Every once in a while, a startup comes around with a product that we not only cover, but actually want to use ourselves. PointAbout, a Washington, DC-based self-funded startup, has done just that. AppMakr is absolutely ridonkculous. Basically, AppMakr allows you to create your own iPhone app – for $199. You can include feeds from any RSS-enabled website, and the apps are completely native. Your app is published by PointAbout, AppMakr’s parent company, straight to Apple. If you want it published under your own name or Apple’s publishers license, spend $499. It is an extremely simple product and doesn’t help anyone create complex non-RSS-enabled apps, but it seems that PointAbout has democratized app development in a way that hasn’t been done before.
For any MobileCrunch reader (and readers of our sister and parent blogs), AppMakr is offering 1,000 coupons. Use the code “TECHCRUNCH” to get $150 off the cost of making an app (bringing the price to $49). Visit www.AppMakr.com and use the coupon at checkout.
I was skeptical when I first tried AppMakr: it’s common for products like this to be clunky, and to provide the user with too many options. Surprisingly, AppMakr was extremely well done and easy to use. The downside, of course, is that you don’t have that many options for what goes into your application, and it really does serve a limited purpose. For a blogger like me, it’s great, but you can’t use it to create even the simplest of games or anything like that.
To build your own app, you go on AppMakr.com and register for an account. Then you title your app (we titled it “MobileCrunch”). It automatically populates a list of suggested RSS feeds for you. It correctly found MobileCrunch’s RSS feed, Twitter feed, YouTube channel and Vimeo channel. You can select whichever ones you want to be in your app. Then, you can custom-make icons, splash-screens and headers. AppMakr searches Google image search to find suggested images for you – or you can upload your own. Finally, you have options for generating revenue (such as advertising via AdMob) through your app.
It took me just 10 minutes to create my own app, which is impressive. The app is native, too, and doesn’t use Webkit, which is great for user experience because the app stores content on your iPhone for offline reading.
While you are crafting an application via AppMakr, you can also test it on the fly. Every time you make a change, AppMakr.com’s engine shows the change on a mock iPhone on the righthand side of your browser. This lets you test your app and check whether it actually does what you want it to. Furthermore, you can download the app to your iPhone and test it there as well.
All of the apps are packaged the same way and there is no WYSIWYG interface to move buttons around or change the user experience. This also means all AppMakr-made apps will look the same, which is a bit of a problem if a large number of people start using it.
AppMakr has been in beta for quite some time, and during their beta, they’ve managed to attract some tech heavyweights as users. Guy Kawasaki has 12 apps on the store via AppMakr [iTunes link], and Seth Godin has made his own app as well [iTunes link].
AppMakr’s parent company, PointAbout, has been creating custom iPhone apps for companies for 1.5 years, says co-Founder Daniel Odio. They’ve got 15+ employees and are profitable, but felt like there was a huge opportunity to enable anyone to create their own app. As such, they’ve worked hard on developing AppMakr, and even use it for their own custom internal projects. Daniel says that a custom iPhone app can cost anywhere from $50,000-100,000, so they feel that $199 for an iPhone app is a major upgrade.
PointAbout is based in Washington, DC, and has just opened a new office. They are providing office space for free for entrepreneurs in the DC metro area, so feel free to visit their website to find out more.
One significant problem with AppMakr is that it only exacerbates the iTunes App overload, and encourages people (notice I no longer have to say “developers”) to flood the App Store. It seems like someone could easily create hundreds of garbage apps and generate a cash cow business on the App Store. Of course, that is again up to the users – the same thing could be said of Blogger enabling anyone to create a garbage website or YouTube letting anyone put up crappy videos.
The bottom line is: it no longer costs $50,000+ to create an iPhone app, and you don’t need to be a developer to create one. For $199, AppMakr can do it for you. Oh, and if you’re a TechCrunch fan, don’t forget: use the code “TECHCRUNCH” at checkout and the first 1,000 users will spend just $49 creating their own iPhone app.