Can custom mobile applications be built?
September 17, 2013
Tom asked: I need a custom iPhone app for my business. I haven't been able to find one in the App Store that meets my needs. How can I create one myself? Is this even possible?
Well, of course it's possible — that's how all those hundreds of thousands of iPhone apps get into the App Store. That is, developers create them and submit them to the App Store. You could do the same thing yourself, but unless you're an experienced software developer, we certainly wouldn't suggest taking this task on. (Of course, it's certainly possible—Ken has a friend who's a plastic surgeon, and he had not written any computer programs since college in the 1970s. He not only learned to create iPhone apps, he created a very useful application that advertises his particular services and distributed it via the App Store. So it definitely can be done!)
You should start by checking out the App Store for other apps that might fit your needs. That's the simplest, cheapest and most expeditious way to find something that might come close to fitting your needs. In addition, not all applications are available in the App Store. In other words, "vertical market" applications are often distributed only within a company for use by the employees of the company. If another company in the same field as your business has created an app, they might be willing to sell it or license it to you. It's worth consulting with other comparable businesses.
Beware that creating an application from scratch is time-consuming and can be costly. Doug worked with a Windows-based medical application that benefited from the iPad interface, and creating even a rudimentary port of the application to the iPad took experienced developers some six-person years of effort. For anything more than a simple application, you could expect to pay $50,000 or more. (On the other hand, creating simple applications is, well, simple, and should cost considerably less.)
There are many companies out there the can and will build a mobile application to your specifications. In general, you'll want to find experienced developers with a track record of creating mobile applications. Search the Web for "Custom Mobile Applications" and check the references carefully. You can pay people to do this for you, but it's easy to spend more than you might expect and get less than you had hoped for. As a hint, try searching for "create custom iOS app" and see how many options you find.
You can, of course, teach yourself to build mobile applications, too. It's a lot of fun for folks with the right mindset.
iPhone 5 Docking
Yolanda asked: When I purchased my iPhone 5, Apple didn't make a stand for the phone. I really miss being able to drop my phone into a dock when I walk in the door. Is there anything available, perhaps from another vendor?
You're right — it's great to be able to simply drop the phone into a convenient dock by the back door as you walk into the house and have it charge (and possibly sync) while you're not using it. Of course, the iPhone 5 was the first device to use the new Lightning connector (previous Apple devices had used the common 30-pin connector, but the Lightning connector is smaller, stronger and doesn't require you to insert the connector in a specific orientation), and there weren't any docking stands that used the new connector when the phone was released.
Luckily, it's been more than a year now, and the demand has been high for iPhone 5 docks. There are a lot of them available now, but the one Ken uses is from Belkin. It's relatively inexpensive (still way more than it seems like it should be), and you can find information about it here: http://goo.gl/scvGbW. There are many others available. Ssearch the Web for "iPhone 5 dock stand" and you'll find others.
Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken's tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21 a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups, including links to the products they mention, at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your technical questions to email@example.com.
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