Edit: As of 11/12/2019 I no longer recommend purchasing smartphones or investing your money into starting a farm. If you have old phones laying around or can get old phones for free, this side hustle can maybe work, but earnings and apps have been on a downward trend for a while now.
Alternatively, if you need to make money fast, I suggest taking a look at my post on the best gig economy jobs to find a side hustle that’s a good fit.
Finally, I also suggest trying out the following platforms to make and save money:
- Fundrise – Start investing in income-generating real estate with just $10!
- Survey Junkie – I really don’t like online surveys, but this one at least has a $5 redemption threshold so it’s a bit better.
- Mistplay – Earn free gift cards for trying and playing mobile games.
- Rakuten – An easy way to earn cashback for shopping online.
- Pinecone Research (U.S.) – Earn $3 for every survey you complete!
But please, do not invest any money into starting a farm at this point!
That being said, enjoy the article and best of luck!
If you’re anything like me, you love the idea of generating free passive income.
There’s just something deeply satisfying about putting some upfront effort or capital in, and then reaping the rewards of your labor over time.
When I was in college, the idea of actually generating passive income seemed impossible. I was broke, and between work and school, and barely had any free time to spare.
Thankfully, in my third year of college, I discovered how to earn passive income with phone farming, and the rest was history.
This is a screenshot from one of my Amazon accounts (I have a Canadian one as well). All of the gift card redemptions have come from phone farming.
Not all of my earnings are pictured here. I have redeemed Starbucks cards as well.
This should provide proof that phone farming is a straightforward way to earn an easy $20-$40 every month with a few old smartphones (if you live in Canada or the United States. Phone farming is a bit harder abroad).
What is Phone Farming?
Phone farming is a concept that has largely been discussed on reddit.com/Beermoney, and involves utilizing idle smartphones to passively earn income. How do these smartphones earn money? There are 2 variety of apps that reward users for certain tasks:
Video watching apps: These phone farming apps run short videos and display advertisements between videos/playlists. Users are typically rewarded in-app points per advertisement view/advertisement rotation and can then redeem these points for gift cards, cash, or cryptocurrencies.
Data collection apps: These phone farming apps run in the background of a smartphone, and pay users to collect personal data such as location, phone usage, and demographic information like gender or income status. The companies that own these apps then (theoretically) sell user data to companies that are willing to pay for the information, and give users a small portion of the proceeds.
Both forms of apps do not pay much.
In fact, you can expect your average smartphone to earn around $0.40/day (sometimes more, sometimes less) if you are in the United States or Canada. However, when it comes to a passive source of income that really doesn’t require much attention, you might be surprised at how quickly this money can accumulate.
One of the reasons I brought up Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in the start of this post is just how irrational it is at the moment to purchase a mining rig. It infuriates me that there are still YouTube videos being made every day that discuss the profitability of Bitcoin mining, mining rigs, and getting started with mining.
Sure, buy an Antminer s9 for $3000 and pray to god you break even after more than a year of mining a volatile cryptocurrency. That might be someone’s cup of tea, but for a student like me, it really isn’t an option.
Instead, I prefer buying $15 smartphones and letting them buy my coffee or random shit from Amazon.
- Only buy Android phones: Android phones are cheaper, easier to buy used, and have a greater variety of available money making apps.
- Buy Android phones that are version 5.0 or higher: KitKat (version 4) Android phones are gradually being phased out by certain money making applications, so buy yourself additional time and purchase more modern smartphones.
- Look for 1GB of RAM (if possible): You can spend hours looking at different smartphone models, but at the end of the day you just want to make sure a phone can remain stable while watching videos. RAM is one of the best indicators of how well your phone will run, so look for 1GB RAM phones if possible. Additionally, looking around on reddit for phone farming phone reviews can’t hurt.
- Don’t spend more than $15-$20: If you buy an expensive smartphone, it will take longer for your phone to pay off your initial investment and become profitable. If a phone earns around $0.4/day, buying a cheap smartphone will allow that phone to become profitable after about 40-50 days.
- Only buy Unlocked devices: Don’t mess around with smartphone contracts, prepaid phones, or anything that could inhibit your smartphone from running.
- Avoid Tablets: While tablets have worked for phone farming in the past, more and more applications are phasing them out. Additionally, tablets are generally more expensive than most used smartphone models.
So, where are the best locations for buying cheap phones?
