AppMakr is also not the first service aimed at helping demystify the app-making process for those who don’t have a team of engineers and API geniuses around them. Swebapps, which launched last year, helps users build very basic apps for as little as $200 with a $50 start up fee and $25 monthly hosting fee. And Stanford University’s popular iPhone Apps course is available for download on iTunes U, with the first class offered for free.
The people behind AppMakr, which allows users to create multiple feed tabs for apps and monetize apps by either charging for downloads or embedding ads, sees potential for growth in Android apps, and plans to introduce a template for the Android platform within the first quarter of 2010.
Consumer spending on mobile apps are expected to up to $6.2 billion this year, according to a recent Gartner report. But Carolina Milanesi, Research Director for Mobile Devices at Gartner, sees a potential challenge in app stores keeping things streamlined.
“So far it’s a numbers game – the more apps you have the more you’re considered successful,” she said in an interview. “However, unless you have a good filing and search system, having a big number may come as a disadvantage as it makes it harder for users to find what they want.”
Apple’s App Store surpassed the 100,000 iPhone and iPod touch application milestone in late 2009. Branded applications are one of many catalysts behind the virtual storefront’s growth, as more and more companies turn to the mobile channel as a digital marketing tool. But for businesses with neither the software engineering expertise to design their own applications nor the financial flexibility to outsource projects to professional developers (who typically charge between $2,000 and $20,000 per app build), the App Store has effectively remained closed for business.
No longer–an influx of startups is enabling clients to create their own iPhone apps on the cheap, with no programming skills necessary. Here are three clever, cost-effective approaches to getting your business on smartphones.
Voting with your dollar just got a little bit easier.
Smartphone apps that push consumers to buy only from retailers that share a consumer’s personal beliefs about social and political issues are popping up in the app store.
Advocacy organizations are mounting a mobile marketing push to promote more responsible shopping with apps that give consumers the scoop on how a corporation’s policies and actions align with the shopper’s own views on issues like sustainability and human rights. The apps encourage consumers to only buy products and shop at retailers that share the same moral pillars as the shopper.
“Smartphones are changing the way people are living their lives. They (apps) influence spending decisions and this is the next evolution of that,” Scott Ellison, mobile retail analyst for IDC, said. “Make an app easy, intuitive and fun and people will begin to change their behavior.”
And advocates are hoping that change in consumer behavior will translate into change in corporate behavior.
Small firms are smart to find new ways to market to clients – but how to do it in a fresh innovative way?
One tack for a small business is to look to newer technologies like smart phones, which can make a small business look as big as its larger rivals.
The iPhone is a good place to start because of its popularity. It has also spawned cottage industries of both application creators and firms created to help others build a presence on the iPhone.
Apple sold 7.4 million iPhones around the world in the third quarter, which pales in comparison to Nokia’s 16.4 million, says a Gartner research report. But it makes more money from the iPhone than Nokia does from its handsets worldwide. Profits from the iPhone were $1.6 billion in the quarter while similar sales at Nokia were $1.1 billion, and Apple shows no sign of slowing.
So, how do you get a piece of Apple’s pie?
Look to companies like Sweb Apps, a small, eight-employee startup that’s been growing like gangbusters thanks to the popularity of its simple templates for non-techy folk to create their own iPhone app.
Kelsey Ransick, a University of San Francisco history major, doesn’t own a smart phone and thought computer science was for guys who sat hunched in a lab. Mobile phone developing was the last thing she saw herself doing.
But count her among the growing ranks of Android smart phone developers. The 20-year-old junior just completed an introductory computer science class that doubled as a pilot program for a new Google development tool called App Inventor for Android.
Her final project is a restaurant recommendation app, kind of like Urbanspoon for the iPhone, but geared toward USF students.
“I don’t know if anyone will want to use my program, but it’s cool to think that if someone wanted an app, I can give it to them,” Ransick said.
USF was one of a handful of schools around the country this fall that got to test out the prototype. It won’t be available publicly until well into next year. But it represents a democratization of mobile app development that is bringing the once intimidating process to the masses.
For the iPhone, a handful of startup companies also have begun creating app-building engines that allow customers – mostly small businesses – to create simple apps using drag-and-drop techniques.
