Yes, you heard that right. My own iPhone app. I have chatted about AppMakr here in the Studio before (link here). I even threatened to make an app myself, but I didn’t do it at that time. But I really did think about it.
Yesterday, I read that Appmakr (link here) was offering basic iPhone app creation for free. Well, since that is my favorite number, I thought it was as good a time (if not better) than any to actually put my money (exactly 0) where my mouth was and, like Nike, just do it.
The site and the process are simple and easy to navigate. You are greeted on the Home screen with the factoid that Appmakr has helped publish 1.2 million + downloads, from tiny players to great big names in publishing and blogging. Without even so much as giving Appmakr an email address, it will start the process of app creation with the simple entry of a URL or keyword. To edit and fine-tune the app, you will need to create a free account with an email address and password.
Once you do, you can access your Dashboard. This is where you create and edit your app and view build history and publishing status. The interface is very nicely laid out and simple to follow.
From here, you tweak your feeds and add your artwork, either from the Web, your hard drive, or via search.
AppMakr lets you add multiple feeds – the feeds and related icons show in a list. Each feed gets its own tab and icon and you can pull feeds from search or add your own RSS / Atom feed. Appmakr also supports iTunes, podcasts, Blogger, Twitter, and YouTube feeds. Once you build in your feeds, you can customize the app with your own header image and text colors using an RGB editor and / or hex numbers.
A very VERY cool feature of the dashboard is the App Simulator. It’s the giant iPhone to the right in the image above. As you make changes in the dashboard, the App Simulator updates in real time. As you enter feeds, your content is pulled and immediately shown in the iPhone’s screen as if it were an actual, working app. This allows you to test the validity of your feeds and make sure that your app looks right before publishing.
Sitting in my dashboard right now is a shiny, spanking new AdvantageAdvocates iPhone app, with custom artwork, feeds and images. It took me about 20 minutes to complete.
Sounds simple, right? It really is and there is no catch. Well, almost no catch. The testing and publishing step is where I got hung up. You see, Appmakr is in fact free if you wish to test and publish your own app under your own Apple Developers’ certificate. Huh, what’s that? I’m not a developer, you say. The certificate is a necessary credential if you wish to be able to submit an app to Apple for publication in the App Store. If you don’t have an Apple Developer’s certificate, there is always the $999 option of having Appmakr handle all testing and publishing under Appmakr’s own brand name.
Are you thinking bait and switch? Well, not really. You see, if you own an a Mac computer, you already have a Developers’ Certificate, – it’s built right into your Mac’s OS. There is a fairly complicated process outlined in an instructional video showing the steps you need to take to get your Certificate, a Private Key and Distribution Provisioning profiles, all of which are necessary for self-publishing your application. So yes, in fact, if you own a Mac, you can create, test and publish your app to the App store for free. Of course, if you get hung up in the fairly complicated process, you can get a walk-through over the phone with an Appmakr rep for $250.
For the rest of us shmo’s on Windows or other operating systems, AppMakr offers to go through an even more complicated process of getting a Developer’s certificate for you for the price of $250. You can also get general, phone-based support at any point during the development process for $120 per hour.
I am starting to see where AppMakr makes its money.
I am also started to think even more seriously about getting a Mac.
So, long and short. If you own a Mac, then by all means get thee to AppMakr and create an iPhone application for free that includes all your favorite content (self published or generally available on the Web) in a very slick package. If you don’t, then AppMakr might still be a decent bargain if you adopt the do-it-yourself attitude and spend $250 for your Apple Developer’s certificate. Get thee quickly, though, because the “free” part is apparently for a limited time only.
And, if you see an AdvantageAdvocates iPhone app in the App Store’s New or Featured Releases, then you know that I bit the bullet and sprang for that Mac I have been trying to justify for years. My app is all ready to go.