A Hand-Holding App Builder for Handheld Devices

Development Tools / Utilities
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Drag-and-drop tools, automation of most under-the-cover functions, and an AI assist make AppyPie's mobile device app building platform easy as...well, you know.

Another contestant in the sweepstakes of the do-it-yourself type of mobile application development platforms is AppyPie. Founded in 2013, AppyPie offers its application builder as a web service that walks users through every step of the process and generates apps for Amazon Fire OS, Android, Apple iPhone, BlackBerry, and Microsoft Windows 10 phones. What's more, it provides additional hand-holding assistance for such after-development functions as publishing apps, monetizing them, and using them as the foundation of a service business. As of this writing, AppyPie's homepage scoreboard shows more than 1.8 million apps generated using its service.

Apps That Take the Cake

Aimed squarely at nontechnical users of SMBs, or even single-person businesses, AppyPie promises to help people with no coding knowledge build a simple app (or game) in minutes. It also helps novice developers make realtime updates and revisions to their apps, incorporate push notifications, and encompass advertising, all in the native code of the user's preferred device or as an HTML5-based hybrid app. Push notifications can be sent as specific times to all users, specific users, specific user groups, app users in a specific geographical area, or users within boundaries of a geo-fenced area.

Using drag-and-drop icons, a WYSIWYG editor, and a DIY back-of-the-envelope design plan, AppyPie delivers three-step building of single-purpose apps. The three steps are choosing a template (and customizing it for your business), adding desired features from a menu of them, and publishing the app live. AppyPie's app creation engine, as described by the company, combines HTML5, CCS3, and JavaScript coupled to a mobile framework such as PhoneGap that uses proprietary APIs to interface between the app and native mobile device system APIs.

Part of its ease-of-use philosophy includes a wide range of templates to use as app foundations. Examples include apps for casinos, catering, fitness, sports, religion, databases, group chats, shopping carts, geo-targeting, social networks, e-commerce, healthcare, veterinarians, and real estate. There are also templates for app analytics, blog integration, forms building, quizzes and surveys, video streaming, virtual reality, and app prototyping. AppyPie continually updates its list of app features to provide an expanding horizon of app possibilities.

AppyPie can host generated applications on their website, which meets all security and confidentiality requirements laid down by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards, and Amazon Web Services' Service Organization Control (SOC) requirements.

To show how simple the company has made the app-building process, AppyPie also provides an education page that offers a web-based, app-building training program for K-12 and college students that's accessible 24x7. The associated AppyPie Marketplace provides, in effect, an independent app store on which teachers and students can showcase apps they've built and offer them for download or sale. (If an app builder is so easy a child could use it, surely inexperienced adults can find success with it as well?)

Convert Your Website to an App

The Windows 8 version lets users incorporate camera, GPS location, GrubHub, Instagram, and SoundCloud into their apps. It also lets novices convert existing SquareSpace, Weebly, and Wix websites directly into mobile apps. AppyPie claims that more than 100,000 sites have been converted so far. The website apps include modes that let users work offline, integrate with social media, incorporate advertising from multiple providers, and customize themes, templates, and modules.

AppyPie also offers professional help in building custom or complex apps, but frankly warns that this is a more expensive route to go than the $15-to-$50 a month it charges for one of its membership plans (free memberships with more limited access are also available) that let DIYers hammer out their own apps and access AppyPie's online help center. Custom development is available for Java Micro Edition, Qualcomm BREW, and Symbian in addition to the platforms cited earlier.

Make Some Money

Making money from your app is another topic AppyPie is willing to explore for newcomers, by using in-app purchases and selling ads within your app as ways of generating revenue. The same doc also tutors app builders in such topics as how to categorize your app to improve download volume and other attributes, build apps for specific purposes, create app mockups and wireframes, set application goals and objectives, avoid common pitfalls in app building, and use outside help to build an app.

Another potential revenue stream is to join AppyPie's Mobile App Reseller program. This offering lets enterprises engaged in app developing, web designing, web hosting, marketing, or other activities offer AppyPie services under the company's White Label Solution. AppyPie sets up the environment for you, provides training sessions and webinars for your team, and then lets you build apps for others that can be marketed under the White Label brand or a brand of your own.

Support for Progressive Web Apps

AppyPie also supports creation of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), a kind of app that blends native and mobile apps. Basically, a PWA is one that is designed to work with any browser, fits any form factor, is connectivity-independent, uses HTTPS for security, is installable directly on a device rather than accessing it via an app store, and can be shared via a URL because it doesn't need separate bundling or distribution. Another distinguishing feature of a PWAs is use of Service Workers, which are JavaScript programs that work under the covers to provide connectivity, network requests, offline support, and other services. While PWAs represent the potential of being a future path down which all web apps might logically go, the jury is still out on how that will unfold. Nonetheless, they represent a way of combining websites and mobile devices in a new manner that can be useful in some circumstances.

AppyPie lets users build PWAs in HTML5 with its App Maker. This provides all the other DIY features of AppyPie-built apps, lets builders add new features and republish an app any time, provides starting templates for different business types, and also can add Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest features. However, the builder must provide certain minimum requirements, such as an HTTPS connection, a WC3 manifest (in other words, a JSON text file that uniquely identifies the app), and a mechanism that will let the app function independent of a network. Also, the app must have an independent URL for each of its pages and support multiple browsers.

Worth Considering

If your enterprise doesn't have an IT department, or finds its IT budget stretched too thinly when a mandate for developing mobile device apps comes down from on high, AppyPie might provide a means for meeting those needs with a minimum outlay of time and money, while providing more features than one might expect from app builders or services of a similar nature.