This article has been updated. A more current list of tools can be found here: "30+ Tools for Building Mobile Apps." Please visit that page instead!
These days, everyone wants to build their own iPhone applications, but not everyone knows how write the code necessary in order to create them. Fortunately, there are now a number of tools that allow non-developers the ability to create their own iPhone apps without knowing programming or scripting. Some are general-purpose app builders designed for small businesses while other target specific needs, like apps for musicians or for eBook authors. Still others let developers familiar with simpler programming languages like HTML write apps using the code they know and then will transform that code into an iPhone application which can be submitted to the iTunes Store.
Below we've listed 13 different tools that let you create your own iPhone applications, none of which require knowledge of Objective C, the programming language used to build apps for the iPhone OS .
1. Sweb Apps
Sweb Apps offers an online service which lets anyone build their own iPhone apps even if they don't know how to code. Designed with small business owners in mind, the company offers pre-created templates which you can customize with different background images and your own custom icons if desired. Otherwise, you're welcome to use the graphics provided by the company's own image library. After picking the category for your app (Restaurant, Retail, Business, etc.), you choose the buttons you want to include (Menu, Directions, Map, etc.). You can even create a mobile storefront where Sweb Apps manages your inventory.What it Does:
How Much it Costs: The company offers four-, six- and eight-button packages, which all include a one-time set-up fee of $50 per button. Then there is a $25 monthly hosting fee applied to every application going forward
AppIncubator iPhone App from MEDL Mobile lets you submit your ideas which the company's development team will then build into apps for you. App submissions can be sent in via the iPhone app or by way of the company website. Once received, you go online to use the company's "storyboard" tool to sketch out in more detail how you imagine the app working.What it Does: Think you have a great idea for an iPhone app but not the skills to build it yourself. Like Apple says: "there's an app for that!" The
How Much it Costs: Using the service or downloading the iPhone app itself is free, but MEDL Mobile takes a cut of the profits after the app goes live in the iTunes App Store. 25% of the total revenue is shared with you and the company keeps the rest.
Our coverage: This iPhone App Helps You Make iPhone Apps
Kanchoo is another platform that allows content producers to create native iPhone applications, this one is designed for news organizations. To use the service, you provide the company with an iPhone application icon, a splash screen (in .png format) and a description of your application which will be used in the iTunes App Store. Then, using their online tools, you build your app by uploading the content which can consist of either photos or news articles.
How Much it Costs: Basic account holders pay $88 for creation of their iPhone application and submission to the iTunes App Store along with a $28 per month fee for bandwidth and hosting.
AppBreeder is another DIY app builder service, similar to SwebApps. Where SwebApps offers categories to choose from, AppBreeder offers "App-Kits." These are pre-defined collections of app settings which include gadgets, icons, and behavioral elements. There are kits for a wide range of industries including everything from real estate to legal and bands to restaurants. You use the kits as a jumping off point to start building your app and then add or remove gadgets as your needs require. After building your app, you can then publish it to the iTunes App Store. However, AppBreeder isn't just limited to the iPhone - it also lets you publish apps for Blackberry and Android devices as well. (Note: the company's website says that "due to sudden demand spike" AppBreeder's build and publishing tools will be unavailable until Nov. 30th.)What it Does:
How Much it Costs: AppBreeder offers different packages depending on whether your app will be ad supported or ad-free and which platforms you plan to distribute it on. Ad supported apps are free, iPhone web apps are $9.95 - 14.95, native iPhone apps are $29.95, and the iPhone/Blackberry/Android app package is $39.95 - 49.95.
MyAppBuilder is a service that creates iPhone applications designed to help you sell your content. Whether that's books, music, videos, etc., the service turns any content into an app. You can also use MyAppBuilder to create custom quizzes, apps that are fed by Twitter pages, or you can turn your blog into an app by way of its RSS feed. To use the online app builder, you login to the service's "Control Panel" where you submit details about your app including content, features, flow, and image files. The company then uses this information to create an app for you which is sent back to you for review. After you approve the app, MyAppBuilder submits it to the iTunes App Store on your behalf.What it Does:
How Much it Costs: The service is available for a fee of $29 per month. There is also a $20 processing fee to compile your data, put it in the appropriate format, and submit it to the App Store for review.
