7 of the best tools for building killer mobile apps

mobile apps

By 2015, Gartner predicts mobile app development projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber PC projects by 4:1 while a report "Enterprise Mobility: A Global Strategic Business Report" "the market for enterprise mobility is expected to reach a global value of $173.9 billion" by 2017. In other words, there's a hell of a lot of money being thrown at app development in the relatively near future. If you're looking to build apps you're going to need the right tools and here we have some of the best.              

Gibbs is well-developed in Ventura, Calif. Comments? Questions? Drop a line to gearhead@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter, on App.net (@quistuipater), and on Facebook (quistuipater).

AppsGeyser

AppsGeyser is an incredibly easy way to build and distribute simple Android apps based on a Web site, a PDF or Word document, a YouTube video, or a YouTube channel. Obviously, given the limited choices, the apps aren't that complicated but as a way of getting content nicely wrapped up it works very well and it's free (you can try the Gearhead app I developed). The site also works with the Google Play store so you can easily submit your apps and if you want to generate ad revenue, Appsgeyser has a program for that.

Appgyver

Appgyver offers two services for Android and iOS development. The first, Prototyper allows you to upload wireframes, define where "clicks" are to trigger actions such as jumping to another screen, making a call, and so on then download the model to a target device. This is a dream for communicating application concepts. The other service offered by Appgyver is called Steroids that makes creating HTML5-based mobile apps using PhoneGap (which I reviewed late last year) much easier. Steroids helps you create real apps much faster than using native SDKs and because it's integrated with Prototyper it provides a smooth path from concept through to realization. Appgyver offers free and premium plans for both services.

Capriza

Building apps with Capriza requires installing a Firefox add-on, Capriza Designer, because constructing a "Zapp" (as the company calls them) is done entirely within the browser. You point the Designer at a Web site, identify the components of a Web page that you want to present in your app, specify how they are to be used (this is mostly point and click stuff) and, voila! An app ready to deploy to iOS (5 and up), Android (2.3 and up), and Blackberry. Capriza is really about extending your existing business processes from Web-based resources and it does this with impressive speed and efficiency. After a 30-day free trial Capriza is priced at $9.99 per user per month.

appery.io

appery.io is for building complex mobile apps complete with server backends and databases. You use their Web-based editor to build the UI, add events associated with components, add any needed JavaScript, specify any third party REST services and Appery backend services you want to use (databases, push notifications, etc.), test, and deploy to Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 8, and HTML5. This service offers a far simpler way to develop apps than using native SDKs but generates native code. On the down side, you're creating both back- and front-end systems so there's a fairly steep learning curve. I really like appery.io; it's polished, feature-rich, and affordable. There's a free starter plan while paid plans begin at $15 per user per month.

Corona Labs

Corona Labs describes it's SDK as the "ultimate 2D development platform" for iOS, Android, Kindle, and Nook. Corona has a built-in 2D physics engine making it very appealing to games developers. There's also support for Facebook, sqlite3, cryptography, and networking but unlike most of the other development systems in this roundup you're going to be doing your programming in LUA. You'll need to download and install the Corona simulator (OS X and Windows) which includes loads of example code that really show off the power of Corona and if you make less than $100,000 annually from your apps Corona is free. For those who make more than $100,000 from Corona apps, pricing starts at $49 per developer per month.

LiveCode

I've been a big fan of LiveCode for a long time  and RunRev, the publisher, recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to create a free open source "community" version (I discussed their FOSS project earlier this year and reviewed a previous version of the product back in 2009). LiveCode offers an unusual development model with a programming language that is much like plain English. LiveCode produces native apps for OS and Android as well as the OS X, Windows, and Linux desktop apps and there's a server version for developing Web applications. The FOSS version is only licensed for open source, non-commercial use while LiveCode Commercial, priced at $500, allows you to build closed source apps on all supported platforms.

Alpha Five

I reviewed version 11 of Alpha Five's eponymous development system last October and since then the company has released version 12, which they call Alpha Anywhere because apps developed in Alpha Anywhere can be  deployed on smartphones, tablets, PCs, Macs, notebooks, and touch-enabled systems as standalone applications or in client/server architectures (supported by the Alpha Anywhere Application Server). Alpha Anywhere uses HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS to create cross platform applications with automatic AJAX support and includes reporting, charting, scheduling, security controls, GPS, mapping, GIS, video and image support, and extensive database support. The development system runs under Windows Server 2003 or later, XP, Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8 and pricing of the Developer Edition starts at $99 per developer per month.