We’ve been following the website builder market for more than five years now and creating a simple website is not really much of a problem these days.
But does the same hold true for mobile apps? Can it be possible to create a mobile app without having a clue about programming languages?
While my wife was toying with the idea of creating a mobile app for her museum website, we took the opportunity to try out some of the best app makers on the market. There really is no shortage of companies offering this kind of service; we easily found more than 30.
Update 23 Feb 2015: the app has been launched, check it out here.
Mobile App Makers in 100 Seconds
App doesn’t equal App
Most of the app makers that we’ve tested offer two kinds of apps:
A HTML5 app is a mobile friendly version of your existing website. It will serve as an addition to your website exclusively for users on Smartphones and Tablet devices.
What most people will be keen on though, is a Native App that users can download on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store (and maybe, just maybe on the Window Phone Store).
A native app will also allow you to send those handy little push messages that hardly anybody knows how to deactivate.
While you can create your own HTML5 app for around $10-20 per month, creating a native app is not gonna be wallet friendly. Most providers will require you to fork out around $40 per month to have it listed in the Apple, Android or Windows Phone ecosystems.
What we discovered here is an exciting market in its early stages; we expect a lot more to come in the future. For now, these mobile app makers are our favorites:
GoodBarber – Eye Candy
The app builder with the most interesting name comes from the French island of Corsica and impresses with beautiful themes. What’s more is that they offer some of the most advanced features such as social networking, chat, Geofencing and iBeacons. Get your native iOS and Android apps for a mere €16 per month. They show an extensive showcase of apps that have been created with their system.
What we liked: their templates are beautiful and their pricing for native apps is very competitive. It also offers a lot of flexibility and cutting-edge features.
Where they should improve: doesn’t have its own online store but you can integrate Amazon, Etsy and Shopify.
GoodBarber Video Review and Tutorial
Free Trial: www.goodbarber.com
Detailed Review: AppToolTester
Shoutem – The Apple of App Builders
Founded in 2011 this app maker is a very polished product. It features plenty of very powerful options. One of which, the location based directory for places proved particularly useful for our test project, a museum app.
Their monetization elements, such as their integration with Shopify and mobile advertising support help you to recoup what you spend on Shoutem. While it’s not the most expensive provider, it’s not cheap either: pricing starts at $19.90 (Basic) per month. In order to be able to publish to the Apple or Android app stores, you’ll have to at least pick their $49.00 Advanced plan.
What we liked in particular was that it’s fun to use but powerful at the same time, and the templates are really great.
What we liked: designs, location-based elements, ease of use, smooth handling of image uploads
What they should improve: they should add their own online store module
ShoutEm Video Review and Tutorial
Free Trial: www.shoutem.com
Detailed Review: AppToolTester
Como DIY – The Swiss Army Knife of App Creators
This app maker, which was founded in 2010 in Israel claims to power more than 1 million apps around the world, making it one of the biggest fishes in the app pond. They provide a wide selection of building blocks such as a loyalty card feature, appointment scheduling integrations, ecommerce, user reviews and events. Most of the examples on their app gallery are restaurants, bands and other kinds of organizations that run events.
Como just released a new pricing structure: now there is only one tier with either a monthly ($57), yearly ($48) or bi-yearly ($41) payment option. Part of these updates is also a bold 6-Month Success Guarantee, meaning that Como DIY will give you six months for free if you don’t manage to achieve “any meaningful business results” with your app.
We found seven different templates that you can combine with six navigational styles. Colors, background images and icons can be adapted with your own artwork.
What we liked: the editor is very well laid out and easy to use. Their features range is one of the most extensive and the designs are a definite plus. The Success Guarantee is quite reassuring.
What they should improve: their marketing. After registering they will send you promotional emails every single day for about a week… Update: Como told us that they are currently changing their email marketing. If you have any recent experience with Como’s newsletters, please leave a comment and let us know!
Como Video Review and Tutorial
Free Trial: www.como.com
Detailed Review: AppToolTester
Looking for more information on app makers?
We now have a site dedicated to in-depth app maker reviews with a ranking table. Find further resources and information to help you find the best app creation tool for your project or business. We are also happy to answer any questions you may have.
AppYourself – Easy and fun to use
This company started in 2011, allowing their users to create apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and also pure HTML5 apps. Their promise doesn’t end with a mobile app: in contrast to other app makers they also let you create a responsive website that automatically syncs your app content. Currently, this feature is in an open beta phase.
