John Herrman in Popular Mechanics (see references) recently ran an article on building your own smartphone apps using tools available from those who stand to gain the most from users doing so; the smartphone makers. And while this might be something some people might want to do, there are some things they ought to know before jumping in.
First, the good news. If you’re someone that wants to create an app for a phone running Google’s Android (most phones that are not by Apple) you’re in luck. Everything you will need is free. Something else you’ll be happy to know is that you don’t need to learn how to code in some obscure programming language. Also, good news is if you want to write an app for the iPhone, and then sell it in the Apple Store, you can do that too, also without having to learn how to code.
This is all possible because of products like Google’s App Inventor, or Apple’s GameSalad. Software products that allow users to create apps using symbols and by dragging stuff around on a screen to show it what you want done, similar in many respects to the various free web building sites that can be found online.
Now for the bad news. While Google’s App inventor does indeed allow regular users to create apps, they won’t be a feature filled as those created by professional app makers. Nor will users be able to sell their creations on the Android Market; Google clearly doesn’t expect apps created with its free products to be good enough for others to use. Having said that, there is no reason users can’t create and run apps just for their own use on their own phone.
The bad news for those who want to create apps for the iPhone; would-be creators will find, much like when dealing with Apple products in general, that there are costs involved, such as the $99 annual iOS developers fee. Or the $499 cost of the upgrade software package that allows you to do all the cool stuff.
Regardless of which path developers wish to take, they should know that going down either path isn’t likely to be as easy as it might at first seem. There will be a learning curve as new concepts sink in, frustration as it isn’t always easy to get an app to do exactly what is wanted, in the way it’s wanted, and sometimes anger when unexpected issues crop up. In other words, be sure you’re willing to work hard at whatever it is you want to do, and are willing to persevere when things get tough.