Last month, I reported on some data from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project showing that while about 40 percent of U.S. adults had downloaded a mobile application to their smartphone and 75 percent had added at least one to their tablet, most of them aren't using many of them all that much.
In fact, only 30 percent of the 2,260 adults surveyed were using just three to five mobile apps per week, while between 18 percent and 20 percent of them used six to 10 applications during an average week.
That said, mobile users do tend to think local when it comes to mobile apps, so small, locally focused businesses could benefit from a mobile presence.
If your small business is convinced that it wants to compete for some of that mobile app mindshare, there are a number of resources emerging specifically focused on helping you out regardless of how technical you are. Or not. Here are some of the do-it-yourself resources that I have been reading about. There are dozens of other services and sites focused on mobile app development. I've focused here on listing the options that don't require a tremendous amount of past development experience.
- The AppBuilder: Created by JamPot Technologies, this is a service that offers application templates that help small businesses create native applications for iOS, Android and (in the future) Windows Phone 7). You can get as simple or as custom as you want. The service automatically submits your application to the iTunes App Store, Google Play market or Windows Phone Marketplace. Standard tabs include integration code for YouTube and RSS feeds. Later in 2012, JamPot plans support for features that let you include in-app advertising, WordPress integration and HTML5. You can build and preview an app for free; after you submit it for distribution, it will cost you $29 per month, per app under the standard plan.
- Apps Builder: Yes, this IS a different service with a very similar name. The basic plan starts at $19 per app per month, and it supports native app development for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Chrome Store and HTML5 Web. You can update apps via the cloud management platform.
- Appmakr: Includes templates for simple iOS apps. You can build an app for free, but that means you'll have to allow in-app advertising. Alternatively, you can pay a subscription fee of $79 per app, per month.
- AppExpress: Billed as a do-it-yourself app builder for small and midsize businesses, this platform supports the development of applications for appointment scheduling, handling invoicing and accepting payments, messaging and marketing with coupons (among other things). The service allows for creation of apps that work on either iOS or Android. It also includes an option for creating a one-page mobile-optimized Web site. A future edition will support HTML5. Pricing is $75 per month, plus a one-time $199 set-up fee.
- BuildAnApp: Spans wide range of platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry. Starts at $19 per month for non-iOS mobile apps and builds up from there, depending on how you want to publish.
- iBuildApp: Since 2010, 100,000 businesses have created mobile apps for a broad range of platforms using iBuildApp, which is delivered as a service. The platform supports the creation of mobile apps for iOS, Android, Symbian, Win Mobile and Blackberry. In late March, the company released a new service that helps developers manage mobile applications created with iBuildApp remotely. So for example, content could be updated and deleted as necessary. Pricing varies; you'll only to pay at least $299 to work with IBuildApp to create an account that will let you publish a mobile application in the Apple store.
- LiveCode Mobile: This is a platform created by RunRev that supports mobile app development for Android and Apple (as well as desktop operating systems). The company just announced a free course for teaching small business owners how to develop mobile apps that will run during the month of May 2012. A commercial version of its development software for either Android development or iOS development is priced at $499; a cross-platform version starts at $999.
- Magmito for Business, from Sprint: Sprint has teamed up with mobile application technology company DIDMO to create a version of the Magmito mobile app creator for small and midsize businesses. This is a cross-platform application tool for mobile apps that can include, text, images, RSS feeds, feedback forms and click-to-call features. The apps can be distributed via QR code, as a social media add-on, in app stores or via email. A one-year subscription is priced starting at $99.99.
- Mippin App Factory: The company behind this service pledges to help you build a mobile app in less than five minutes. It supports iPhone HTML5 apps and Android, among other platforms. The service starts at $99 per year.
- Mobbase: Pitched at companies that are trying to build a mobile fanbase, so there's lots of media considered for the app templates. It supports the development of custom apps for iOS and Android. You'll have to pay a setup fee ($250 for iPhone, $20 for Android) plus a monthly hosting fee that starts at $15 per month for up to 1,000 fan installs.
- Mobtify: Specifically focused on iOS for now, the service costs $46.95 per month and includes the ability to build geo-location into your mobile app. There is a set-up fee of $300.
- Shoutem: Focused on companies that want to publish an ongoing stream of content and information to a mobile app. The basic service starts at $29 per month (covering Android and iOS support). There is an additional fee of $99 year for the Apple developer program.
- Swebapps: A do-it-yourself platform for iOS or Android apps that supports audio file distribution, photo galleries, lists, RSS feeds, and so on. Pricing starts at $399 for a one-platform, one-time development fee, plus $29 for hosting services.
- Widgetbox Mobile: Creates HTML5 mobile apps that can run on either iPhone or Android smartphones. The service comes with analytics to let you track how your application is doing in the real world. Pricing starts at $55 per app, per month for up to 50,000 impressions per month.