Mobile Development Tools for the Cheapskate Entrepreneur
The explosive growth of mobile computing and apps that reside in that space has given birth to a massive industry focused on app development. Every major web platform and service has its own app. For apps that require supporting infrastructure, like email, reservations, or banking, indie app developers are relatively few and far between.
In other areas, like mobile gaming, there are major companies that dominate the space; these companies are able to pour huge budgets into development, advertising, and maintenance. Therefore, it can be difficult to break into the space.
In some areas, like niche markets, there is still plenty of room for the little guy to expand. For apps connected to non-major websites, there is also potential to build successful apps without massive advertising campaigns.
Most indie developers do not have large budgets. Moreover, many indie developers develop as a hobby or as a secondary (or tertiary) source of passive income. Or active passive income, since updating and debugging might turn the endeavor into a major, time-consuming project.
Since these small developers usually have little resources, there are many places to find helpful and free development tools. Most of these tools are open source, so they might even be attractive to wealthier developers that want to modify their IDEs at source for truly streamlined and customized development environments.
If you want to develop across platforms (like Android, iOS, and PC), you will want to look at cross-platform tools. They usually come with some built-in libraries in languages that work well across platforms. These include tools like PhoneGap and Monocross. Here is a list of the Top 5 from Lifewire.
Tools for Quick Development
Sometimes you just want to build apps quickly. The automation and widespread availability of libraries for rapid development means anyone can build an app. It is truly amazing how easy it has become to develop an app for your website or workplace without much technical expertise at all. This is a good list of 25 such tools.
These are not all free, but if you have a small organization or a small number of users, they often are. Otherwise, they tend to charge more as you scale: larger businesses in a number of employees or number of app published will pay more than smaller businesses or individuals.
The world is VR is fascinating, and it is now simple to build your own VR worlds for mobile (or desktop, if you aim for high-end VR). The two most popular game engines for producing VR apps are Unity and Unreal, both of which are free to use. Unity is free for small and individual users, but there are upper limits on revenue. Unreal is entirely free to use for anyone (even big businesses), but their licensing policy guarantees a 5% cut of overall revenue (over 3,000 USD).
When developing across platforms, sometimes it is difficult to keep track of all the SDKs. In this case, there are a variety of development tools which allows you to completely avoid dealing with individual SDKs. Users simply drag and drop to create their apps (just like the rapid development tools, but designed to eliminate SDK clutter).
Whatever app you choose to build, there are plenty of tools to help you out. Whether you want to whip up an app quickly to test a new feature on your website or if you are dedicated to building an immersive VR world, you can find a tool. And if you’re small, you’ll likely find it for cheap or free.