I cover this topic in depth in my post the best phone farming phones, so I highly recommend giving that a read! In general, you can find cheap phones for farming from:
- c7recycle.com– This Texas based company specializes in reselling used and refurbished smartphones at discounted prices. You can buy most phones in bulk and are can easily find models for as low as $10. You have to factor shipping into your pricing, but if you’re buying multiple phones to start your farm I argue the shipping cost is worth it.
- Walmart.com – This one doesn’t require much explaining. Look for unlocked smartphone deals and you can occasionally find a steal for between $15-$20.
- Garage sales/craigslist – I have never done this myself since it seems like a lot of work but if you happen to pass by a garage sale it might be worth taking a look.
- Family members and friends – This one is by far the easiest and first method you should try. Everyone has an old phone laying around, and chances are they will give it to you for free or accept $20 without a problem.
I don’t recommend using Amazon unless you can find excellent deals on smartphones or are willing to reinvest your phone farm earnings into buying more phones through Amazon giftcards.
One of the better phones I have purchased for phone farming from Amazon is the Alcatel Ideal 4G LTE Desbloqueado, but only when it was on sale.
Additional phone farming devices you can look for on Amazon include:
Again, unless these phones are on sale or you purchase them with your phone farm earnings, I would still recommend sticking with c7recycle or Walmart.
Setting up your Phone Farm – Data Collection Apps that Pay
I argue that while video watching apps will be the primary earners for your phone farm, setting up passive data collection apps should be the first step as these apps take absolutely no effort. You may need to create multiple email addresses per app (1 for each of your phone) but this will be worth it in the long run.
Note: many data collection apps will require a phone number to sign up.
To get around this, simply use your current phone number or borrow phone numbers from friends (with their permission). These apps do not text verification codes or require your phone number for reward redemption (from my experience).
Panel App even accepts the same phone number across your multiple accounts. You just need unique email addresses. I personally use my personal phone number for many Panel App accounts.
MobileXpressions does require unique phone numbers and unique email addresses, but you can get around this by using different phone numbers.
While MobileXpression doesn’t accept all devices or members, if you can get this application set up on a few phones, it will be worth the effort.
New users will receive a $5 Amazon gift card after having MobileXpression installed and active for 1 week, and earning subsequent points is easy! Simply leave the app running in the background of your smartphones, and you’ll earn in app credits which can be redeemed for gift cards to Amazon, Starbucks, or Best Buy.
Currently, I have one device active with MobileXpression and it earns roughly $5/month. If you get a device accepted into the program I highly recommend doing so!
Start earning free gift cards every month and sign up for MobileXpression
Just note, you can only run MobileXpression on a single phone per IP address or you will probably get banned!
Checkout my MobileXpression review to learn more!
Panel App is a data collection app that runs in the background of your smartphone and collects information relating to your location and phone usage. All you have to do is join the panel by completing a short survey that asks demographic-based questions.
The app pays approximately 1,000 points/month, which is equivalent to $1. Users can then redeem points for Amazon gift cards ($1 minimum), Starbucks cards, or enter sweepstakes. I recommend going for the guaranteed payout options every time, but hey, maybe you’re lucky.
The best way to earn with Panel App is by referring friends. If someone signs up with your referral code you will earn 10% of their earnings and 5% of their referral earnings. Payouts usually take between 1-2 weeks, and I have received multiple payouts without any issue.
$1/month ($0.03/day) might not sound like a lot, and you are absolutely right! It’s complete shit! But on the bright side if you install this on every single device, you’ll make $12/year per phone and it really only take 2 minutes to setup. Not a bad idea.
Sign-up and earn 100 starting bonus points with Panel App here
Checkout our Panel app review to learn more!
Embee Meter CX
Embee Meter CX is the second passive data collection app you should look to install on all your phones. Now, unlike Panel App, Embee Meter is much pickier at what phones are accepted into the program.
Thus far, I have the application successfully running on 2 Moto G smartphones and have been unable to add the app to my LG Sunrise or Optimus Fuel phones. Take this into consideration when installing Embee Meter CX.
In any case, assuming the app works on your smartphone you will earn between $0.1-$0.3/day depending on your location. I live near Toronto, Canada, and earn $0.1/day, but have heard the app can pay more in the U.S.
Your payout options only include PayPal, and you must earn $5 worth of points before cashing out. Payout happens fairly quickly, and I have never had an issue with receiving payment.
