Want to be an Android app developer but don’t know how to code? Don’t have the inclination to learn?
Don’t worry, there are still plenty of options out there for you. Android app makers are tools created specifically for those people who want to build and release an app on the Play Store (and possibly other app stores, ssh!) but don’t want to get involved with learning Java or Objective-C. These Android app creators are largely drag-and-drop affairs. A little customization here, a little branding there and voila, you have an app!
Of course you will lose something in translation. Android app creators do not provide the same level of control or functionality as building a native app from scratch. However, you might be surprised by just how flexible many of these tools are. Depending on the app you have in mind, there’s a surprisingly good chance that one of these Android app makers will supply you with all the tools and functionality you need. And in many cases, you can have something up and running in no time at all.
On the surface, many of these Android app makers seem to offer the same features packaged slightly differently. Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll see that they have some fairly big differences. It’s important to ensure you choose the right Android app maker for your own project. In this post, we’ll take a fairly comprehensive look at what’s out there among the app makers and assess which tools are best for various scenarios. Whether you want to create a 2D platform game, or you want a top-end business app, you should find something to suit your purposes.
Top code-free Android app makers and creators
AppYourself is an app builder for HTML5-based apps on Android or iOS. You’ll see a lot of HTML5-based app creators on this list. These apps work more like web pages that are loaded into “web views” within the apps. This is what allows you to sidestep the need for programming and what makes them cross-platform.
This tool is clearly aimed at businesses, but is a little more startup friendly and a little less corporate, compared to other options. The process of building apps is kept streamlined and fun as a result, but there are also a few neat features for potential monetization – including synchronization with Open Table and Resimo. Perhaps the most compelling feature though, is the option to create your website using the tool as well and then keep content synced with the app.
a little more startup friendly and a little less corporate
Pricing is relatively sensible here, with the most basic membership for building apps setting you back just 24 euros a month. Full business membership is 49 euros (~$55) and enterprise membership goes up to 89 euros (~$100). The good news is that you can try the tool for free. So app yourself silly!
AppInsitute is another business-friendly iOS and Android app maker that is easy to get started with and has a lot of enmterprise-centric features. There’s a powerful booking feature for instance, a loyalty program, GEO listings, social media integration, analytics and push notifications for reminding users to check your app. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the ability to make transactions entirely through the app itself.
Once again, there is a free trial that will allow you to create your app in its entirety. Payment is only required once you decide to go ahead and publish for 32 pounds a month (~$42). It certainly stands out among the many Android app makers
AppyPie is an app builder from India that once again focuses on ease and simplicity. The homepage features kids running through fields of wheat, which serves as a clue that this is a slightly less corporate solution.
This Android app creator sets itself apart in a few ways. Firstly, it gives you a number of templates and features for apps other than shopping and business apps. There’s the option to create your own Fitness Tracker app for example, or to create a “birthday app” for a loved one. I especially like the Kids App Builder, designed to help kids get into app development. There’s also a game builder that is based on pre-made templates but goes beyond the basic word searches etc. that you typically see with this kind of builder.
Another unique aspect of AppyPie is the pricing structure. While there are the usual options to build an app using app makers and publish it for different sums per-month, there is also a free option that is supported by ads. You’ll also lose the ability to edit the app after 48 hours but if you just wanted the satisfaction of having an app in the store with your name on it, this is an easy and free way to do that. Interestingly, you’ll need to manually submit your apps to the Play Store, which is both a good and bad thing. There’s also a lack of polish in some other areas compared with the slicker offerings on this list.
AppMachine is an app builder with a number of unique features to appeal to a range of developers and organizations. Those include the option to scan a website and convert it into an app. Designing from scratch is also easy thanks to the use of “snap together” building blocks. The usual features are here too, such as maps and support for web services. Pricing starts from 29 pounds (~$38) per app, per month.
Back to the business-oriented Android app creators, Shoutem is a particularly polished and crisp app creator with a number of features that will be useful to many users. In particular, the monetization side of things is handled well here with Shopify integration and mobile advertising support – meaning that you can sell your back catalogue of products, or make money by keeping your users glued to the screen and showing them ads. It’s a nice and simple creator tool as well, with a host of ready-made and smart looking templates to pick from.
