Thanks to AppMachine, you can now make your own iOS or Android app without learning a single line of code. This new web app will help you create a mobile application based on the content that you're already creating, such as your social media feed, blog, or YouTube account. Users can choose a theme and preview the app on their devices in real time, making changes and edits on the fly. AppMachine also helps with the app submission process, although that feature isn't yet available in the current beta version.
Upon logging into AppMachine, we were greeted with four demo applications: Cut it, Fitness, Ray Charles and Wedding. We could enter any of these apps and view the AppMachine dashboard, which had stats such as downloads and app activity, as well as the ability to preview and customize a pre-built application. We wanted to turn Laptopmag.com into a mobile application using AppMachine, so we clicked on the "Create new App" building block back on the home screen.
First, we were prompted to name our application then we entered in the Laptopmag.com URL. AppMachine immediately started crawling our website, searching for RSS feeds, links and social media sites. We were able to view its progress as our site was scanned, as we were shown the number of found content as each new piece was found.
The next step in the process was to choose a theme. Most of the themes were relatively similar, featuring a top banner or background image and a series of buttons. There were different motifs, such as a morning coffee theme or an image of the Empire State Building. We chose a relatively blank slate theme, which included a top banner with square buttons below.
The first thing we edited was the top banner image, replacing the generic grey image with the Laptopmag.com logo. The website only accepts JPEGs and PNGs, so our GIF file was initially rejected. We corrected the file type and were able to crop the image to the proper dimensions. AppMachine warned us not to upload an image that is smaller than 640 x 220 pixels, as the final result will be blurry.
The AppMachine app is built on "blocks," which refers to chunks of content such as a Twitter feed or a Google+ account. Blocks are represented as LEGO blocks and the app is built by stacking these LEGO blocks on top of each other. We clicked on the RSS block and entered in the URL for our news feed. We followed the same process with our Twitter account, Google+ and YouTube video stream.
In order to preview our application, we downloaded the AppMachine Previewer app on our iPhone and entered our account credentials. We were given a list of all the applications associated with our account, which included the demo apps, and clicked on Laptopmag.com. We were presented with a full mobile application, complete with content.
We were able to browse our most recent tweets and Google+ posts as well as browse each of our YouTube videos in an appealing shelf-like display. Unfortunately, we were unable to get the RSS block to work; we got an error that said "there are no articles" despite using the correct feed URL.
There are three different types of AppBuilder accounts: Gorgeous, Designer and Developer. Each gives slightly more control than the last. With a Gorgeous account, users can only use preset themes. A Designer has control over the individual colors of each element of their application, although this level of customization didn't work for us in this beta version. The Developer section also isn't available yet, but will allow users to add their own custom code and databases.
In later versions of AppMachine, users will also be able to submit their application to the Apple App Store or Google Play. This feature alone will eliminate many headaches in the app development process if it works correctly. The current version allowed us to upload icons, screen shots and enter all our app's information, but the final step which submits the apps to their respective app stores returns an error.
We found AppMachine fairly easy to use and were able to create a content-filled mobile app within minutes, rather than the weeks or months of development time it would take to code these apps ourselves. AppMachine also outputs completely native code, meaning the final product will be completely Objective-C for iOS apps and Java for Android, which many argue is better than a non-native HTML5 application.
AppMachine is good for users who are already creating content for the web, including bloggers, YouTube personalities and social media moguls. AppMachine won't let you create the next Angry Birds, but if you want to pull all your web content into a single place, AppMachine provides an easy solution.
These services, however, do come at a cost. There currently isn't a way to make a purchase and submit your app to the app stores, but we were told that prices will range between $500 to $2000, depending on the amount of customization required in the app. Compared to a mobile app development company, however, these prices are a pittance.