Free Mobile Apps for Fitness – Too Good to be True?

iPad, tablet, fitness, exercise, workout, mobile app
Mobile apps make online programs more effective by improving participation and compliance to the program.

Looking for mobile apps for your iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry or Windows phone is really tough. According to, an average of 15,000 new mobile apps are released each week.  In addition to that there is no “real” way to know whether each one is worth buying or not.  It’s like buying a car online, only seeing a picture of the exterior, and never taking it for a test drive.  You have no choice but to buy it in order to find out.  Unfortunately, unlike a retail store, you can’t return it for a refund if you are not satisfied.

The price tag for mobile apps also makes the process very confusing.  Mobile apps in the same category will have similar features and descriptions but vary in price from “FREE” to $50.00 or more.  Just like buying wine, where you can’t assume that the most expensive bottle is the best, purchasing a mobile app comes with much uncertainty and mystery.

Smartphones Rely on Mobile Apps

According to the Online Publishers Association (OPA), 44% of the US internet population (age 8-64 years) owns a Smartphone.  Mobile apps make Smartphones more valuable than traditional mobile phones.  They not only provide us with the tools to function more effectively and efficiently in our everyday lives (ie. GPS, social networking, banking, shopping, etc.), they are also a reflection of who we are, what we like and how we survive.  Every Smartphone is like a blueprint, unique to each individual user.

The following represents information from the OPA regarding today’s Smartphone user (as of August 2012):

  • Smartphone users tend to come from higher income households.
  • Smartphone adoption is expected to reach 57% of the US internet population by 2013.
  • At least half of Smartphone users access content daily (via mobile app and/or mobile web).

For more information on this summary, click here.

The Price of Free Mobile Apps

As tech savvy consumers, we are constantly seeking to find value (given our current economy) in the things we choose to purchase.   We are looking to get more for the hard earned dollars we spend by enrolling in discount programs (ie. Groupon, LivingSocial, etc.), buying in large volume (ie. Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.) and clipping/printing coupons.  It’s common knowledge that if something retails at a store for $49.99, you can most likely find it for less online, at the retailer’s outlet store, at or on

Consumers are intrigued by something that is both valuable and “free”.  They may not pay any money up front but they are certainly paying in other ways.  According to Cambridge University, researchers focused on studying the Android market (250,000 apps) and found that:

  • 73% of the mobile apps reviewed were “free”.
  • 20% of “free” mobile apps get 10,000 or more downloads (only 0.2% of paid mobile apps receive the same amount).
  • Of those, 80% relied on targeted advertising as their  main business model.
  • Within those mobile apps using targeted ads, 70% collected data that is not relevant to the use of the apps themselves.

When looking specifically on fitness mobile apps, developers have designed a “try before you buy” strategy with their free mobile apps.  The free version of most fitness mobile apps provide to most basic features, with the option to access more features by doing one (or more) of the following:

  • Pay for the full version (upgrade).
  • Sign up for an online membership (monthly or annual).
  • Purchase add-ons within the mobile app.
  • Purchase other mobile apps (upgrades, affiliates or partners).
Full Version (Upgrade)
Smartphone, exercise, fitness, workouts, mobile app
Mobile apps for fitness are useful tools to help you reach your fitness goals.

Free fitness mobile apps that offer an upgrade option give the users the option to access the full version of the program for a one time fee.  Typically, the free version includes one primary feature that entices the purchaser, with the most sought after features and services available with the upgrade.

Online Membership

More and more websites offering fitness tools and resources are designing mobile apps to increase participation and compliance to the online program.  Traditionally, the mobile apps associated with online membership sites are dependent on the online program.  They are offered at no cost as a way to add value for online members and as a way to recruit new online members shopping around.  Online memberships fitness sites charge  a monthly or annual fee (with cost savings for annual payments).

Examples include:

Add-Ons (In-App Purchases)

Some free fitness mobile apps provide a la carte services that can be purchased when they are needed.  A classic example are additional workout programs available within the app itself.  These add-on purchases are one time purchases.

Purchase Other Mobile Apps

Some free fitness mobile apps provide the option to purchase other mobile apps that compliment the services offered.  For example, a mobile app that provides exercise programs may offer a nutrition and diet tracking mobile app at a discounted cost.

The Final Word …

Be cautious when you see the word “free” in the mobile apps store.  Instead of downloading a handful of free mobile apps for fitness (which may be a waste of time and take up valuable space on your Smartphone), you may want to consider investing in a few paid mobile apps and get tools that will effectively help you achieve your fitness goals but at a modest price!  Stay tuned for “Top 10 Paid Mobile Apps for Fitness” in the upcoming weeks.