“App Builders” Vs Native Development?
At Softjourn, we’ve seen the evolution of cross-platform apps that have “learned” to do more and over a few years (see for instance, Xamarin – a great fit for some apps, It seems we are still comparing. Do we use PhoneGap or Titanium?). But what about the low/no code approach? Is it possible to build an app with no coding?
Today, we’re looking at a few mobile app development frameworks to understand if this is the next big thing to mobile app development. Not long ago, we heard from one of our customers that they were looking at Appmachine to create a video live-streaming app similar to http://liveairshow.com/, so we decided to look at that tool. In addition, we looked at BuildFire and iBuildApp to test what the three products can do.
The result was clear: Appmachine offered the best development options in this group. Here is a quick overview of all three:
· Easy navigation.
· Blocks out of the box and the ability to write custom code made this the most flexible of the three.
· 3 different versions: Basic, Plus and Pro.
· Some of the Pro features don’t work yet, such as “connect web services[LW1].”
· Appmachine CMS has bugs, e.g. pop-up with blocks won’t open, which is a definite block for any further development.
· Easy to use.
· Works best for the simplest applications: it takes about 10 minutes to create an app with a list of articles.
· Easy to create simple mobile apps with limited functionality.
· Doesn’t allow you to scale the app, nor to customize the UI.
· Quite a few bugs and limitations: when we deleted one element in the design template, we couldn’t get rid of the gradient placeholder it left behind.
“App builders are ideal for duplicating a website’s functionality on the phone. I’d definitely use it to create an information application quickly. But it doesn’t work so well for more complicated stuff, such integrating with SDKs by adding an external scanner or using third party libraries. Working with phone components like camera or phone sensors is also a challenge. Custom coding is one way out, but oftentimes it’s complicated and unpredictable. The other area where custom coding is needed is for mobile UIs. If you want the app to go beyond the web application and do a custom layout, or want pixel-perfect displays, low-code platforms usually don’t provide templates for that. On mobile devices, there’s still a lot of work to do. We’ve got to be native”—Yuriy B., iOS developer at Softjourn
One of the main reasons people prefer tools like Appmachine is the assumption that the cost for the app will be significantly lower than using a native development approach. So, just to be clear, here’s the breakdown of the cost for using Appmachine:
- Monthly plan………………………….. €59–300
- One-time fee for Developer app………. €999
- Additional modules, e.g., Checkout…… €99
If you’re planning on having your app out there for more than a year, the costs are quite high.
To sum it up, an app created using Appmachine tool works and looks similar to a webview-based mobile app. If you are looking to quickly build a mobile version of your website, this tool is definitely helpful. But once you choose this approach, it will be difficult to customize the UI later on, to scale the app, or to add any complex feature like off-line mode or connecting to an external SDK such as a 3rd party scanning device.