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Creating iPhone Apps on the Cheap

These startups are enabling the low-cost creation of iPhone apps. No programming experience necessary.

Apple's App Store surpassed the 100,000 iPhone and iPod touch application milestone in late 2009. Branded applications are one of many catalysts behind the virtual storefront's growth, as more and more companies turn to the mobile channel as a digital marketing tool. But for businesses with neither the software engineering expertise to design their own applications nor the financial flexibility to outsource projects to professional developers (who typically charge between $2,000 and $20,000 per app build), the App Store has effectively remained closed for business.

No longer--an influx of startups is enabling clients to create their own iPhone apps on the cheap, with no programming skills necessary. Here are three clever, cost-effective approaches to getting your business on smartphones.

AppBreeder
AppBreeder, an online DIY app creation platform, offers users App-Kits--i.e., flexible collections of settings, behaviors and gadgets customized across different verticals, including AppBiz, AppRealty, AppRestaurant and AppLegal. All application elements can be managed and personalized via AppBreeder's virtual AppBuilder tool set, and all software components can integrate with iPhone capabilities, including GPS, accelerometer and multimedia. AppBreeder pricing fluctuates according to whether the app is ad-supported (free), whether it's web-based ($9.95 to $14.95 per month), or whether it's native ($29.95 to $49.95 per month). Apps also can extend to Android and BlackBerry smartphones.

SwebApps
Designed expressly for small businesses, Sweb Apps enables customers to build and manage iPhone applications in six easy steps. Prefab templates lay the groundwork, but users can personalize each app with customized buttons and background images as well as tools including App Tracker (to evaluate the application's daily use) and Client Sign Up (to capture customer contact information). All apps are installed on the iPhone operating system and run natively. Pricing ranges from $200 to $400, depending on the number of bells and whistles, with a one-time setup fee of $50 per button. Sweb Apps also applies a $25 monthly hosting fee to each application.

MyAppBuilder
Targeting small publishers, record labels and other creative media firms as well as bloggers and Twitter subscribers, MyAppBuilder promises to translate virtually any content into an iPhone-optimized application. Users submit their "App Blueprint" (text, image files and the like) to the MyAppBuilder.com Control Panel. After the company's publishing platform works its magic, the completed app is sent back to the client for review, and assuming it's accepted, MyAppBuilder uploads the software to the App Store for Apple's approval. In addition to a $29 monthly subscription price, MyAppBuilder charges a $20 processing fee to whip your content into App Store-ready shape.

Chicago-based writer Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of Fiercemobile content, a daily electronic newsletter dedicated to mobile media, applications and marketing.

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This article was originally published in the February 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: iDidItMyself.

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