In a 2011 report, US-based global market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC) suggested there would be 85 billion mobile app downloads by 2020. Take a deep breath and think about becoming a mobile app developer. It appears there won’t be a human being on earth by 2020 who can live without apps.
According to the report, “Top 10 Predictions for 2012: Competing for 2020”, 300,000-plus applications were downloaded 10.9 billion times in 2010. The numbers for 2010 have made me wonder: Who is making all those apps? Where are all those mobile app developers hiding?
And then I stumbled across the truth. Anyone can use HTML5 to create a mobile app, without knowing anything about programming.
Let me translate. HTML5 is the forthcoming version of the language that makes it possible to create Web pages. It is salvation for developers who struggle to make their Web pages compatible with various browsers and mobile devices. What makes HTML5 different from earlier HTML standards is that it is much more powerful, and allows websites to look like apps without extra software. It can create pages compatible with practically any operating system, making it simpler to create your own mobile app. No kidding. Don’t like Angry Birds? Just make your own version of Fuming Flyers.
By using Web-based app-creation services you could be building—rather, piecing together—a variety of mobile apps without any formal training.
At this point you are perhaps wondering what kind of apps to make. Try these for ideas: If you are in college, how about an app that can distribute reference notes to fellow students after class each day? Just point your camera at your notes and shoot. The app does the rest. Or, if you are part of a hobby club like nature photography, you may want to create an app that captures and distributes the location of participants during an event. If you are a small business, you may want to distribute a regular newsletter to customers using a mobile app rather than a Web page!
Here is our top pick of free services, organized by levels of complexity, to get you started. See you in the app market, soon!
AppsGeyser turns your website into a mobile Android app in a few simple clicks. It also generates a QR code (quick response—a smart bar code that can trigger actions on your phone) to display on your website. When users scan the QR code with their smartphones, they instantly download the app on to their mobile. In addition, you can send three pop-up notifications each month, straight to the user’s mobile phone. This means the pop-up can be an announcement for an event, a sale, a product, a promotion, or any other communication, aimed exclusively at your mobile app users. There are other simple options that the service provides—for example, you can add location data functionality.
However, this is what I think AppsGeyser does: It creates a short-cut to your website, recreating it in HTML5 for the mobile device. In effect, this is not a real app, but a handy way of displaying your website on mobile devices.
You may be wondering, “How does it help to wrap my Web page as an ‘app’?” Answer: Users just fire the “app” to see the latest that is on your Web page rather than using a browser that “distorts” your site on various mobile devices.
Complexity level: A no-brainer.
The apps built on Infinite Monkeys are ideal for small businesses, restaurants, schools, clubs, social service groups, housing societies, local panchayats, etc. The apps allow you to share pictures, video, social feeds, news feeds, blog updates, etc., with app users. The drag-and-drop mobile app builder is called The Machine and you can publish the apps for Android, iPhones and HTML5 smartphones. Actually, this is a good place to noodle around and see how various building blocks for apps come into place. Once you are done, publish the app on Monkey Market for free. If you want to publish it in other markets, there is a small fee.
Complexity level: For those who know what they want from their app.
MIT AppInventor Experimental
You need a Google account to log in to the website, which provides a step-by-step guide on how to build your app for Android phones using a Web browser and a connected phone or a phone emulator (meaning, something that fakes a phone on your computer). As you build your app, it appears—piece by piece—on your phone, connected by a USB cable to the computer or on the emulator. Before you begin to use the inventor, you need to install the App Inventor Setup software. Okay, all this isn’t sounding simple, which is the way it should have been sounding. But there are tutorials for basic functionality as well as the more complex capabilities that App Inventor has. Plus, a helpful 7-minute, 17-second video shows you how an app is built. All said and done, it is an interesting process and you discover that it is possible to build simple apps that you can share with friends or even put out in the Android apps market! You are going to face some failure to begin with, but it won’t take you more than a couple of hours to realize that building simple apps isn’t rocket science.
Complexity level: For the serious app builder.
Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies. He is a published author with HarperCollins and has extensive media experience spanning music, print, radio, the Internet and mobile phones.
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