5 Smartphone Apps That Can Earn You Money

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The smartphone app business is making lots of money, but it's all funneled one-way: to the developers. Here are a few apps that can put a little cash in your pocket.

In the mobile world, apps are where it’s at. Mashable reported last month that consumers are now spending more time on average using mobile applications than they spend online.

And the business is booming, with an already overwhelming number of options – stats from March indicate the iPhone has over 350,000 apps available and Android phones have over 250,000. (Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 combined account for another 30,000 apps.)

Many of these are free and terrible; some of them are free and decent. Others cost a buck or two, while a handful of games and specialized resource apps can cost $10 or more. But how many apps can put money back in your wallet? Money Talks News reporter Jim Robinson discovered a few – check them out in the video below, then read on for more details and links.

None of these are going to make you rich, of course. For the most part, a minimum-wage job would be time better spent. But using these apps could help pay the phone bill if you’re out and about, and they fit into your regular routine…

1. Gigwalk. This app requires an iPhone (Android support is planned, but no word on when) and a PayPal account. Launched in May, it’s currently only available in 8 areas: Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco Bay, Philadelphia, South Florida, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle.

But despite those limitations, it seems to be growing and it’s a cool idea: $3-5 for snapping a few photos of a restaurant’s exterior or its menu, verifying roadblocks and signage, and other simple tasks. If you’re in the right spot, the tasks only take a minute – and $3/minute is a pretty good pay rate. But if you have to drive 5 miles to get there, not so much: Between the gas and the drive time, it’s no longer worth it. I live in South Florida, and it found 6 tasks worth $3 each, all about 5 miles from me. (But it found 181 tasks in Miami, 35 miles away.) Plus, PayPal takes a cut: “a $5 Gig will incur a $0.45 fee,” says Gigwalk. If you want to learn more, fans have created a Gigwalk blog with tips.

2. Field Agent. Claiming to be “the first app that pays you,” FieldAgent is similar to Gigwalk and came out a year before it. Fifteen months later, though, there’s still no Android version. There’s a wider average range of pay here – “most jobs pay between $2 and $8,” according to Field Agent’s FAQ, and like Jim, I saw $11 secret shopping tasks at Sam’s Club – and a wider range of availability. Tasks are offered all over the country, and some are surveys that can be completed anywhere.

Another advantage over Gigwalk: FieldAgent handles PayPal’s transaction fees, so you get the full face value of the task. But it can be more competitive than Gigwalk – when a nearby task is announced, users get a notification by phone or email and the first person to accept the task has two hours to complete it. There’s also a priority system where better-ranked agents (users who get jobs done on time and don’t make mistakes) get first dibs on new tasks.

3. CheckPoints. Good news: This one’s for iPhone and Android phones. And it’s actually designed for places you’re going to be anyway: the grocery store and department stores. Unfortunately, you get paid in points, which aren’t worth much. You get them both for “checking in” – broadcasting your presence at a store online – and for scanning products, which can also get you coupons and access to silly games (digital slot machines and scratch-off lotto) that can earn you more points.

Three hundred points is worth a $1 gift card, and is probably about what you’d earn on an average trip to the grocery store where you scanned everything you might buy. There are other prizes, like frequent flier miles and electronics, but they require a lot more points. It’s sort of like a kiddie arcade, where you need to collect thousands of tickets for a tiny plush toy.

4. WeReward. Available for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry, WeReward pays you to become an advertisement. You get paid points (worth a penny each) to photograph yourself at local businesses and with products you’ve purchased – like 50 points for you and a carton of Breyers ice cream, or a cup of coffee at Starbucks. You can still earn points with check-ins sans photos, but you get fewer points for it – and you need to earn 1,000 points before you can cash in.

5. AppRewards. Another iPhone exclusive, although in this case it makes sense: You get rewarded for trying and reviewing other iPhone apps. In some cases, you don’t even have to try an app, but just watch a promotional video for it. You need 3,500 points for a $10 PayPal credit, and there are gift card options too – but while it’s easy, it’s not quick money, since most apps are only worth 10 points.

All of these apps are free to try, so if you’re got the right phone and enough time, you might check out a few. If they don’t fit your rhythm, delete them. But if they do, maybe you can pocket some extra cash. Looking for other ways to save with tech? Try 10 Best Money Saving iPhone Apps and 10 New (and Free) High-Tech Money Tools.

Stacy Johnson

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