costs most re-skin apps can be profitable with only a few hundred dollars in revenue over their lifetime.
Many developers will focus on producing a few re-skins a week to try to create a viable business model with this method of app creation. Reusing materials like source code or art assets across multiple apps can also help the bottom line.
Where can I buy source code?
There are many great places where you can purchase a source code and get started making your first re-skin! Chupamobile is a leading marketplace where source codes are bought and sold by individuals for both android and iOS.
Another great place is the recently introduced Flippa App Marketplace. Flippa is know for being one of the most trusted places to buy and sell websites and domains on the web but they have recently ventured into the app market.
It is important to note that most apps on Flippa selling for under $200 are not original and may not be valuable for anything except their source code. However, there are a few completely original apps on Flippa that are diamonds in the rough. You can tell these apart because they sell for much higher prices—usually above $10,000.
Is this legal?
In terms of re-skinning an app, it is legal as long as you make sure not to steal copyrighted art assets or source code that you did not create or purchase.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with re-skinning an app and the app stores currently allow it. If you ever searched for an app you will notice there are usually hundreds of similar ones with slightly different titles, themes, art, settings, and more.
The re-skinning phenomenon is part of the problem of “discoverability”. Despite the volume of total downloads, most of the app traffic goes to the top 20 apps in each category and because of that the top spots in most app stores have become dominated by large publishers that can advertise heavily to obtain downloads. These users then help boost the app up the rankings which in turn drives organic traffic.
Small app publishers without large marketing budgets have a hard time competing with this and some have turned to app re-skinning as a way to make their app business successful.
Instead of trying to build a expensive app that has to go viral to succeed, they focus on quantity hoping that a few of their apps will have above average downloads and some staying power in the vast expanse of mobile apps.
App re-skinning can be a profitable enterprise and is a great way for new developers to get their hands dirty making an app without having to waste months creating one from scratch.
Learning how app store algorithms works, practicing writing descriptions, and exposure to how apps are coded are all great lessons that re-skinning can teach.
Grab yourself a source code and go create your first app today!