There are four pricing tiers, ranging from Web Only (€5), Basic (€15) to Premium (€30) and Business (€50 & €200 setup fee). You can try out AppYourself for free, for as long as you want. In order to be able to actually submit your app to one of the app stores you need to be on, at least, their Basic plan.
Their features include ecommerce, table booking options via Open Table and Resmio, loyalty cards, photo galleries and of course, the usual news feed streams.
We like: Most of all, the interface is well structured and very easy to use. They feature their own online store module and support was quick to respond when we contacted them. Using their Connect App you can also update your app on the go.
Things they should improve: AppYourself is a German company and sometimes there are menu items that haven’t been fully translated. It’s not a big issue overall but it needs to be addressed.
Free Trial: http://appyourself.net/
Tip: Save 20% in your first year using the discount code “wtt20off”. Valid for all pricing tiers except forBusiness.
Where are all the apps? According to Statista, there are around 2.8m apps on the leading three app stores. According to just Como and AppMakr, a total of 3m apps have been created with their tools alone. This can only mean that a significant number of all apps never make it into the major app stores.
Mobile Roadie – The Enterprise App Builder
As one of the bigger players Mobile Roadie proudly showcase their clients: Disney, TED.org and Universal have apps made on their platform.
Given the price point ranges from $149 (CORE) to a hefty $799 per month (PRO) this company clearly has its focus on larger companies. We particularly liked their design options which feature great templates and give you plenty of options to tweak them.
They have a couple of nice community features such as chats and a fan wall that can be particularly useful for artists and bands. Musicians will also like the smooth integration of its music player.
There are also some very advanced features such as geo-targeting for your content. Because of its wide feature range getting the hang of this app builder will take more time than most of the others..
We like: Their templates are very elegant and they offer plenty of options to tweak the designs. All in all their features are extremely advanced.
Where they should improve: pricing of course as it’s not affordable for smaller businesses. It also took us quite some time to get to grips with the editor – the UI could be a more intuitive.
Free Trial: www.mobileroadie.com
AppMachine – The High Potential
This name seems to have a deeper meaning. AppMachine automates as many tedious processes as possible. Just give them your website’s URL and they will import everything they deem useful for your app. Twitter, Facebook, RSS and even images can be imported if you wish. Quite unique and pretty useful!
The editor of this Dutch company is visually quite impressive but at the same time not overwhelming. We like their idea of using Lego building blocks. It’s one of the best app creators we’ve seen and although not all of the user interface was intuitive right from the start, we think that they have the potential to be one of the top players in this space.
Currently they offer two plans: Plus for $49 and Pro for $69 per month.
What we liked: powerful editor, a comprehensive building block selection
What they should improve: they should make the user interface a little bit more logic and faster
Free trial: http://www.appmachine.com
Mobincube – Apps for Everyone
In contrast to Mobile Roadie, Mobincube positions itself as the website builder for everyone. Everyone can and should be able to build an app and also make some money using the Admob platform. Before you make money though you’ll have to spend some but don’t worry because Mobincube is very affordable: while they offer a free plan, their cheapest ad-free plan is priced at $9.99. Surprisingly, all of their plans allow you to ‘go native’, i.e. to upload your creation to one or all of the major app stores.
Update 3 June 2015: You can now add HTML modules into your app. Examples would be:
User account registration screens, embedded html5 games, advanced forms, access to different branches of the app depending on certain inputs (time, language, region, type of device, etc.) and animations.
What we liked: very competitive prices and plenty of templates to choose from. Also, some of the features seem quite innovative.
What they should improve: technical hiccups need to be taken care of, the templates can be a bit restrictive.
Free Plan: www.mobincube.com
BIZNESSAPPS – That Lead Magnet
In the video on their website they make a bold statement: one in every 20 apps out there runs on BusinessApps. The Californian company started out in 2010 and has so far helped to put out more than 300, 000 apps.
In order to create native iOS or Android apps you’ll have to pick their Mobile Apps plan for $59 per month. The editor is clearly structured and overall made a solid impression on us.
What we liked: they sport plenty of 3rd party integrations including ways to capture leads.
What they should improve: It could be visually more rewarding; with other app makers we had quicker results.