Barbara Heinrich says she isn’t computer-savvy, but last month the owner of Local Motion, a clothing boutique in Minneapolis, went online and built her own mobile-phone application.
It was worth a try, she figured, considering how cheap and easy it was to do and how addicted to iPhone apps young people like her daughter were. It also dovetailed with other online marketing efforts —her Web site and e-mail blasts—aimed at bringing regular customers, collected over 25 years, back to the shop. So she built a free app to display her hours, location and pictures of new arrivals using BuildAnApp, a Web site from Mobile On Services Inc., of Minneapolis, and submitted it to Apple for inclusion in its App Store.
“I kind of jumped in and did it, and now I just need to figure everything out. But I think it will be great,” she said. “I think that everybody’s going to be doing it.”
A number of services including MobileAppLoader LLC, SwebApps, Mobile Roadie LLC and Kanchoo LLC have cropped up recently to help even the smallest and most local of businesses make apps, and they are pitching the programs as the next must-have marketing tool. With easy-to-use online templates, much like those used to make low-cost Web sites, a basic iPhone app can take 15 or 20 minutes to make and cost as little as $15 a month in hosting charges.
Tom Johnson is no engineer. But that didn’t stop him from creating software that helps him market his wedding-video business. Johnson crafted an application, downloadable to the Apple (AAPL) iPhone, that plays a sample video, connects users to a blog, and lets would-be clients call his company, Alliance Video Products, by pushing a single button. Best of all for a non-engineer like Johnson, he did it in a single day, without writing a single line of code.
To create the app, Johnson relied on a company called Swebapps.com, one of a new crop of services that help clients order up their own smartphone apps—often in less time and for less money than it would take to develop an app from scratch. Like Alliance Video Products, churches, museums, schools, and other small businesses of every stripe can now get into the app-making game—creating downloadable games, travel guides, quizzes, and blog feeds—thanks to sites like AppBreeder.com, GameSalad.com, and MyAppBuilder.com. Often all it takes is plugging specs into online templates.
As it gets easier for non-techies to make them, the already swiftly expanding market for these downloadable apps is likely to grow at a faster pace. That means even fuller shelves at online shops such as the Apple App Store, Google’s (GOOG) Android Market, Research In Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerry App World, and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Marketplace for Mobile. The number of apps downloaded through these kinds of stores may surge to 18.7 billion in 2014, from about 491 million at the end of 2008, according to consultant Ovum. That may result in sales of $5.7 billion in 2014, up from $367 million last year, Ovum says.
Being a recent convert to the iPhone after years on a Blackberry, I get why you would want to create an app for your business: It creates buzz, builds a brand, and can be another profit center.
Essentially, there are three sorts of apps you could create: A game app (hearts for instance), a utility (i.e., an app that lists movie times) or a business app (a mini-version of your website — like the USA TODAY app).
While the first two are not cheap, I am happy to report that the third one can be quick, easy and inexpensive, so let’s start there.
Typically, creating an app is not unlike starting a small business — you have to come up with a great idea and then be able to execute on that idea by having enough money and hiring the right team (in this case, software designers).
But recently I spoke with Magaly Chocano, CEO and founder of Sweb Apps, a company that has figured a unique, creative way to allow folks to create a mobile app using a simple drag-and-drop interface, and at a fraction of the cost of hiring an expensive designer.
How inexpensive? How does $200 to $400 sound? I thought you might like that.
New from Sweb Apps, the company whose online service lets anyone create their own iPhone application – no coding required – is Sweb Apps 2.0, the next generation of the company’s app builder product. Among a handful of new features, including a real-time WYSIWYG-style landing page builder and YouTube integration, is the ability to create an iPhone-based store where you can sell inventory within your app and take payments via PayPal.
Sweb Apps is an interesting company to watch because it’s one of the first to democratize the iPhone app-building business by taking the complexity of coding out of the equation. With their service, anyone can create their own application in as little as five minutes. Of course, you aren’t necessarily designing any masterpieces with this sort of click-to-build process, but it provides an easy – if a bit simplistic – way for small to medium-sized businesses to establish a presence in the iTunes App Store.