In the Q1 of 2020, there were 33.6 billion mobile app downloads worldwide.
The mobile app market is ever-expanding as the users’ appetite for apps grows – in fact, studies predict Google Play Store app installs to reach 139 billion alone by 2024.
However, not many businesses have access to the opportunity this market growth brings – or, at least, they are not aware of the paths to it.
With prices exceeding $10,000 for development alone, getting into the app business seems to require a large financial commitment.
The operative word here being “seems to”. Namely, there is a new way to app building and that are the open source and free app builders.
Using open source app building software:
The open source wave is spreading like wildfire in both app and custom web developments sectors.
Take Velo by Wix for example. This open, full-stack development platform allows brands and development agencies to create advanced websites and web apps at fraction of the cost.
In this article, we will review the best free app builders that can help you build a competitive mobile app cost-effectively and quickly.
But before we dive into it, let’s check which types of mobile apps exist in the first place – so you know which software to use.
An open source app builder is publicly accessible software that developers can access and modify in order to create mobile apps.
Open source app builder’s capabilities to add or remove features or change its functions according to the project requirements allow programmers to create versatile apps for all mobile devices and operating systems.
The choice of your free app builders or open source software will depend on the operating system, the features and platform you wish to build an app for.
These are the most popular types of apps:
Native apps use specific programming languages and are designed for particular mobile operating systems and platforms. They are specialized apps that can take advantage of all features on their designated platform.
Some examples of these web apps are:
These apps can operate on multiple operating systems and platforms and combine the elements of native and web apps. They can contain operating system features and use cross-compatible web technologies.
Cross-platform apps are usually faster to develop than native apps and they need less maintenance.
While they are not as fast as native apps and tend to have more issues and lower quality compared to them, they can gain new functionalities on multiple versions of the app because developers can build them on a single base.
Hybrid apps use software like React Native, Sencha Touch, Ionic and Xamarin.
Whether you intend to build a native, hybrid or web mobile app, these open-source and free app builders contain the widest array of functionalities and have the best user interface for you to quickly turn your app into reality.
Wildly popular among developers of simple, business-oriented mobile apps, cloud-hosted Appy Pie requires no programming skills at all.
In fact, this tool’s process of creating appealing and functional apps is the result of the producers’ survey which they used to understand their users’ needs.
As a result of that input, Appy Pie has tons of pre-defined templates and features that provide an enviable level of customization.
Users can integrate photo galleries from image-oriented channels such as Instagram and Flickr to add pizzaz to mobile-friendly website versions in a matter of minutes.
Built-in templates cover a range of different industries, such as dating apps, restaurant apps, church management apps and more.
Appy Pie is a free app builder. However, there are also three paid versions that come with advanced features:
AppMySite converts existing websites into mobile apps in a user-friendly environment that doesn't require any development and coding knowledge.
Understanding the importance of apps for businesses, this platform creates native apps for Android and iOS platforms that can be customized according to your brand's identity and visuals.
AppMySite's online app maker promises free app creation in a matter of minutes (plus an upgrade to one of the pricing plans to publish it) and a simple three-step launch.
AppMySite is a free app builder. However, premium options are also available:
Using AppstronautME, developers and businesses can create apps within a matter of minutes. The platform requires no coding, however, you can personalize your app’s look and feel by editing its HTML and CSS.
All it takes is creating an account on the platform, uploading your own content and images and then publishing it.
What’s great about this app builder is that it offers great training and support and there is a well developed forum where members share different questions and answers.
AppstronautME is a free app builder that also has paid options:
Regarded as one of the best open source frameworks, it’s a suite of professional products and services such as in-person training, performance analysis, troubleshooting reports, performance analysis and coding assistance.
This open source app builder is very handy for building apps for both iOS and Android swiftly because it comes with a set of cross-platform tools.
NativeScript is a free app builder.
As a Google product, a single codebase Flutter develops striking desktop, web and native mobile Android apps.
This open source app development framework is fully free and uses Skia Graphics Engine, Dart, C and C++. It is usable on Linux, MacOS and Windows and applicable to iOS, Android and Google Fuchsia.
Flutter’s intuitive interface and great user experience rely on fully-customizable widgets which make fast development of native apps very easy and quick.
Flutter is a free app builder.
A free open source app design software that creates cross-platform apps for mobile platforms as well as Windows and Linux desktop systems.
A single codebase powers this software which is hailed by users as one of the easiest to master. Its time-saving framework and a high-end customer support service rank Felgo highly among app developers of diverse experience.
As it supports 3D modeling, it’s a very useful platform to create games with. User interface rendering reduces the interaction between the native layer and runtime environment.
Felgo has a free version for developers on a low budget. However, you can also choose from two paid plans:
As a Java Script open source SDK for the development of hybrid mobile apps, Ionic has MIT license to vouch for it. It requires Node.js for installation and creates apps that operate on web code and native code.
The user interface of the app provides full access to native functionalities that allow building applications for Android, iOS and web with a single codebase.
