5 “Boring” Apps That Secretly Make MILLIONS

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Million dollar apps hide in plain sight

One thing we’ve learned over the years as mobile and web app developers is that a big idea isn’t always a flashy idea.

Sometimes, it’s the rest of the iceberg that goes unnoticed below the surface.

The first time you do notice it, you’re like – damn that’s a lot of ice!

iceberg underneath the sea surface describing the app ideas that go under the radar
Tis but a flesh wound.

It applies to software and apps too.

All too often, dull-looking apps are making millions of dollars without anyone noticing.

And that low-key wealth just adds to the appeal, when you think about it.

If you’re on the lookout for your next SaaS or app project, a ‘boring’ idea could be much more profitable.

We’ll elaborate a bit more on why later.

First, let’s look at five real life examples of ‘boring’ apps that are making millions.

Defining what a ‘boring’ app is

This is a subjective term – what’s boring to one person will be fascinating to another.

Spend any amount of time on Reddit and you’ll agree with us.

reddit thread that may be appealing to some audiences but not all
You’ll also need to bleach your eyes.

So for the purposes of this article, the five entries below are apps that we would never have guessed in a million years (ha!) make the kind of money they do.

When an app is dull, we’re more likely to dismiss it – and be shooketh by the revenue it generates.

One condition we set was the app must deliver value beyond being gimmicky.

Boring doesn’t mean useless, and we’d prefer to show examples that actually help users.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the first app.

Twin Calc

twin calc being a simple app that makes a lot of money

The first example on this list is TwinCalc which is also the most wholesome.

It’s still just a calculator app though, which means it’s boring by default and earns a spot on this list.

The premise of Twin Calc is simple:

Step 1: You take a regular virtual calculator.

Step 2: You add a second calculator.

Step 3: That’s it.

Yep, it’s a calculator with two calculators side by side.

The wholesome part: the founder is a 63 year old Japanese retiree who one day saw a market gap in Apple’s App Store and thought “screw it, I’m gonna learn programming and build myself a dual calculator app.”

 It’s no gimmick either – it has purpose and solves legitimate user pain points.

  1. The dual calculators let users move the results of one calculator onto the other, reducing errors.
  2. Users can perform different computations on each calculator, which comes in handy when comparing prices to see which store is offering a better deal.

Just how much did TwinCalc make? 

As of Sept. 8 2022, there were about 56,800 downloads at $3 a pop – that’s $170,000

The app is still available on the Apple Play Store, so it’s bound to have crossed the 200k mark by now. 

Talk about a calculated risk.


goodnotes 5 is a simple productive app that made millions

Calculator apps make us yawn and check the time but note taking apps put us to sleep.

Unsurprisingly, our second example was founded 13 years ago by a student in university.

Steven Chan from Hong Kong felt he was wasting way too much paper working on math problems the old-fashioned way.

Upstackers would have solved this by just not doing our homework, but Steven was a good boy and noticed the dimensions of the (then) newly released iPad made it a viable alternative.

He couldn’t find a good enough note taking app, though – so the mad lad built one.

He worked on it alone for the first five years – everything from the coding, the marketing, the partnerships, and more.

Today the app has over 19 million users and makes an estimated $9.4 million annually

If you were to go to their website, you’ll see really attractive pictures and friendly copy.

Lipstick on a pig, folks – strip all that away, and it’s really just a note taking app. 

A note taking app that makes nearly ten million dollars annually.

Just like the next example.

Literally ANY decent PDF Scanner

Three things supermodels find unsexy: income tax, expired milk, and PDF document scanning apps.

(Upstack Studio is, of course, the world-renowned authority on supermodels.)

But as boring as they are, the PDF app sector is a huge money maker, no surprise as PDFs are part of everyday work for businesses of all sizes.

If you’re part of the civilized world, you’ve dealt with PDFs at one point.

This makes them an almost guaranteed steady revenue generator.

Case in point: TurboScan, available on both Apple and Google stores.

Of all the PDF scanner apps in the world, this is…one of them. 

turboscan pdf scanner being a simple yet profitable app
The real life 50 Shades of Grey.

Users can scan their documents in high quality and store them in Google Drive or send them as multi-page PDF or JPEG files via email or instant messaging.

It’s an effective if unremarkable representative of its sector.

