10 low-code tools for building mobile apps fast

No-code and low-code mobile programming tools give business users and developers a fast track to mobile app success

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10 low-code tools for building mobile apps fast

While debate rages on among various mobile development camps, businesses still have to create and maintain mobile apps for their employees, business partners, and customers. The pure HTML5/JavaScript/CSS3 mobile Web faction, the native-code purists, the hybrid mobile app fans -- they all offer compelling arguments and approaches, but the one conclusion everyone seems to reach, eventually, is that there is no single panacea. Each approach and toolset has advantages and drawbacks. 

The difficulty and cost of mobile app development has not escaped the notice of innovative companies. We present here 10 low-code or no-code builders for mobile applications. Some target more than one mobile platform, some target Web applications as well, but all are aimed at getting your organization’s mobile project up and running quickly.

Alpha Anywhere

A low-code, rapid, wizard-driven, end-to-end builder with a Windows-based IDE, Alpha Anywhere supports many databases and targets Web, mobile (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone), and desktop applications. HTML apps can be built using a component-based designer and responsively adapt to screen sizes from 4 inches to 4 feet. Alpha Anywhere integrates with PhoneGap and Adobe PhoneGap Build, allowing the easy creation of hybrid mobile apps without requiring the developer to install multiple native development environments or purchase a Mac. The company is currently testing a unique solution for occasionally connected mobile apps that rely on remote databases.

Alpha Anywhere, Alpha Software, $99/month

App Press

App Press is a Web-based no-code app creator that targets iPhone, iPad, and Android applications. Geared for designers, App Press uses a Photoshop-like user interface for assembling screens from visual assets using layers. On the back end, App Press is an Amazon cloud-based service and platform. The company claims that designers can produce their first app in one day, that with experience designers can create five apps a day, and that experienced designers can train new designers on the platform.

App Press, $30-$460/month

AppArchitect

AppArchitect is a Web-based no-code drag-and-drop builder and platform for native iPhone and iPad apps, which can be previewed in the AppArchitect Preview App, downloadable from the iTunes App Store, and finished binaries can be downloaded to submit to the App Store. It assembles plug-in building blocks that are written in Objective-C, and an AppArchitect SDK will be available to extend the product’s capabilities. The company plans to expand the product to generate Android and mobile Web apps in the future, and it plans to charge $40-100 per month once the product is released. 

AppArchitect, free beta

Form.com

Form.com is a Web-based enterprise platform for Web and mobile form solutions with a drag-and-drop forms builder and flexible back-end technology. The builder can create new forms or replicate existing paper forms, set up process-specific workflow and API integration, embed logical transitions, allow the capture of images within the forms, capture digital signatures, and enable form field autofill. Finished mobile forms can collect information when disconnected and transfer it when connection has been restored. 

Form.com, WorldApp, $412/month and up, depending on project scope and requirements

iBuildApp

iBuildApp is a Web builder that offers customizable templates for iPhone, iPad, and Android apps and promises that you can create an app in five minutes. Your app can be free if you accept iBuildApp branding and very tight limits to the number of users and site visits, unlimited-user white-labeled tablet apps cost $299 a month, and there are several plans in between the extremes. For common app types, template-based systems like iBuildApp can sometimes produce usable results, as long as the selection of widgets includes the functionality you need. 

iBuildApp, free to $299/month

QuickBase

QuickBase is an online builder and platform for Web and mobile Web database applications. It offers more than 300 customizable application templates, including the Complete Project Manager shown in the slide. Users can build applications “from scratch” starting with a data design, and all QuickBase websites can also be viewed as mobile websites. While Mobile QuickBase is not currently available in app form, the mobile website is eminently usable. 

QuickBase, Intuit, $299/month and up

Salesforce1

Salesforce1 gives you the ability to accelerate the development and deployment of HTML5, iOS, and Android mobile apps as well as Web apps. In the simplest model, you use a mobile website or downloadable generic Salesforce viewer app to work with your Force.com Web application. One step up from that is to create a jQuery Mobile (shown in the slide), Angular.js, Backbone.js, or Knockout HTML5 mobile app using a Salesforce Mobile Pack. At the most complicated level, you can create native or hybrid apps for iOS and Android using the Salesforce Mobile SDK for your mobile platform combined with the Native SDK tools. These apps all communicate with the back end through a Connected App in Salesforce. 

Salesforce1, Salesforce.com, from $25/user/app/month

ViziApps

ViziApps combines an online visual designer and customizable sample apps with code generation for mobile Web as well as iOS and Android native apps. The ViziApps designer has form fields and charts, 60 backgrounds, and 4,000 stock images. It supports maps, video, audio, navigation bars, and navigation panels, and it has lots of customizations and JavaScript extensions. Template apps show how fields, actions, and data interfaces are used. 

ViziApps, $15-$149/month plus publication fee

Mobile Chrome Development Kit

The Mobile Chrome Development Kit, recently released as a Developer Preview tool chain based on Apache Cordova, takes a hybrid app strategy. A single project targets iOS, Android, and Chrome apps. As you can see in the slide, the user interface is standard HTML and CSS, which is integrated into Android (shown) and iOS native toolkits. While this is definitely not a no-code tool, you can do a lot using any visual HTML page designer. Once you need to add mobile code, you have Chrome APIs and Cordova APIs at your disposal, from JavaScript to enhance the app without having to drop down to the platform-dependent native code level. 

Mobile Chrome Development Kit, Google, free

Appcelerator

Appcelerator combines an IDE, SDK, multiple frameworks, and back-end cloud services into an enterprise-level system for mobile development. The Titanium SDK lets you develop native, hybrid, and mobile Web applications from a single codebase.

Titanium Studio is an extensible, Eclipse-based IDE for building Titanium and Web apps, and Appcelerator Cloud Services provide an array of automatically scaled network features and data objects for your app. The Alloy framework is an Appcelerator framework designed to rapidly develop Titanium applications, based on the MVC architecture and containing built-in support for Backbone.js and Underscore.js. While Appcelerator is not a no-code solution, it provides JavaScript-based tooling for iOS, Android, Tizen, BlackBerry, and mobile Web applications in one place. 

Appcelerator, Free to develop, Appcelerator Platform priced at enterprise levels