BuildAnApp is another DIY cross-platform app builder designed for small businesses, community groups and professional service organizations. Using the web-based service, you can pick and choose from the company's customizable templates to create apps for the iPhone, Blackberry, or Windows Mobile platforms. As with Sweb Apps, creators can use their own graphics or choose images from the company's own online gallery. A special feature of this service is its ability to house an email distribution list that will notify end users to download the application once it becomes available. (Note: this service is currently in private beta testing right now. You can sign up here to be notified when it's available).What it Does:
How Much it Costs: The company says pricing has not yet been determined but will be "competitive" with similar services.
eBook App Maker is a service specifically designed to create iPhone apps from eBooks. The app builder supports nearly all digital formats including PDF, Doc, Zip, CHM, HTML, TXT, FB2, PDB, PRC, Mobi, PDB, MHT, RTF. eBook creators can also specify various fonts and sizes, can add images and notes, can lock the orientation to landscape or portrait, and more.What it Does: The
How Much it Costs: The company's site doesn't publicly list its pricing but offers a "request a quote" form instead.
GameSalad is a downloadable tool for creating games without needing to know programming or scripting. Using the company's visual editing software, you can create games which can then be published to both the web and to the iPhone. GameSalad offers a suite of "interactions" and attributes which you can add into your game to create the action. You can also drag-and-drop art files and sound files from your computer into the game builder, too. As you create the game, you can tweak the various elements during the building process and can preview what the game looks like before compiling it.What it Does:
How Much it Costs: The company offers a basic, free version of GameSalad which lets you publish to the web, but not the iPhone. For iPhone games, there are two versions available: the Express version for $99/year and the Pro version for $1999/year.
Our coverage: Gendai Games Launches GameSalad Beta
Mobile Roadie is an application builder that lets bands create their own custom iPhone applications which can include content like photo galleries, streaming music files, YouTube videos, upcoming concert listings, lyrics, news, Twitter and RSS feeds, and even interactive features like a "wall" where fans can post comments and photos. The app can also link to Ticketmaster and LiveNation ticket sales information and to the band's album(s) on iTunes.What it Does:
How Much it Costs: There is a $499 set up fee for Mobile Roadie followed by a $29/month fee for the first 100 installs. To get rid of the 1 cent per install fee, bands can choose to host their own content instead.
MobBase is also an app creation tool designed for bands. Without needing programming skills, musicians can create apps that include videos, images, bios, band news, streaming playlists, concert schedules and links for music purchases. The tool, offered by MixMatchMusic,What it Does: Similar to Mobile Roadie,
How Much it Costs: Applications are $20 dollars to activate. Free apps are priced at $15 dollars a month for the first 500 installs with $5 dollars per additional 1000 downloads. Paid apps cost $20 dollars per month for the first 500 installs and $6 dollars per month for each additional 1000. MobBase does not take any application sales fees in regards to revenue share. The company also receives 5% of purchased music downloads.
Rhomobile does require that you know how to code, but only HTML and Ruby, not the Objective C required for building iPhone apps. Developers can build any application and then use Rhomobile to deploy their app anywhere - including the iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Symbian, or Android marketplaces.What it Does:
How Much it Costs: The Rhodes framework is free for developers who open source their applications under GPLv3. Commercial Rhodes licenses are also available at $500 per application and commercial RhoSync server licenses are available based upon the planned number of users connected to the server.
PhoneGap is also an open source development tool for building mobile apps. Also like PhoneGap, you do need to know how to code, but this time, you just need to know HTML and Java as opposed to the iPhone's Objective C. With this tool, you can build apps for iPhone, Blackberry, and Android while also taking advantage of the phones' native features like geolocation, the accelerometer, sound and more.What it Does: Like Rhomobile above,
How Much it Costs: PhoneGap is completely open source and free to use.
Red Laser is an iPhone application that lets you scan barcodes with your iPhone in order to compare the in-store price with other online deals. However, with the latest version of the application, RedLaser 2.2, you can create your own custom barcode scanning apps. To do so, first download the updated application from the iTunes App Store, then visit www.redlaser.com/apps from the iPhone's web browser. Follow the instructions on the page to set up your own application - you'll need to fill in data like the URL of the site you want to compare prices with, the URL for the app icon, etc. When complete, tap the "build app" button. The completed app can then be added to your homescreen. Although this app is designed more for personal use and not resale, it's still worth checking out if you want to create your own barcode scanning application without needing to know how to code.What it Does:
How Much it Costs: RedLaser is available on the iTunes App Store for $1.99.
While this post was by no means meant to be a definitive list, it's amazing the response it's received in both the comments and via email. So many people have asked "how could you forget.. this company or that?" OK, Appcelerator was an oversight, but as far as the others, they just weren't on my radar. Here's a few of the ones that received multiple mentions:
- TapLynx: A DIY solution for building apps without coding.
- MobileAppLoader: Another DIY solution for building iPhone apps without code.
- MobileStoreMaker: A DIY solution for making a mobile storefront for iPhone.
- MobiOne: An iPhone emulator that lets you build iPhone apps by coding them using your web development skills.
- Appanda: A system that lets you build apps through RSS, links and manual uploads. Still in beta.
However, there are tons of others, too. Really - tons! Hop into the comments section to see even more suggestions from their users and fans.