A big community of developers using this tool acts as a support go-to for anyone needing assistance with the tool.
Ionic benefits from a very intuitive interface that makes the development process faster, as well as more than 100 native device features and preset elements
Ionic has a free version but also comes with paid structures.
The app builder has three Appflow plans:
To get Ionic Enterprise, you should contact the platform for a custom quote.
Apple’s Xcode uses Swift, a programming language that introduced inventive ways to design and create mobile apps by using as little code as possible.
Xcode creates apps for a wide array of Apple products: Mac, iPhone, iPd, Apple TV and even Apple Watch. It has a unified workflow for UI design, coding and testing.
Lively discussion forums, session videos, documentation and step-by-step instructions provide the knowledge-base for developers.
This app builder uses tools such as Interface Builder whose live rendering displays UI code within the design canvas. This reflects the changes you type in code immediately.
This mobile app builder is free to use. However, joining Apple's developer program and submitting your app to Apple store costs $99 per year.
Google’s Android Studio is an app development software whose implementation editor is fit for Android developers. It provides coding and design shortcuts while the layout editor reduces coding time thanks to its easy to use editor.
Project layouts are using drag and drop functionalities during the design process while the intelligent code editor provides code completion for Java, C, C++ and Kotlin languages.
Android Studio is highly customizable and allows for bespoke coding to generate various build versions for different devices.
Android Studio is a free app builder.
This Cordova-based open source, cross-platform app builder lets developers use one code base and multiple sets of tech add-ons.
Thanks to a native API, they can be published on native platforms.
The process of creating an app using this software is remarkably similar to creating a website. Developers can store their working files either locally or in the cloud and plugins activate these files when a device runs them.
Adobe PhoneGap is an open source app builder that is free to use.
Shoutem uses React Native framework for the creation of cross-platform applications. This no-coding software boasts a very favorable user experience, excellent design and a big library of templates.
The drag and drop interface, local testing and native app preview are all part and parcel of this Java Script open source product.
In its toolkit, developers will find over 200 layouts, more than 40 extensions and features that are ready-made, such as APIs, content management system and user authentication.
This mobile app builder offers three pricing plans:
Using the Penguin Apps Builder, small organizations can build apps for their businesses within minutes.
The platform requires no coding and developers can choose from a number of features to customize their design.
There are 39 templates available that developers can use to create apps for almost every available platform.
Penguin Apps Builder comes with paid versions. You can choose from:
The Boom App Builder is a great option for companies and organizations that want to build native apps but don’t have the experience.
They can simply choose a template, add content and multimedia files and the apps are there.
Users can choose among different templates, including Christmas, restaurant, celebrity news, taxi and blog apps, among others.
Boom App Builder offers subscription-based plans:
MobiLoud is a great choice for brands and publishers that want to improve the experience of their users and drive higher traffic.
They can easily convert their websites into native mobile apps at a fraction of the traditional app development cost.
The tool requires no coding, so you can launch your app in under 2 weeks.
MobiLoud pricing starts at $80/month
Swiftic is a great solution for small businesses, allowing them to build, publish, promote and manage their apps from one single dashboard.
The app builder offers profitable features like coupons and loyalty cards to help you keep your customers coming back.
You can also customize each aspect of your app’s appearance so that you keep it consistent with your branding.
Swiftic is a paid tool that offers three pricing plans:
A customizable app design tool, Buildfire is good for developing Android, iOS and web mobile applications.
This app builder supports over 10,000 apps. It is lauded among users for first-class custom development capacities. Its flexibility lets it scale and follow your business growth.
It has an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface that makes it convenient for rookie developers as well as seasoned experts. Combining it with third-party software is easy thanks to API and pre-built integrations.
Whether you are a developer or a business, choosing between a paid or free app builder option can be a tricky process.
Looking at the advantages and disadvantages of both versions can make your choice easier.
The biggest advantage of free app builders is that they are budget-friendly. So, both developers and small businesses with limited resources can use them without breaking the bank.
Most of them require no or limited coding knowledge as well.
However, the biggest disadvantage of free app builders is that they usually come with limited features and functionalities including the lack of customization.
Other drawbacks are:
Paid mobile app builders, on the other hand, usually come with premium features that businesses need to ensure an engaging experience, retain their visitors and drive more purchases.
They offer great personalization capabilities and developers can choose from large libraries of templates.
Additionally, they enjoy robust security and offer various online promotion options that businesses can leverage to market their apps.
The bottom line: You should use a free app builder when:
As we’ve seen, each of the open source and free app builders comes with its own set of unique functions and advantages. So, how do you decide on just one and be certain you won’t regret the decision?
Which of these, paid open source and free app builders you will choose depends on the level of development expertise you have, platforms you’re building them for and features you wish to implement.
All of them have user-friendly interfaces, pre-build templates and libraries of features that save time. A good deal of these app development programs even come with no coding required.
If you are unsure of developing the app yourself, you can always turn to specialized mobile app development agencies that can deliver a top-notch product for your business.