Here is my first review of an online app builder. App maker software can seem ideal if you don’t want to learn how to develop Android apps yourself. The one up for review here is AppMkr.
After signup and activation, you can start building your app: you get offered three choices: ”Native iPhone MashUp”, “Native Android MashUp” and “Windows Phone MashUp”. All three basically offer to do the same thing: create an app from one or more RSS/Atom based feeds.
As you would expect I chose the Android MashUp option. Subsequently I was prompted to provide a URL, RSS/Atom Feed or Search Term. After that the site searched the web for content to use in the app. I chose the RSS feed for PubMed, a database of medical literature (when I am not working on Android projects, my hobby is practicing medicine icon wink AppMkr: online Android app maker review )
Sure enough, after a few seconds, a screen opened displaying a large picture of an Android phone showing a single icon in its screen. This icon was the logo of the PubMed organization. Clicking it launched a screen displaying the items in the RSS feed I chose. To the left of this demo screen were options for choosing an icon and a splash screen (both with images and pages downloaded from the PubMed site).
Next up were many options for enriching the app:
Adding tabs with different functions such as adding an Atom/RSS feed reader, a photo album or a “post message” tab.
Customizing the app: adding a header image, choosing different colors for the screen header and text and some “advanced features” which are not very clearly described.
Next up were several fields to input information about the app: title, description, website, etc.
Monetize option: you can choose between a free or a paid option. The “Free” option offers the user to publish under your own brand, free rebuilds, charging money for downloads, sharing and commenting, a sub selection of tabs in the app, and several other features. The other choice is the “Premium” version. This offers all the features of the free version plus scroll menu navigation, custom image or video wallpapers, live feed updates, customized feed layouts with HTML, sub-feeds, customized in-app advertising and more. The price of this is $79 per month.
This is quite a substantial sum! Getting a freelancer or company to develop an app exactly to your specifications can cost as little as $100. Bear in mind that this would be a one time cost, not a monthly subscription like AppMkr offers. Anyway, I chose the free option.
Several steps of the app creation process offer links to “Hire a professional” from the design marketplace. This is an interesting way to improve the quality of the app and of course it generates extra income for the company.
After that you get to a page where you can publish the app. An interesting feature is a “quality meter” at the top of the page, the app quality index (AQI). This is automatically generated by the site. It did not rate my lovingly crafted app very highly. Going back and adding more features enhanced the quality score. So, the AQI seemed to only consider the number of features in the app. More features get rated as higher quality. But simply adding more features does in no way guarantee a better quality product. An overwhelming amount of non essential features can even severely hurt the user experience!
Moving on: the publish screen has a “Build App” button. Pushing it sends the user to a page displaying the status of the app building process. So I waited… a few minutes later the app was done.
When the app is done, the user gets a choice to either manually install it or via an email they have to open on their Android device. Choosing the latter is as simple as clicking a link in the email AppMkr sends you on your Android device and the app will be installed. The manual install option provides a download of the app’s APK file which you can then install on an Android device and of course upload to the Google Play Store. Unlike some app builder services, AppMkr does not publish the app for you.
An important feature of AppMkr is being able to manage changes to the app after building and publishing it. The dashboard has options to send push notifications, swap the feeds for already published apps without rebuilding them, manage developer accounts etc. These features probably justify the subscription model of the paid version: after publishing the app, you will want to come back regularly and do updates and AppMkr has some nice tools to do just that.
AppMkr offers a simple but limited work flow for creating apps based around Internet content. If you want to make games or utility apps, an app creator like AppMkr won’t suffice. On the plus side, you can get your app up and running within an hour and it’s free! The paid version is subscription based: whether the extra features justify the $79 monthly fee is up to you… All in all it’s an interesting product so why not give the free version a spin?