AppMakr: Roll your own iPhone apps

The tech news has been buzzing this week with the launch of Google’s App Inventor for it’s Android mobile platform. Many writers are suggesting that Google has stolen a march on Apple with an authoring kit that requires no deep coding skills.

However, despite Apple’s restrictions on third-party development kits — notoriously codified in clause 3.3.1 of iPhone’s developer terms — there are toolkits available for layman app developers.

One of the most popular is the web-based Appmakr; though designed for simplicity, large brands including Newsweek, the US Army and AllTop have all utilised the service to create and publish their official iPhone apps.

AppMakr is really designed for packaging RSS-driven sites into standard iPhone interfaces, breaking the development process down into seven steps:

  1. Art – name your app, upload a splash screen and a home screen icon.
  2. Tabs – import RSS feeds into individual tabs of content – feeds can formatted as video, text and photos and includes hooks into podcasts, Twitter, Youtube, Blogger and iTunes.
  3. Customise – add header images to the app’s interface as well as the enabling users to share content via email, Facebook or Twitter.
  4. Notifications – creators can manually send ‘push notifications’ from AppMakr to all downloaded instances of the app.
  5. App Info – describe how the app will appear in the iTunes App Store.
  6. Monetize – advertising from several third-party networks can be incorporated into your app.
  7. Publish – the final step, complies and builds your app ready for testing or distribution via the App Store.

AppMakr includes an integrated iPhone simulator, so you can effectively test the app as you move through the seven steps.

With no prior knowledge of AppMakr, I managed to build a basic app that aggregated mainstream news, local and social media in around an hour. Indeed, half of this time was spent creating icons, headers and other screen furniture for the app.

If you’re already a member of Apple’s iPhone developer programme, you can link your Apple account credentials with AppMakr and publish your app with no charge to AppMakr using your own brand. If you’re not a member, you’ll need to publish under AppMakr’s brand with a charge of $999. That may sound expensive, but it’s likely less than the cost of hiring a competent iPhone developer for a day’s development work.

AppMakr’s not suited to anything that needs specific hardware functions such as the iPhone’s camera, GPS, accelerometer or microphone, so you won’t be creating games or productivity apps!

However, it’s a great tool for packaging a website as an iPhone app; whether that’s for a client or your own content.

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