Still, Sensor Tower estimates their monthly revenue at $20,000 and their Google Play Store profile shows 1 million downloads!

Go higher up the revenue list and you’ll find iScanner with 10 million downloads on Google Play and an estimated 3 million dollars in monthly revenue.

While supermodels don’t like PDF scanner apps, we assure you they love dollars and will be all over you.

collection of tools describing the options available for a single task
Choose your gold-digger wisely.

Word Counter App

This is another entry that reminds us of school days. 

Back to when we had to write essays with a word count limit and manually count them.

Triggering our childhood trauma, the next app on our list is The Word Counter – which allows users to automate counting words!

It’s as anticlimactic as it gets, but hey, at least what you see is what you get.

word counter app being a simple and boring app yet profitable

To be fair, this particular word counter app comes with a few nifty features such as:

  1. Social media maximum word count
  2. Clear breakdown of number of sentences, paragraphs and pages
  3. Reading level estimates, and
  4. Reading and speaking time estimates 

Of course, saying your word counter tool has nifty features is like bragging about your fancy water filter.

Just like the water filter, there’s no denying the value an app like this holds.

Regardless of skin color and socioeconomic position, humanity is united in our frustrations with grammar.

In addition to creating an awesome product, the founder has played the SEO game like a total wizard, – resulting in an impressive monthly revenue of $20,000.

And with such a simple product, he only has one employee, meaning much of that revenue is profit.

Top Spot: Online Chess Platform

We knew this list was going to end with some sort of game app.

Honestly, no other genre of app sucker punches you with its revenue as much as mobile games. 

The question was: which game? 

There are so many examples of pretty – dare we say it – boring games – that have made absurd amounts of money.

Who will ever forget Flappy Bird? 

And boy did we find the perfect example of a super boring app that makes millions: Chess.com.

That’s right, we called chess boring.


We can already hear some of you defending the game and calling us jealous.

Let us clarify.

When we say chess is boring, we’re not comparing it to PDF scanners and calculators.

We’re comparing it to other games like football – in which case chess is about as interesting as watching paint dry – and that’s a hill we’ll die on.

image describing chess being an activity with less overpassionate fans
When chess match riots start to look like this, then we’ll talk.

As for us being jealous, hell yeah we’re jealous!

Spurred by the pandemic and people spending more time indoors and online, chess has seen a surge in popularity.

As of January 2023, chess.com reported having ten million active users.

How well does all that traffic translate into revenue?

Pretty good – Chess.com makes $100 million dollars a year.

That’s just over $8.3 million a month.

chess checkmate describing the gameplay in chess.com being a successful app

Honorable mentions: silly apps that made millions

We reached the end of this list and changed our minds about gimmicky apps.

After all, what’s so bad about being gimmicky?

We admit that we have a perverse admiration for such apps.

They know they’re pretty useless and silly, and they don’t give a rat’s ass.

Our favorite example is hands down the $999 I Am Rich app.

It does…nothing.

Behold, conspicuous consumption made digital:

i am rich is a silly app that made good money

As stupid as it is, eight astute customers bought it to show their high social status and brain damage.

Apple actually took it down from its store within a few days of being published, so we’ll never know how many suckers there are out there.

What a shame.

Why ‘boring’ app ideas can be most profitable

We just saw a few examples of pretty nondescript apps that make bank.

We also saw one really stupid app, but let’s try to forget it ever existed.

But so what? 

Flashy apps can make bank too – think Tinder, Facebook, and Mobile Legends.

You’re absolutely right, but we think there are unique benefits to under-the-radar ideas, and we’ll just touch on the main one: Competition.

More specifically, a lack of competition.

lack of competition give spaces to the profitability of silly apps and boring apps in the market

Which industry or genre or market gap do you think will have more sharks and hyenas circling?

Something that screams ‘notice me senpai’, or something tucked away in a dark corner of the internet? 

Allow us to show you what we mean:

One of Chess.com’s biggest assets is that domain name. According to its founders this SEO advantage is a huge part of why it could reach one million members by 2010, 20 million by 2017, and over 100 million by 2022.

If you can find value in the quiet and unassuming, you have a better shot at being a big fish in a small pond.

And what’s a small pond today will not be so small tomorrow. 

Best part is you grow with it – it’s always your pond. 

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