10 Solutions for Creating Cross-Platform Mobile Apps

Aug 2 2012 by Deltina Hay | 19 Comments

10 Solutions for Creating Cross-Platform Mobile Apps

Is this an exciting time to be developing mobile apps? Short answer: Yes.

With tons of tools already available — and more springing up all the time — there seems to be a solution for any mobile app developer out there (experienced and novices alike).

In this article, we look at 10 solutions for building cross-platform mobile apps. They were chosen for their varied levels of complexity, price, features and documentation. I’ve tested each of them.

1. Sencha Touch 2

Sencha Touch 2

If you’re no stranger to HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, then Sencha Touch 2 may be a great choice for creating mobile apps on iPhone, Android and Blackberry.

Sencha Touch 2 needs to be installed on your computer (it works on PC, Mac or Linux). You also need a web server running locally on your computer (here’s how to install XAMMP if you need help).

Visit their Kitchen Sink app to see Sencha Touch 2 in action.

Sencha Touch 2 Summary

2. jQuery Mobile

jQuery Mobile

jQuery Mobile is an HTML5 user interface framework for touchscreen devices. The jQuery Mobile framework is straightforward and well documented. What’s great about jQuery Mobile is that it has an online tool called ThemeRoller to help make the creation of your user interfaces quicker.

To do server-side stuff, you could use a mobile app development platform like PhoneGap (which we’ll discuss later); the official site has documentation on how to use PhoneGap with jQuery Mobile.

jQuery Mobile Summary

3. Tiggzi

Tiggzi

Using jQuery Mobile as its base, Tiggzi is a drag-and-drop tool for developing mobile apps. You can add standard buttons, menus, video, maps and other elements to your mobile app and then bind events and corresponding actions to them.

Tiggzi Summary

  • Knowledge required: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML
  • Platform support: Android, iOS, Mobile Web
  • Cost: $15-$50/month (there’s a free plan); see Pricing page
  • Documentation: Tiggzi has a lot of good tutorials, videos and other resources on their site

4. AppMakr

AppMakr

AppMakr is an online tool for creating content-centered mobile apps, as well as a service that can help you distribute your app in many app stores. You can import RSS feeds that AppMakr will package into a mobile-optimized app.

There’s no programming required to create your app, though you can add custom HTML.

AppMakr Summary

  • Knowledge required: HTML and CSS would be helpful
  • Platform support: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
  • Cost: $79/month (free if you allow them to place ads in your mobile app)
  • Documentation: They have good video tutorials including a walkthrough of the app store distribution process

5. iBuildApp

iBuildApp

iBuildApp is a tool for creating mobile apps. They have a good selection of templates for many different types of apps, and you can have your app featured in the iBuildApp Gallery.

iBuildApp provides many options you can add to your mobile apps, including e-commerce options and a way to embed web pages inside your app. iBuildApp also provides a SOAP web service that allows you to easily create, retrieve, update or delete content.

iBuildApp Summary

  • Knowledge required: HTML and CSS would be helpful
  • Platform support: Options available for iOS and Android export
  • Cost: $9.99/month (free if you allow them to place ads in your mobile app)
  • Documentation: They have good tutorials on how to use their service

6. Widgetbox

Widgetbox

Widgetbox offers an easy-to-use web tool for creating and hosting simple, content-based mobile apps. You can create pages for your app containing RSS feeds from blogs or social media sites. You can also add custom content using HTML and CSS.

Check out the mobile app directory for a listing of apps created by Widgetbox.

Widgetbox Summary

  • Knowledge required: HTML and CSS would be helpful
  • Platform support: Compatible with most modern web browsers
  • Cost: $25-100/month
  • Documentation: They have support, FAQ, and a knowledgebase

7. foneFrame

foneFrame

foneFrame is a mobile HTML5/CSS3 framework for creating mobile-optimized web pages. You can then use PhoneGap or appMobi XDK for the backend. foneFrame is also an excellent way to easily wireframe a mobile site.

foneFrame Summary

  • Knowledge required: HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript
  • Platform support: Compatible with most modern browsers and platforms
  • Cost: Free (license: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License)
  • Documentation: The template has inline documentation

8. PhoneGap

PhoneGap

PhoneGap is a free, open source software that serves as a bridge between individual mobile OS SDKs, which have their own programming languages and standard development practices.

