In a world where there's always "an app for that," more small businesses see the value in creating their own mobile apps.
The technical know-how that is necessary to develop an impressive app and the cost of hiring a professional developer, however, have discouraged the production of many would-be branded applications.
MobiFlex launched a web application last week that allows companies, even those with minimal tech savvy, to create their own iPhone and Android apps. Learning the application requires no coding knowledge and about as much effort as learning PowerPoint.
DIY app creation has been done before, but most of these sites have limited customization options. App creators like AppMakr, iSites and App.Co pull together existing RSS feeds, but allow little functionality beyond that.
Sites like Swebapps require that app makers adhere to a rigid structure. And with more than 250,000 apps on in the App Store and AndroLib pegging the number of Android apps at more than 150,000, there's not a lot of appeal to a compilation of websites that masquerades as an app.
MobiFlex brings a new layer of complexity to the game by allowing creators to add back-end data and integrate functions like the phone's camera, speech recognition and GPS.
The resulting apps might not be topping "most downloaded" apps lists anytime soon, but MobiFlex's approach does make it easier to create an app that is valuable to a company's customers or employees.
Companies have used the beta version to create useful apps like an IT data center mobile dashboard for field service techs, a coupon-generating campaign app, a store-locator app, and a diabetes patient glucose reporting app.
It's unlikely that individuals without business motives would use MobiFlex. Although minimal, the learning curve is steeper than some of the other app creation sites. And although the fees might pale to the cost of hiring someone to develop an app, which MobiFlex CEO George Adams puts at somewhere between $10,000 (£6,250) and $50,000,(£31,250) it's too expensive for a vanity app.
After you create and demo an app for free, MobiFlex charges a monthly fee between $2.00 (£1.25) and $4.00 (£2.50) per user or $499 (£311)per month for unlimited users.
The company may have made a good move by steering clear of the crowded market for websites that allow individuals to create apps. But it's too early to tell if the small businesses that MobiFlex is targeting will consider its apps useful enough to add to their monthly budgets or see them as unnecessary expenses.
Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xoI9CrH24w&feature=player_embedded, to see the video of how to create a custom native mobile app.
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