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In the common usage of the word they are totally free. If you want to redefine the word as it's used, let's start also considering your bandwidth isn't "free" and so these apps aren't free in that sense either. How about the electricity you paid to charge your phone? The calories you ingested that help you operate the phone?

The common and almost universally accepted understanding of "free" is "no exchange of money". Saying those who don't adopt an extreme viewpoint are lying is dishonest.

The common usage of the word "free" is something like "without cost" (yours doesn't work and I actually couldn't find a definition that explicitly says "money"). Placing ads in an app has various costs, just not usually monetary. I don't think you need to redefine anything or go to this odd extreme you're trying to straw-man into the argument.

"There's no such thing as a free lunch" agrees with you - things described as free often have some cost, even if not monetary

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