The problem is that publishing your app will require a slightly more expensive pricing plan, starting at $49 for the Advanced Plan. For the right businesses, this could be a price worth paying though.
Appery.io is one of the Android app creators that is powered by PhoneGap, meaning it has access to some of the more native features of your phone like the camera and vibrations (see below for more on PhoneGap). There are also a number of plugins available to further extend functionality. The builder is aimed at the more technically minded however and uses a fair bit of jargon that might be off-putting for some. If you can get past that though, this is one of the more capable options. There’s a free trial, but the pro plan will set you back $99 per month, making this one of the costlier choices too.
The strangely named GoodBarber is one of the more capable and feature-rich Android app makers on this list. Unlike many others here, GoodBarber provides native apps written in Objective-C and Java for iOS and Android respectively. This gives it some more advanced features compared to other Android app creators, including social network support, iBeacons, Geofencing, and more. It can also integrate with Amazon, Etsy and Shopify, and content can easily be updated via the “back office.” The monthly fee for published apps is 32 euros (~$36.14) per month.
Mobile Roadie is one of the bigger names in the Android app creators space and has some impressive clients such as Disney and TED. But with those bragging rights you might expect a prohibitive asking price and that’s exactly what you’ll get here. The pricing is currently not available on the site (never a good sign) but previously core membership began at $149 per month with pro asking for a mere $799 per month.
As you’d expect for that price, you’ll also get a very professional looking design and a range of features, but, for this price, I find it hard to understand why you wouldn’t just outsource development of a native app to a professional service. But hey, if it’s good enough for Disney!
AppsGeyser is another one of these Android app makers that lets users build apps for free. The catch is that all apps you create will have a banner space along the top showing ads. What makes this a little different though, is that you’ll share 50 percent of your revenue with the company but only once your app reaches a minimum usage. To start earning, you’ll also need to register your own account with an Ad Network and get your own banner. The slot will then display your ad 50 percent of the time and AppsGeyer’s the other 50 percent, so it is a little fiddly.
Certainly don’t approach this as a “get rich quick” scheme. Again though, if you’re looking for a fun way to get a simple app in the store, then this is one option. Contributing to the good cause that is shovelware!
There are some fun options for what you want to create here though, including a range of simple games (such as a word search or quiz) and an option to “turn any site into an app.” It won’t be for everyone, and the UI isn’t the most polished or up to date, but it’s different enough to be worth checking out.
Aimed squarely at the business crowd, and small businesses in particular, BiznessApps comes with all the features you might expect, including food ordering, loyalty programs, push notifications, analytics, shopping carts, and more. This is perhaps the best suite of features for a small business and that is backed up by some professional-looking templates as well as an easy builder. There’s a free trial, while paid membership will cost $300-$400 per month. That has sky-rocketed since the last time we reviewed this list and while the apps look good, there are no obvious reasons to choose this over, say, AppInstitute. Nor does it have quite the list of clientele that Mobile Roadie enjoys.
TheAppBuilder is a business-centric app building tool, priced at the equivalent of $1.70 per user, per month. Bulk discounts are available for large teams, and demoes are available upon request. The tool uses a CMS (content management system) that looks a little like WordPress, making it easy to publish content to your app. Some useful features like push notification support and user-generated content will help with marketing. Although it does lack some of the more advanced features seen on other builders, such as in-app purchases or booking forms.
AppMakr is worth including on this Android app makers list as one of the oldest builders in town. It calls itself the “Original Way to #MakeAnApp” and it has a lot of features, supporting both HTML5 and native creations. The other pleasing differentiator is the price. This is one of the most affordable options around, at a cost of $2 per month for basic publishing, $99 per year to enjoy the Pro membership, or $39 monthly for the reseller package.
The downside is that this is one of the more clunky and dated Android app makers in town, which makes the process a little less streamlined and enjoyable. This is a shame, seeing as the low pricing would otherwise have made this a good choice for fun DIY projects.
