Review: AppMobi XDK brings more style than substance to iPhone, Android development

The beauty of AppMobi's slick, cloud-based IDE for building cross-platform mobile apps runs only skin deep

Despite the gold-rush atmosphere around mobile application development, you won't find many newbie-friendly tools aligned to help nonprogrammers mine for application riches. Even if the target platforms often seem like toys, most of the development kits are still developer-minded and code-centric, and they can present formidable hurdles to the uninitiated.

The AppMobi XDK (which stands for "cross-platform developer kit") puts a friendlier face on mobile development. Combining a cloud-based development platform and browser-based IDE, and relying only on basic Web skills for app creation, the XDK makes it easy to get started. It even provides unique new features to create, test, and debug mobile projects, as well as a JavaScript API to tap native functionality -- GPS, accelerometer, camera -- on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.

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To top it off, AppMobi backs this freely available dev environment with a cavalcade of subscription-based supporting resources: analytics, secure payment, push notifications, over-the-air updates, and user authentication. These start at $19.99 per month or $99.99 per year.

It would be more accurate to say that the AppMobi XDK backs the cloud services since those are the crux of AppMobi's business. But if the XDK is designed to lure us into the for-pay add-ons, AppMobi will have to do a better job with it. When all was said and done, I didn't find much there there.

Highlights of AppMobi XDK

On the plus side, the AppMobi XDK can be quite clever. Device configuration is as easy as pointing and clicking, and thanks to the slick built-in emulator, you can mimic real-world device functionality -- GPS, data connection speed, and even accelerometer feedback -- right from the browser.

As I mentioned, getting started with the XDK couldn't be easier. With Google Chrome and Java 6 running, the XDK Java applet quickly installs the AppMobi Web app. As soon as you create your AppMobi user account, you're up and running. It might seem more professional, though, if AppMobi were to use a trusted certificate authority to bypass the warnings.

Test Center Scorecard
AppMobi XDK 3.4555585



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