Forget Android, iOS and the rest of the mobile operating systems.
Sometimes you don’t need to spend weeks building the sleekest mobile apps for native environments. And depending on your business, something a little bit more quick and simple can do the job just fine. That’s the theory behind Widgetbox Mobile, a new offering from the team behind ClickTurn ads, which aims to help businesses build mobile web apps in minutes.
“There’s a new category of users who view the app store as not the best option for them,” says Widgetbox’s CEO Will Price. In the same way that ClickTurn was created to allow startups to easily create dynamic, rich media ads in half an hour, Widgetbox is trying to compress the typically long development process for mobile apps.
Widgetbox offers a web-based do-it-yourself platform that will let you build HTML5 apps. Through the client you can customize your app with images, icons and skins, add social media buttons and streams, create a splash page, change fonts and include special features, such as slideshows and interactive polls.
As you’re building your app, you can preview it, to see how it will function as a live app. If the default customization tools are not sufficient, users can also drop their own HTML code— but code is not required to get the app from ground to launch.
The price to build and maintain your Widgetbox Mobile app ranges from $25 to $50 per month, depending on the premium features you need. That adds up over time, but it’s still dramatically less than the approximate cost of building your own app from scratch.
There are also certain obvious advantages to using a self-service platform like Widgetbox Mobile— no wait for app store approval and the ability to instantly deploy updates. Of course, for the sake of efficiency and convenience, you also lose the richness often found in native mobile apps and the deep sense of customization.
Price says users can expect the Widgetbox Mobile to continue to evolve and introduce new layers of customization in the near future, which will hopefully bridge that gap.
Another important drawback to note is the lack of convenience surrounding the ad system, you can easily run Admob ads in your Widgetbox Mobile space but if you want to run your company’s custom ads you will have to reach out to Widgetbox directly and try to work with their team to make it happen (Price says this will eventually become a self-service option as well).
Although Price doesn’t believe that Widgetbox will completely upend the market and render native apps obsolete, he believes that many businesses, of all sizes, will find his service useful. For example, even though a large corporation will likely have their own team of developers working on their main mobile application, WidgetBox could help them build ephemeral apps that are designed to work for a short period of time, like for conferences or limited events.
Beyond Widgetbox Mobile, the marketplace for services that quickly help users build mobile apps is certainly growing— Widgetbox’s competitors include Mobify, which pulls elements from your existing website, iBuildApps and appMobi, which caters to the iPhone and Android platforms.