Just spent more than 2 weeks researching and trying out software to develop mobile apps, and my grey hairs are turning whiter. My requirements: the program would be able to make cross-platform apps (iphone, android, blcakberry, etc.) using one programming framework, be able to download images, and be able to run a database.
I had settled on Adobe Flash Builder 4.6 (FB) and Adobe Air, which together let me program once, and have the app work on iPhones, Android smartphones, and The newer Blackberry’s.
FB has its strengths and pluses, but it also has it share of frustrating shortcomings which seem like Adobe had a mass influx of Microsoft developers with their penchants for loose ends. Among my gripes:
- documentation for the features used in FB is mixed in with documentation for its predecessors that no longer applies, which means a lot of wasted time looking for answers.
- tasks that should be simple are sometimes needlessly complex. For eg., adjusting the internal padding in a push button – easy to do in html with css – is accomplished only by a major piece of coding. Accessing database records takes extra needless steps. Coding is twice as much work than php or visual basic to accomplish the same result.
- its smartphone simulator is plain jane.
- its visual designer is half good, half bad.
Now for the other horror stories.
Rhomobile had peaked my interest. Although it didn’t have a visual designer, it had the following pluses: great smartphone emulators, a niftier programming language (Ruby), free unless you needed its advanced features, and offered compatibility with more types of devices. I spent a whole day trying to get it to work properly building an android app, but each fix I found just led to a different build error. In partial defense, the newer android sdk had become incompatible with Rhomobile, but I was unable to find much help in discovering what sdk version Rhomobile would work flawlessly with. Someone missed the boat in keeping up with the times. I had to abandon trying to make it work.
Same issue with Appcelerator Titanium, which has a large developer base. Just could NOT get it to work properly.
In my research, I ran across approx 50 software programs or web-based services that provided programming platforms for mobile apps. Some required Windows 8 (I run Windows 2003 server). Some looked great, but were quite expensive – $1,000+. Lot of change to spend before being able to tell whether they worked well, or were another potential frustration in the making.
The ones I liked most – they made visual layout a pleasure – usually missed having 2 capabilities I required – programming ability to download images, and run a database on the smartphone.
About half of the programs I researched required a lot of technical work, i.e. hand coded configuration files, technical learning curves, etc. About a quarter substantially limited the type of tasks you could get the app to do. The rest had issues with learning curves, pricing, and useability.
- Adobe needs to clean up its half-baked approaches, and dedicate itself to really doing a bangup job if this is a field it wants to play in.
- why google, with all its resources, doesn’t get into this game with a bangup product mystifies me. As it is, its incompatibilities in its newest android sdks makes me think its starting to follow Microsoft’s example.
- Apple needs to make a Windows version of its xcode development kit. It won’t hurt iphone or mac sales. In fact, it would likely boost iphone/ipad sales, which is where a lot of its profits come from. Stop being so snobbish.
- Microsoft never learns. You have to shell out big$$ to develop for windows phones, and upgrade to windows 7 or 8. Snobbish still, in caps.
I wish I was 30 again. I’d have more of a mindset to handle the learning curve to develop mobile apps. As it is, I’m back to crossing my fingers with Flash Builder, and hoping that I can find my way thru the aggravations enough to finally complete an app that does what I want, and helps me earn a decent living.