All in all, even if you only earn $0.1/day, that is $36.50/year per phone you successfully install Embee Meter CX on.
Passive Video Watching Apps – Earn Money for Watching Videos
Once you have installed your passive data collection apps on your phone farming devices, it’s time to install video watching apps that pay. Since this review is all about passive income, I will firstly recommend the most stable and consistent apps first.
I also recommend checking out my in depth post the best phone farming apps, which covers additional apps and my phone farming routine in more detail.
Perk TV Live:
Edit: Perk TV is now discontinuing their service.
Perk TV is the first video watching app on this list because it is simply the most stable application for most phone farmers. Users can run up to 5 phones per account with Perk TV, making it an excellent application for beginners to make out on before expanding to other applications with their devices.
Perk TV has many video categories including App Trailers, Entertainment, and Sports news, with videos typically ranging between 1-2 minutes and advertisements playing in between.
Perk TV rewards users with 2-3 points after each video + advertisement view, with 1000 Perk Points being worth $1. Perk also rewards viewers with Perk Tokens, which can be used to enter sweepstakes or spend through their Scratch and Win App.
Users can redeem Perk points for Amazon gift cards, PayPal cash, Banana Republic gift cards, Tim Hortons gift cards, and a few more stores. Payout options begin as low as $5 for most payout options, and usually take 3-5 days for completion. I have never had an issue with payment.
Earning Potential: $0.1-$0.2/phone/day
Passive Earning Ability: 3 hours before interaction
Desktop Capable: No
Perk Pop Quiz!
Perk Pop Quiz is another application from the Perk Family and functions in a similar method as Perk TV. Users can play Pop Quiz categories, and advertisements will play in between quiz cycles. Of course, you don’t actually want to be playing a shitty quiz game, so thankfully a timer will move you onto the next round after about 10 seconds.
Perk Pop Quiz rewards users 1 Perk Point per quiz completion, which equates to roughly 1 point per minute or two. Perk Pop Quiz earns fewer points per cycle compared to Perk TV, but the app can be more stable, especially on older devices.
Overall, this increase in stability can make Perk Pop Quiz and excellent option to supplement your Perk Farm if you find many of your devices crash after watching videos on Perk TV for several hours.
Earning Potential: $0.1-$0.2/phone/day
Passive Earning Ability: Until application crashes
Desktop capable: No
Swagbucks Watch (TV)
Swagbucks is one of the most popular money making applications/services on the web, although it generally takes users a bit longer to familiarize themselves with the platform. Swagbucks has many earning options available including surveys, sign-up bonuses, cash-back shopping, and of course, video watching.
The best part about the Swagbucks Watch (TV) is that, from my experience, it is the fastest earning application. Simply watch video playlists for movie trailers, app trailers, fitness channels, or other categories and earn 2 Swagbucks ($0.02) every few videos. Videos pass fairly quickly, are extremely stable, and earn quickly.
The only downside to Swagbucks Watch (TV) is that it has an earning cap. On mobile, you can only earn up to 20 Swagbucks per day, which is equivalent to $0.2.
The app lets users earn 10 Swagbucks before every reset period, with reset periods occurring daily at 9PM and 3AM EST. Depending on where you live, you may be able to earn the maximum 10 Swagbucks per reset period for a total of 20 Swagbucks/device/day.
Swagbucks also has a list of daily tasks such as their daily poll and daily search which can also earn users Swagbucks. I’ve been given up to 20 Swagbucks from the daily search before, so it can be a nice random addition of points.
Swagbucks offers a wide variety of cashout options, including Amazon, Starbucks, iTunes, and many other stores. Payout options also include $1 options, which can be nice. Gift cards and rewards take roughly 1-2 weeks to payout, but I have never had an issue with payment.
Ultimately, Swagbucks is a consistent passive video application that can help you supplement your phone farm profits. I highly recommend trying it out!
Earning Potential: $0.1-$0.2/day
Passive Earning Ability: Until maximum points
Desktop Capable: Yes
Sign up for Swagbucks today and start earning money for the things you already do online!
Engageme.TV is an interesting application to include on this list as it has wildly varying levels of success for different users and isn’t even a standalone application.
Engageme.TV is a passive video watching portal that is used by dozens of websites and applications, and rewards users points on the application/website of their choosing rather than rewarding their own in-app points.
