Appsbar: Android app maker review
If you want to make your own app but don’t know how to develop Android apps then an app creator can be the solution. This comes with its own pros and cons when compared with other strategies (such as coding yourself and outsourcing).
This week I experimented with Appsbar, one of the contenders in the Android app maker business. The main concern with app maker software such as Appsbar or AppMkr is that the choices of app functionality are limited. Appsbar is however a completely free product, so despite any limitations it’s still great value!
To use the website, which can be found here, you must register an account. This is made easy by giving users the option to log in via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. Unfortunately, the Facebook option did not work in Chrome. It did however in Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 14.
After logging in the user sees a page labeled “App Manager”. Here you can create a new app and view the development status of any previous app projects. If you create a new app you are sent to a page where you must first choose the type of app. Appsbar provide a host of options here which are essentially combinations of the same modules which you can edit further on in the process.
After choosing the type of app some general settings must be selected such as whether the app will be for commercial use, the app name, an icon, splash screen and theme colors. Unfortunately, the name for the app cannot exceed 15 characters. For the icon and splash screen there’s a choice of graphics which may or may not suit your needs: you can also upload your own.
I found the choice of icons to be acceptable with some nice vector graphics but the splash screens are weak and the color themes downright hideous. Unfortunately you can’t edit these in any way!
After the settings page comes the page manager page. Here you get to choose the functionality of the app. The app type you selected consists of a predetermined selection of these modules but you can add or delete modules to your heart’s content.
The modules include “Events”, “forms”, “Menu list”, “Contact”, “RSS”, “Soundboard”, “Photo Gallery”, “Video Gallery”, “Coupons”, “Social Links”, “Links”, “Content”, “Discography” and “Blogs”. All these can be renamed and their properties can be edited by the user. The modules are represented by icons on the main page of the app and can also be changed from their defaults. Editing the modules is quite easy, if somewhat limited. It seems Appsbar have chosen speed and ease of use over configurability, which may or may not suit you depending on your goals for the app.
When you are done building and configuring the app it’s time to head over to the Publish page. Here you see a listing of the different properties of the app you chose and configured and it checks whether you have to go back and add information to complete the app. If your app passes this test a page appears where you must fill out some publishing properties.
After pressing the Publish button a “Publish success” page tells you that you will get an e-mail in 3-5 days for an update on it’s status. It took exactly five workdays before I got an e-mail from Appsbar informing me that my app had been approved by them and submitted to the Google Play Store. The following day the app was uploaded to Google Play. So, the app is published by Appsbar: there’s no option to receive an APK file and you can’t publish the app under your own name. Because of this, you won’t be able to monetize your app.
Interestingly, after publishing the app, the App Manager page displays instructions to publish several extra versions of your app… ”Facebook app”, for adding your web app to your Facebook page, “Website Widget”, to show visitors of your website what your mobile app looks like and “Mobile Website” which redirects your mobile visitors to a mobile-optimized design of your website. I found these features to be very useful and innovative additions.
The finished product, a simple app built around this blog and my Facebook and Twitter accounts, can be downloaded from Google Play here. (Note: the screenshots above were taken from another “test” app which I don’t intend to publish.) It looks quite basic and generic: it wouldn’t be too difficult to design something better looking if you were coding the app yourself or using an app maker with more design and layout options. The functionality of the app however is just fine, everything works as it’s supposed to.
Appsbar is a simple, fast solution for building basic Android apps around internet content. You can also build apps for iOS and, perhaps its most impressive feature, turn it into a Facebook app or a widget for your website. Weak points include the fact that you don’t get to publish the app yourself and that there is no way of monetizing your app. But then again, it’s completely free… so if making money by selling the app or placing ads is not on your agenda, Appsbar might just be app maker for you!