OMG DIY iPhone Apps

Cloud Juice App
Posted under: From the Blog 1st of September, 2011

Have been circling iPhone app developmentĀ on and off over the last few months:

Beta tester for a colleague experienced the developer distribution model pre-appstore – using device IDs to distribute via cut and paste in iTunes.

Downloaded and skim read large iOS documents on technical architecture, human interface standards etc.

Hired son James to review and blog his opinion on uni iphone apps on cloud juice.

James has recently been registered as iOS developer and is learning the ropes on managing the beta distribution and appstore process. He has also downloaded the SDK, so he can compile xcode and run it in the iPhone simulator.

I wanted to see how easy it was build a basic iPhone app and give one to James so he could push it through the Apple process. My googling discovered a recent list of newish web services that partially automate the process. Most of them generate pretty basic apps then try to charge you for publishing via the appstore – typically for $150 per app. One of them let’s you download the resulting xcode so you can run it in the SDK simulator and self-publish.

Some of the services are every basic and just recycle whatever they can of your website as appware. A few go a lot further and usually get into trouble with their interface on the more complex features. Of course you get more features if you pay more, but most seem to be trying to charge for publishing. Most of the web services have their own form of simulator to show your app but many would fail WYSIWYG test. A couple have their own iphone app which allows you to access your app as a subset, via your phone and secret code.

Image in this blog is the home screen for the app I created using Buzztouch service which allows download – 1-2 hours to cut and paste a few screens and deal with xcode generator. James is arranging beta distribution for Cloud Juice staff. That uses up 5 of the 100 UDIDs allocated with a $99 developer registration. And the basic app is working on our phones. Contact me if you are interested in being involved.

Where is this all heading? Personal apps I would think, but only after a lot of interface evolution. Depends on how well your web site is set up – some of the services couldn’t handle the cloud juice RSS feed. HTML5 and other standards seem to be central issues to what is basically web and mobile app integration.

I am going to see what else I can get working easily. Maybe I can get event publishing working. Planning to set up a shared Google calendar as public and use it to feed events to the app. Plus add in maps, contacts etc. Whatever works easily.

So for those websites you like that don’t have an app this may be a solution. It’s certainly a step up from “Add to Home Screen”.

James has concluded from his review of uni iphone apps that there are a relatively small number of key features that should be in there, for students to get value. He’s drafting blogs on this currently. We might see how hard these are to include in automated apps. I think it may well be about how well configured the uni web sites are for their various feeds – for news, locations, events, and so on. Imagine a set of feed subscription services that each student’s personal app could just plug in to.

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