You want your business to get in on the hot iPhone app trend.
Problem: You can't shell out thousands of dollars for a developer, and you don't want to learn Cocoa, the iPhone's programming system.
Solution: Have an online service build one for you!
There are now some great tools available to help you build and publish a competitive app, with no programming knowledge required -- and at a fraction of the cost of hiring a developer.
From coding to submitting to updating, these services do the technical work for you -- all you need is a creative vision.
Many of these services do the same thing: they take your online content and integrate it into an app. The packaging and style all vary, so visit their sites to find which one suits your tastes and budget.
All you need to provide is your chosen feed (blog, RSS, Twitter stream, etc.), a few graphics, and some design choices, and they take control of the developing and submission process from there. You can even make the decision to "monetize" your app by selecting advertisers or choosing to charge for the download.
Cost: $199 for AppMakr to publish your app, $499 for you to publish it under your own brand. Phone-based support is also available during the creation phase of your app development, at $120 an hour.
Create an app in seven steps with Swebapps. What could be easier than "drag and drop"?
From their website:
Step 1. Select 4, 6, or 8 buttons
Step 2. Drag and Drop buttons on to phone.
Step 3. Customize button images if needed.
Step 4. Click on button and enter content.
Step 5. Submit for development.
Step 6. Create account.
Step 7. Finalize.
Swebapps also provides tools to track your analytics and update your app after its been published to the App Store.
Cost: Creating an app through Swebapps costs a one-time fee of $50 per button (minimum $200), and a $25/month hosting fee.
My App Builder
My App Builder is a tool that takes your content and turns it into an app for you for a low monthly hosting fee. Bonus: that monthly membership cost gives you the freedom to create as many apps as you want, with only a small publishing fee each time.
Whether you want to use your blog posts, RSS feed, videos, or Twitter stream, My App Builder will turn your information into an app. All you have to provide are your images, content, and a vision of how you want it to flow.
Cost: $29 per month, and $20 per app submission.
iSites, which just launched, is another app builder that integrates your social feeds seamlessly into an app. And, according to their website, you can do it in 10 minutes.
Provide your chosen feeds, customize your app with some design choices, and iSites does the rest for you. They promise to "take care of the app store submission in less than 24 hours."
In addition, iSites offers the ability to easily make changes to your app and see the results in real-time, and the apps work on both the iPhone and Android platforms.
Cost: $25 per app; $99 (per year) if you choose to monetize by integrating with AdMob.
TapLynx is another aggregator for your online feeds. The platform used by such online news sources as All Things D and Variety, TapLynx is elegantly designed and offers more versatility than other simple aggregators, and it comes with the ability to embed video.
According to MacWorld, "if your goal is to create a content-centric app with text, photos, and videos, the framework might just provide a smart shortcut. And since TapLynx supports sponsorship, display ads, and video pre-roll ads, monetizing your app should be pretty doable, too."
Cost: $599 for the 'Enterprise Package' -- with 16 customizable tabs, search features, video, etc.
AppBreeder offers you a little more complexity than other app builders, as well as an app that can be used on the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android platforms.
If you just want something basic, you can pick from 11 App Kits, ranging from templates like "Business" to "Restaurant" to "Tour." AppBreeder personalizes and builds it for your purposes, then publishes it to the App Store for $99.99, if you allow ads.
Creating a custom app or adding a customized gadget ups the price significantly, but it is still likely to be cheaper than hiring a developer, and you get a better app.
Cost: Nothing to build, $99.99 to publish a basic app, and starting at $1,499 for a custom app with gadgets.
If you think an iPhone game would be a good option for your business, GameSalad is a great platform to easily develop your very own game, with no coding required.
According to their website, "GameSalad is the world’s most advanced tool for non-programmers... Build games visually using a drag-and-drop interface along with a robust behavior system."
Cost: For $99 per year, you get unlimited access to their game creation tool and publishing options.
AppIncubator is slightly different from standard app builders: It's a mobile app that allows you to submit ideas for apps.
You download the app, then submit your idea. If you want to get more detailed, you can use the storyboard tool on the website to describe exactly how you want the app to look and function.
If the people at MEDL Mobile like your idea, they'll develop and market it, and share a portion of the profits with you.
Granted, this isn't a great way to create your business's main app -- but if you have a unique idea for an app and want to see it come to fruition with little effort on your part, this is the way to go.
Cost: Free, with potential profit.
For those who are familiar with Flash
For those who are familiar with coding in Adobe ActionScript 3: You can now develop an iPhone app.
In October, Adobe announced that its to-be-released Flash Professional CS5 will come with an iPhone app packager, which will let users publish projects to run as native apps on the iPhone, according to Adobe's Developer website.
This will be ideal for people who are not familiar with the Mac Cocoa development platform but have Flash-development experience.