In other words, with the Engageme.TV app you can passively watch videos and choose to be rewarded on an application of your choice (where applicable).
For the purpose of this post I’ve chosen Grindabuck, an online platform similar to Swagbucks that partners with Engageme.TV, but there are a myriad of options to choose from. I’ll cover those on a different post, but feel free to look around the Engageme.TV app to see their list of partner apps and websites.
Anyway, the Engageme.TV app is fairly straightforward. Simply install the app, Sign up for Grindabuck, and then link your Engageme.TV app to Grindabuck (can be done in-app).
Once the two platforms are linked, simply select video playlists from the Engageme.TV app and watch away! Your sound must be on in order for points to credit, so plug in a pair of headphones to ignore the noise.
It’s that simple! I’ll cover Grindabuck and other Engageme.TV eligible websites in another post but it’s a great earner to start with. First-time users must accrue $10 before their first cashout, but future cash out limits are $5 and eventually drop to $1.
The verification process for Grindabuck also requires you to submit a fair bit of personal info, but in order to fight fraud and provide a better platform Grindabuck states this as being necessary.
In terms of earnings, you can expect 0.7GABS (Grindabucks) per 3 advertisement views which is equivalent to $0.07. From my experience, engageme.tv runs quite well on most phones and I have only rarely experienced issues with points not being credited. If this ever happens, I simply stop running engageme.tv for a day or 2 and the problem generally disappears.
Just note, engageme.tv terms of service state you can only have 3 active devices per account so be sure to respect the terms of service and device limit!
Earning Potential: $0.1-$1.20/day (very volatile)
Passive Earning Ability: 3 hours
Desktop Capable: Yes
Is Phone Farming Worth it in 2019?
This question is a frequent one on forums like reddit. Ultimately, small scale phone farms are an excellent and low-effort way to generate side income that you can use redeem for gift cards or Paypal.
If you already have access to several old phones or can acquire a few devices for under $20, starting a small phone farm is a good idea.
Aim to have between 5-10 devices running so you understand the fundamentals and have time to decide if you want to phone farm.
If you are considering buying many devices to start a larger phone farm, consider technical difficulties you may encounter, router capacity, and even space issues.
The more phones you have, the more troubleshooting and optimization will be required, which could defeat the purpose of generating passive income with phone farming. Take time to make your decision and know how much time you have to spare.
Edit: 10/26/2018: Recently, some phone farming applications have become less passive and the industry trend seems to be that more interaction is required by apps.
I imagine this change reflects the fact that advertisers are noticing issues with traffic quality and apps are trying to increase user engagement. Whatever the case, apps are definitely becoming less passive.
Currently, my earnings are on the decline. I run 9 phones on the best possible apps and also have passive income apps installed on them as well (more on this below). However, I have not had a $50 month in a few months, and it is unrealistic that I can expand my farm with many ore devices.
I can still earn $20-$40/month in passive income, but I recommend other phone farmers start out slow and prioritize using old phones they have laying around instead of purchasing new devices.
In other words, start out small, test the process, and see how much passive income you can generate before jumping in.
Edit: 11/12/2019: I no longer run a phone farm since many of the apps I used to use are no longer paying or have drastically reduced payouts.
Setting up a Phone Farm – A Recap
While this has been a lengthy post, I hope it has served as a general guideline for beginning your journey towards passive income generation with phone farming. Ultimately, phone farming is truly an operation that is heavily based on optimization.
Not every application or device will work perfectly, and time of year, your geographic location, and other factors can contribute to or hinder your profits.
If you’re looking to get into phone farming however, here is a quick summary of how to go about it:
- Collect unused phones from friends and family, or purchase 1-3 phones from Walmart or c7recycle.com.
- Download passive data collection apps such as Panel App or Embee Meter CX.
- Download passive video watching applications. Begin with Perk if you’re looking for stability, and begin testing out other apps on the side or with new devices.
- Track your earnings. For the first few weeks it is a good idea to track your earnings per device to both quantify your progress and discover apps that are not pulling their weight.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to comment if you have any questions regarding phone farming.
Tom is a full-time blogger and freelance writer with a passion for side hustling, passive income, and the gig economy. His work has appeared on dozens of personal finance websites like Money Crashers, The College Investor, Investor Junkie, and more. This Online World is all about providing people with honest ways to make and save more money by using technology. To learn more about Tom, read his About Page!
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