We hear a lot of complaints about how difficult it is to navigate the app store and distinguish quality applications from mediocre ones. There are amusing statistics on how few times lots of iPhone applications are actually used after they are downloaded, and anecdotes on how everybody and his cousin has a great idea and wants to build an iPhone app. But with the number of applications in the app store having recently hit 100,000, it’s hard to argue against the idea that introducing third-party applications for iPhone was a prescient business decision of historical proportions. Remember, letting applications developers outside Apple build iPhone apps was not always a foregone conclusion. With the insane explosive growth of the app store the real surprise might be that Apple hasn’t had more problems with it along the way.
Hey does anyone remember back in January 2007, how Steve Jobs proclaimed that Apple had no intention of opening up iPhone to third-party developers? I have my own theory as to whether that was a colossal head fake (it was), designed to keep potential competition unfocused on the dawn of handheld devices as full-fledged computing platforms, while Apple ironed out kinks. Even if it wasn’t, it’s clear that now in November 2009 the app store is almost an embarrassment of variety, redundancy and utterly, beautifully comprehensive availability. The momentum of its growth makes it hard to imagine how sellers of applications created for other mobile platforms will ever have the variety and number of applications that the app store offers, especially for non-enterprise applications. But who knows? As of August 2009 Nokia and Research In Motion still have larger smartphone market shares than Apple does.
For what it’s worth, neither of them can claim to have inspired as many people with no programming background to try and turn their ideas into applications.
Digital Media Minute has written before about building iPhone applications. I thought it might be helpful to list a few of the newer resources that have become available, this time with a slant toward non-programmers who aren’t really inclined to learn how to create the app themselves. Send your cousin with the crazy idea the link to this post.
Building iPhone Apps- Background
Brian LeRoux has a nice overview on getting started building your app, including the pros and cons of building the app in the browser, making a native app, or taking a hybrid approach. Not nuts and bolts, but a good starting point.
An absolutely outstanding, very detailed look at the iPhone development process from the very early stages, from Ten23 Software, the guys who created Photocast. Geared toward social networking applications, but generally applicable too. Nothing regarding coding, instead it all about approach, from deciding on what kind of app you’ll create, what user motivations you will target to entice people to actually buy the app, to features you don’t want to leave out.
iPhone Apps-Hands-Off Implementation
For non-tech-oriented designers or agencies, NewsGator’s Taplynx offers a way to quickly build an application around your great idea and monetize it. It’s also being marketed to developers as a way to build apps quickly, then add custom features. The SDK is free, then purchase a license key when you want to push to production (one license key per app). They are touting it as a way to syndicate content, though for the $3,500 entry you’d better have some high-quality content. Taplynx intro video:
If you only have ‘as little as five minutes’, and you think you can live with a pretty simple interface and functionality, take a look at Sweb Apps. They offer you a CMS for adding buttons and simple features, though it’s easy enough to add your own designs for backgrounds and buttons, etc. A menu tells you how much each added feature costs. There are monthly charges for hosting and App Tracker.
The App Incubator, from Medl gets points for originality in their meta-approach: it’s an iPhone app that helps you get your idea produced, needing nothing at all except the idea. That means you need no money… If you have money and want to keep more than the 25% that they will pay you for the profits from your idea (assuming they choose to run with it), you can also hire them. It’s hard to encapsulate better than this copy, from their site:
You never know where inspiration will strike. Download the App Incubator to your iPhone and you’ll be ready whenever it does.
Using the simple interface, you can submit your ideas directly to the incubator. If it passes a series of tests and reviews, we’ll pay one of our development teams to build it. Then we’ll promote and market the application. And we’ll share the profits with you.
We make our decisions based upon five factors: Originality. Functionality. Simplicity. Revenue Opportunity. And Fun.
You can also upload ideas via our website – where you’re free to type with a full keyboard. Once you’ve received a submission number for your app, you can use the storyboard tool found on our site to give us even more details of how you see the app working.
The only question is, do you have a great idea?
AppBreeder gives you a choice of having an iPhone Web App built for you for free that is supported by ads, an iPhone web app with no ads for ~$10-$15/mo., a native iPhone app for ~$30-$50/mo., or a multi-platform app for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android & a web app for iPhone for between $40-$60/mo. They have packages available reminiscent of blog themes geared toward certain types of users/commercial entities: lawyers, realtors, restaurants, bands, and many more.
There is no shortage of help available for you to see an idea for an app through to production, depending on how much money, time, and involvement in the process you are willing to assume. Even if you aren’t inclined to learn to do it yourself, it’s till true that choosing how to build an iPhone app is ultimately up to you.
You have an idea for building an iPhone app but you’re stuck because you don’t know where to begin? Carla White was too, but then she created Gratitude Journal, one of the top apps in the entire App Store! Read more here.