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Online mobile app builder - recommendation needed

I am looking for an online mobile app builder, or any recommendation to rapidly build a simple emoticon app prototype/poc... preferable for free.  The functionality I am looking for are simple at this moment... assuming I already have a set of emoticon designs, the app should have the ability for users to use the emoticons on SMS and Whatsapp, of course if I can get those to all other platform with the build-in keyboard will be better!  But for now, SMS and Whatsapp only.  A set for free, and another set for a fee.

Most importantly.... do I get to own the code after I build the app through the online platform?  It also needs to support iPhone and Android (if support BB and MS, great, if not that's ok).

A little bit about my development background... well, I used to be a software engineer in C/C++/UNIX/AIX environment, built a few web app with VB asp.net, also managed teams with Servlet/JSP, and was a consultant on BI projects, very familiar with all database platform and MSSQL and PLSQL. Well... I have been building startups and running a core accounting/finance company now, not much hands on programming for years.   As you can see.... no knowledge in the mobile app space and no time to learn from scratch.  Any tool to assist rapid development to pump this thing out is the goal... hopeful in few weeks if possible?

Any recommendations will be greatly appreciated :)
1 Solution
Scott Fell, EE MVEDeveloper & EE ModeratorCommented:
There are some options.  Making a native app using java for android or objective-c for ios will yield the best results as far as usability.  

The next option is to build your app in html5 and use a web view.  With a webview, you are making a very simple native app that simply reads your html5 website much like an iframe.  The details for android http://developer.android.com/guide/webapps/webview.html and ios https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/documentation/userexperience/conceptual/UIKitUICatalog/UIWebView.html

Another option to is to use 3rd party programs like phone gap http://phonegap.com.  One of the good things about a program like this is it speeds up your development time.  However, the down side is users report lag in touch events.  Part of what makes this easy (like anything in web dev) adds layers of complexity on the inside that may not have the optimum end user experience.  You just need to weigh your options, speed and ease vs learning objective-c and java.

There is another category of webapps that will help build your mobile app but use their platform.  One that I have played with is http://factory.joshfire.com/.   They do have a free tier, but the jump to paid is pretty steep.  They also offer consulting as well and I think that is where they have their start.  It is a pretty slick platform though.
The first problem with online building is the pure simplicity of the resulting programs (think more in the line of a simple bouncing ball app).
The second problem is inserting an emoticon into an established text based protocols like SMS or Whatsapp, thereby requiring your "app" to be installed on both the sending and receiving end, and intercepting/interfacing/overlaying/replacing  the sms/whatsapp app
cmleung2Author Commented:
I have tried out phonegap, it is not bad but as you said it may lag.  It is just for 'prototype', lots of hard code, a bit of 'fake' stuff to make it look good and see if we get any good feedback from only a few people, should be sufficient for now.  

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