Comparison of No-code iPhone Development Tools

Have a great idea for an iPhone app, but don’t know how to program? Never fear; now there are special tools that allow you to build your own apps without knowing a lick of code. This article examines some of the best of these tools, so you can get right to work building the iPhone app of your dreams.

Having an iPhone app of your own may no longer have the tint of geeky cool that it used to, now that there are millions of apps in the store, but it is still a great way to reach out to the mobile market and expand your audience. One of the distinct advantages of the maturity of the iPhones app store is that several no-code tools have been created that allow you to create and publish apps without hiring a developer or incurring much in the way of creation costs. Those tools have had time to be refined and grow into useful software for independent business people and small businesses, which often do not have the large budgets needed to hire a professional developer.

All that these tools require is a little time, energy and patience. With those tools you will have an iPhone app in no time at all. Of course, starting with the right tool will save you a lot of that time and energy. So today we are going to look at some of the no-code iPhone tools that you may want to use for your iPhone app, so that you can save the time that you would have spent on dead end options. We will look at several tools, their usefulness, their costs, and then examine which tools are the best for your needs.

What qualifies as a no-code iPhone app maker?

You may be wondering what makes a no-code iPhone app a no-code iPhone app. After all, the native iPhone SDK (the developers’ tool that comes with your Apple developers account) has a visual interface where you can drag and drop items onto your app. Does that count as a no-code tool? No, not for our purposes, because once you place these items on the interface, you still need to add code to make the app work correctly. So, while that is the native tool, we will not be examining it as a no-code iPhone app making tool.

So, what will qualify? For the purposes of this article, a no-code iPhone app making tool must be able to meet the following requirements.

  1. You must be able to make an iPhone app with it. That may seem like a simple one, but this actually broadens the options for our tools. Some no-code tools will allow for a direct download option without being listed in the app store. While most of you will want to list in the app store, not all of you will need to.

  2. It must require no code for at least a basic app. Yes, you may need to have some code for more advanced features, but the basics must be no-code.

  3. It must be available to the public. Tools that are currently in private beta, by invitation only or not accepting new registrations are not listed, since they will be of no use to you.

  4. You must be able to create a downloadable package. Apps that are completely web-based do not count, since some users, mainly on iPod Touches, will not be able to make use of the app outside of the designated wifi zones.


Now that we have those basic criteria put into place we can begin to examine the options we have in no-code iPhone tools.  Now, lets move onto our first no-code tool.

{mospagebreak title=The No-Code Tools}

App Makr

This service makes simple iPhone apps based on RSS feeds for the iPhone. These can be made fairly sophisticated, with the introduction of tools that include Twitter feeds, contact boxes and a few other basic add ons. The tool also allows for the use of custom graphics, uploaded from your computer or borrowed from the web. 

It does limit some features, such as mobile push, unless you are willing to pay. You should be aware of two things; one is a benefit, and the other is a detriment. The biggest benefit of this system is that it is all web-based. You will never have to download your development tools to your system, which is a big bonus for anyone working on Windows or Linux, since the native development environment is for users of the Mac OS only. 

The down side of this approach is that this tool keeps a keen eye on which tool apps are submitted and which are not. If they do not think that you have a good chance of acceptance, it will not allow you to compile or submit, even under your own developer’s account; and one of the biggest issues is the use of a single RSS feed. So if you want a single feed app, this is not for you. 

You may want to know that some of the decision includes the popularity of your site via an Alexa ranking. It is not a deal breaker, but it can lower your score. This service is free to use if you are using your own developers account. If you want them to submit under their own developer’s account, it will cost you. Having them create you an account will cost you almost $1,000.  

Game Salad

As you probably guessed by the name of this tool, it is meant to make games. It comes with a variety of different game templates that represent a variety of popular game styles. You can also start from scratch and make your own game. This system does have a little bit of a learning curve, since you will need to assign behavior rules to objects within your game. This is not too steep of a learning curve, and there is ample documentation on the site from which you can learn.

This app is a download, which is good, because you can work offline — but bad, because it will take up hard drive space. On the whole, however, this is a solid option for making puzzle or casual games. You will not be able to make a game with an in-depth world a la the Resident Evil or Assassins Creed for iPhone. Submission is a bit tricky with this tool, but not too horrible if you are willing to learn.  It is not the only choice that requires your own compiling and submission, however.

AppCat

This tool makes a very big promise: an app made in seven minutes, entirely by email. If that sounds too good to be true, that is because it is, for most users. You can make a contact app for a physical business with this tool. If that is what you need, then AppCat is actually a decent choice. If you need anything more advanced, then this may not be fore you. 

The templates are currently limited, but the service is in public beta. Just be aware that these apps can not be published in the app store. People who want to use your app will have to navigate (on the phone) to your URL and do a manual download. This can be a major issue if you do not have a motivated base of users, or if you were looking to grow exposure with the app.

Some users have also experienced load issues with the app. They will have to clear their cache and download if they have that problem; this can also create an issue for users who get frustrated with these kinds of problems. Do solid testing before you release, and have a distribution platform in mind if you choose this tool. You will need to do both if you want to gain any real following.

On the bright side, you really can make a contact app and give it a fair amount of edits in about 10 minutes. So, if it meets your needs, it may be a solid free choice for your use. There is no submission fee and no monthly fee to have your app available to the public. 

Now we can move on to the last no-code iPhone app making tool that we will examine in this piece.

Magmito

This app maker is fairly sophisticated as a tool, but it does not have any templates on the site, so you are always going to have to start from scratch. The site will have support for them in the future.  Publishing is done in a variety of ways. You can send it by email or text, or by the classic submission to the app store. Publication on Facebook is also possible. 

Just be aware that if you list on the app store through them, without using their proprietary ad setup, you will incur a per-download cost. You will see no revenue at all from these ads. Choosing the no-ad route will cost you a grand total of $.99 in order to get your app up and running via any distribution channel available on this service. 

The tools are fairly flexible, and unlike some of our other options, Magmito does not have a real independent language for items; it’s a solid plug-and-play tool. Just be aware of the costs if you want app store distribution and a free experience for your customers. That will change your cost/benefits analysis significantly.

Analysis: Which is best for your dollar?

So, which is the best?  Well that depends on your needs. Obviously, if you want to make a game your choice is clear. You should go with Game Salad. For contact-based apps, consider App Makr with AppCat as a second choice if you don’t want to pay the fee or deal with the limiting evaluation choice that the service offers. For anything else, Magmito is the way to go. Of course, the final decision is up to you. If one of these tools stands out for your needs, then go for it.  Best of luck making your no-code iPhone app.

One final note — all of the information in this piece was accurate at the time of its writing. Services, especially those in beta, are prone to change. Always check rates and TOS for current info about a service’s offerings and rates, just in case. 

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