Free Trial: www.biznessapps.com
AppsBuilder – Intuitive Italian Design
This Italian app creator features a drag and drop editor and has so far helped 500,000 apps come to life. Once you navigate the slightly confusing free trial vs. free account sign up, the dashboard and editor are surprisingly intuitive. Adding logos and other images is also extremely easy, as you can easily scale images and add effects effortlessly after dropping your image onto the page.
There is also a wide array of modules you can add to pages, such as eCommerce, multimedia, maps, calculators and loyalty tools. There are dedicated tools for all the popular social sites, as well as at least five modules for different restaurant sites, so there’s something for everyone here. AppsBuilder also have a handy dedicated resource section on their site with articles, eBooks, templates and even case studies, all available for free.
There are three pricing categories: $52 (Starter), $215 (Regular) and $269 (Scalable). In order to create a native iOS or Android app you’ll have to pick the Premium plan.
What we liked: easy to navigate editor, intuitive image editing with many options, good support
What they should improve: they have a free account (as well as their trial) but it’s difficult to access, should have different language options available.
Free Trial: www.apps-builder.com
MobAppCreator – New Kid on the Block
This relatively new company calls Argentina home and has its focus on native apps. They claim to have almost 41,000,000 app views and rising, but apart from that, they’re a little mysterious, without even an ‘About Us’ or Company Profile on their site.
With MobAppCreator, users don’t have as many templates available to them as other builders, yet the editor itself is very user-friendly, with different modules explained clearly and without too much technical jargon. It’s a nice touch having a pull-out iPhone on the side that keeps an updated, clickable representation of your app which is refreshed with each new change. We did find some issues in the layout design once we started to change some of the module elements, though, and had to begin again just to reset it.
You have fourteen days to trial the service, with full functionality, but then the cheapest option starts at $32.50 per month. This isn’t too dissimilar to some of the other app makers on the market, as you’ll see below, but perhaps they could offer a few more templates for that price.
What we liked: the editor is relatively easy to use, they have their own online store module available for the South American market.
What they should improve: there could be a wider range of template designs, perhaps offer a free version that isn’t time limited but offers less options.
Free Trial: www.mobappcreator.com
AppMakr – The Good Old Times of App Creation
This app creator from Singapore shows almost 2 million apps on its counter; impressive. Next to their claim of creating an app “in only 20 minutes” the pricing page sticks out for us. Next to a free plan there’s a $1 and a $9 dollar per month plan making it one of the most affordable app makers.
However, after signing up we were quite disappointed. The visual appearance of their editor isn’t really state of the art: it looks like there hasn’t been a redesign for a couple of years. To be fair though, they offer plenty of building blocks and also the app design can be tweaked. It’s just not as much fun to work with this product compared to their more stylish competitors.
What we liked: affordable prices
What they should improve: their design and the editor, this product is due for a major do over.
Free Trial: www.appmakr.com
Further App Makers that we haven’t tested
An affordable tool, this Indian company lets you put your app into Google Play for free if you don’t mind ads in your app. Paid plans start at $7 per month. Free Trial: http://www.appypie.com
Although the featured templates on this website don’t look too exciting, IBuildApp has been used more than a million times. Basic ($9.99 per month), Business ($39) and Enterprise/Agency ($99) are their pricing tiers.
Free Trial: http://ibuildapp.com
Their well-designed website doesn’t reveal a lot about the company other than 30,000 businesses have used the software in one way or the other. You can choose between the free plan and a Premium plan ($49 per month).
Free Trial: http://buildfire.com
If you don’t mind technical lingo or even embrace it, the “industry’s leading cloud-based rapid development environment for building mobile apps” might be your candidate of choice. It’s more of a technical infrastructure for apps than an app maker for end users. Free Trial: http://appery.io
Creating games is pretty much the ultimate challenge for programmers. For a mere $299 per year the Texan company provides a building block system for iOS and Android game creation. Free Trial: http://gamesalad.com
To sum up
It’s true that there are absolutely no programming skills required to build an app, however, if you actually want to have a chance of it being published in one of the App Stores you’ll need at least some basic image editing skills.
High quality visual components are key to creating an app that people will enjoy using. In addition you really need to know how to provide a valuable app – an exact copy of your website usually doesn’t cut it. You need to offer app specific functions or content.
As mentioned before, we think that there is a lot more to come in terms of functionality. Let us know what you think!
Image credit: DigiClack – Fotolia