Finally, BuildFire is another PhoneGap powered app builder that has some very smart looking templates, an easy builder, and the option to let the pros handle the design for you if you so wish. BuildFire.js is a feature that impressively extends the capabilities of this tool as well, allowing you to do such things as creating new UIs from scratch, or integrating with a custom database. This is one of the more powerful and professional tools and so once again, that makes it one of the more expensive – costing $57 per month for the most basic option and $134 for the professional package.
GameSalad is one of the Android app makers for making games. And salads too! Okay, it doesn’t actually make salads, but it’s actually one of the more impressive builders on this list. This is a drag-and-drop tool for creating simple games within hours, and it can serve as the perfect introduction to game design, or even a useful prototyping tool for professionals. The tagline “Drag & Drop Programming – No Coding Required” is rather confusing, but we get the point.
Suffice it to say that this is an involved-yet-simple and very flexible tool that is also fairly affordable starting at “less than” $17 per month.
Stencyl is another cross-platform game builder for iOS, Android, Windows, and even Flash. You can publish Flash games for free, but if you want to release on Android, it will set you back $199 per year (though you can publish to web and desktop for $99 a year). The system is once again very beginner friendly and utilizes a tile-based 2D set-up that likens itself to using Lego.
While GameSalad and Stencyl are good at what they do, neither is likely to give you quite the necessary power and flexibility needed to make an app that will be a “big hit.” GameMaker Studio from YoYoGames is one of the app makers that certainly does have that potential though, and in fact has helped to build some fairly well-known titles such as Hyper Light Drifter. There’s no code required but the option to dabble in programming is there for those that do want the extra freedom. To publish to Android, you’ll need to pay a one off fee starting at $99.
Consider this the missing link between something like Stencyl and Unity. But actually, you might find that even Unity is less code heavy than you think, so that’s possibly worth a look too! Oh and Unity or Unreal are free to use.
What is PhoneGap?
This means that PhoneGap and Android app makers powered by Apache (such as Appery.io) offer a surprising amount of native feature support, allowing you to access things like the camera, the compass, media storage, etc. Generally, if you see that an app builder is powered by PhoneGap then that’s probably a good sign!
If you choose to go directly to the source though, then you’ll gain more flexibility and power when building your apps. PhoneGap is cross platform, so you can build an app and then publish it to either iOS or Android. Development is handled through a desktop app and you can use a mobile app to try your creations out on a physical device. The best part of PhoneGap is that it is free with zero ads or other restrictions, which we’ve seen is not always the case when you use a builder!
But while PhoneGap certainly makes the process a lot easier than going native with Android Studio, it still presents a slightly steeper learning curve compared to some of the other items on this list seeing as you will need to deal with HTML etc. You could consider this to be one rung down from app development “proper.”
Android app creators: Top picks and closing thoughts
So there you have it: a huge selection of Android app makers offering varied features and benefits. Of course, this is a subjective matter, but if you’d like a little guidance on which one to pick, here are some thoughts.
For the majority of small businesses, my top choice would have to be BiznessApps. These apps look good, and the features supported are perfect for local businesses that want to be able to market themselves through push notifications and take bookings and orders. The pricing is also up there with the best value.
That’s for business apps used to market and sell though. If you want an app that will actually do something, then you’ll probably want one of the Android app makers powered by PhoneGap so that you can access the camera. For that, either Appery.io or BuildFire will be good choices.
But if you’re going that route, then why not do just a little more learning and make something yourself in PhoneGap? You’ll need to use HTML and CSS, but you’ll get more functionality and it will be completely free.
For vanity projects, one of the free Android app makers like AppyPie or AppsGeyser make more sense. For games and kids, GameSalad and maybe GameMaker will provide a surprising amount of power and flexibility, while being fun and easy.
Then again you could just learn to code!
More mobile development resources:
- I want to develop Android Apps — What languages should I learn?
- Best Android developer tools
- How to build a custom launcher in Android Studio – Part One | Part Two
- How to create a VR app for Android in just 7 minutes
- Cross-platform mobile development — challenges, options, and why you should consider it
- How to make an Android app with Xamarin