Using PhoneGap, you can support multiple mobile device operating systems easier. You can create a mobile app using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, and then use PhoneGap to package your work for specific mobile operating systems. PhoneGap also integrates directly with Dreamweaver, which can make mobile app development even easier.

PhoneGap support includes iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows, WebOS and Symbian.

9. PhoneGap Build

PhoneGap Build

The folks at PhoneGap have gone one step further in creating a web-based platform that creates your "builds" for you. It’s called PhoneGap Build. This service presently supports iOS, Android, Blackberry, WebOS and Symbian.

With this service, you can upload your HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, and PhoneGap Build will generate the files you need for distribution in leading app stores.

10. appMobi XDK

appMobi XDK

appMobi XDK is cloud-based mobile app development environment that’s available as a Google Chrome plugin. The appMobi service will also host your mobile app for you, as well as provide you with the ability to deploy it in popular app stores. Though the service and hosting are free, they have add-on services like push notifications and e-commerce solutions you can use to enhance your mobile app.

Related Content

About the Author

Deltina Hay, author of The Bootstrapper’s Guide to the Mobile Web, is a web developer, publisher, and small business owner. Hay teaches the graduate Social Media Certificate course for Drury University. Her video tutorials can be found on YouTube and Udemy. Connect with her on Google Plus and @deltina.

19 Comments

Zahir

August 2nd, 2012

Great article but its odd that you left out Appcelerator Titanium, its fantastic.

Ricardo Yorky

August 2nd, 2012

Very interesting. I’ve tried JQuery Mobile and it’s very exciting, but it requires double effort if you are developing for the desktop too. For projects that requires desktop and mobile I prefer responsive designs frameworks like less framework or twitter bootstrap. Thanks for sharing

Max

August 2nd, 2012

Great list! Just wanted to add that we have a handy tool on jquerymobile.com called Codiqa that makes it really fast to build apps with jQuery Mobile. It’s also easy to just try components and grab snippets of clean jQM code.

Troy McConaghy

August 3rd, 2012

There are other options as well, maybe more than 50. Check out http://www.mobilechameleon.com/no-programming-required.html and the other pages on that site (Mobile Chameleon).

Jesus Macias

August 3rd, 2012

Don’t you try Titanium mobile from appcelerator? I think it’s important enough to appear in this article. They have very large community and very good documentation. Take a look, you will love it.

George Henne

August 3rd, 2012

You missed one: NS Basic/App Studio. It’s a complete IDE, including Design Screen, that produces Web Apps or PhoneGap apps. Program in VB or JavaScript. Easy to use, fast learning curve. http://www.nsbasic.com

gilles

August 3rd, 2012

you missed appquartz
http://www.appquartz.com/
gilles

Luca Ruffini

August 3rd, 2012

Useful list Deltina. Thx a lot.

Theo

August 4th, 2012

Great list, thank you!

Shai

August 4th, 2012

Codename One http://www.codenameone.com/ is relatively new but pretty unique in its approach.

Metin

August 6th, 2012

AppMakr seems to be very capable indeed. Thank you Deltina

Chevol

August 6th, 2012

You forgot Corona SDK (http://coronalabs.com). This solution is TRUE native, no HTML5 CSS3 garbage, that’s not a mobile app but rather a mobile website.

john

August 8th, 2012

Don’t forget to build a great app its important to plan and prototype it first. Try http://www.fluidui.com for fast mobile app prototyping.

Paul

August 8th, 2012

Here is another addition to this list: http://www.dhtmlx.com/touch/

DHTMLX Touch is a free, open source JavaScript framework for building mobile web apps for iOs, Android, and BlackBerry devices.

Jason

August 10th, 2012

Canvas is a good tool for building customized Apps for replacing paper forms or other data collection tools. Check us out at http://www.gocanvas.com.

Elke Hinze

August 12th, 2012

Fantastic list of tools. I’m partial to PhoneGap for mobile creation. I first heard of it at SXSW 2011. I have recently downloaded Sencha and am looking forward to testing it out.

Kadir Avci

August 15th, 2012

Very good list. I’m also using jquery mobile and i think it need more improvements.
But first one looks really nice. I will try it. Thanks.

Raghu

October 9th, 2012

Wow….nice collection… really useful…

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