Those who have given into the marketing hype of the iPhone may well have found that, despite having thousands of apps available in the App Store, the one you really want doesn’t exist. Creating your own app will provide the functionality you need, and companies who do so stand to gain real kudos. We'll also show BlackBerry and Google Android users how to customise their handsets.

Those who have given into the marketing hype of the iPhone may well have found that, despite having thousands of apps available in the App Store, the one you really want doesn’t exist. Creating your own app will provide the functionality you need, and companies who do so stand to gain real kudos. We'll also show BlackBerry and Google Android users how to customise their handsets.

We’ve been dabbling in social media for some time, with our Facebook profile, and regular Twitter updates offering additional means of keeping in touch with our readers. An iPhone app is the next logical step.

We already have a mobile site, but we couldn’t resist the lure of app creation. And the free AppMakr development kit we’ve used in our walkthrough does much of the hard work for you. If you want to offer your finished app for download, you can pay AppMakr to facilitate this or go another route to market. We’ll discuss the options later.

If you want to offer your homemade app on platforms other than Apple’s, you’ll need to investigate options such as iSites or the software developer kits (SDKs) for Android, BlackBerry and Windows devices.

Here, we look at how to get started with making your own smartphone app and customising an existing one.

Getting your iPhone app on to the App Store is a fine art, however. Apple has some strict regulations to which all developers must adhere, and makes designers jump through several hoops to get anywhere near the approval-pending stage. We suggest two companies that can help, and outline what’s involved in doing it yourself via the Apple Developer Network.

It’s not quite so tricky to create a custom Android app, known as a ‘widget’. The open-source nature of the Google mobile platform lends itself to tweaking. Similarly, you can easily make your BlackBerry handset your own, or create and market custom BlackBerry themes, using a BlackBerry SDK.

Create your own iPhone app with AppMakr

Step 1. Download and install AppMakr. Sign up for an account and follow the prompts to point to the site you intend to create an app for. RSS feeds are recognised from most well-known sources, and a green tick indicates the feed is acceptable and meets W3C web standards.

Create an iPhone app step 1

Step 2. Grab some graphics with which to populate your app. One of these will be the square icon that appears on the App Store and illustrates what the app is. Ensure you have the right to use the logo or other graphic you insert here. The graphic should be a 512x512-pixel PNG file.

Create an iPhone app step 2

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Those who have given into the marketing hype of the iPhone may well have found that, despite having thousands of apps available in the App Store, the one you really want doesn’t exist. Creating your own app will provide the functionality you need, and companies who do so stand to gain real kudos. We'll also show BlackBerry and Google Android users how to customise their handsets.

Step 3. Next, you need to create a splash screen. This image needs to be 312x480 pixels (WxH) and saved in PNG format. AppMakr can track down recognisable logos for you if you don’t have one to hand, displaying them on the emulator screen. Click an image to preview it, then press Save when you’re happy.

Create an iPhone app step 3

Step 4. Once you’ve given your app a name, description and images, you’re ready to add some content. Click on the Feeds/Tabs button at the top of the page, then click ‘+ Add RSS/Atom Feed’ under Your Feeds. PC Advisor has several RSS feeds set up. We found them by Googling our site name and pasting the relevant code into AppMakr.

Create an iPhone app step 4

Step 5. When you click to add a new feed, AppMakr duplicates the name and icon from the preceding one. Click the text field to replace it. Double-click the icon to bring up icons covering a range of topics. Choose one or upload your own. We were able to find distinguishing icons for our news, reviews, security and blogs feeds.

Create an iPhone app step 5

Step 6. Press ‘View in Browser’ at any time to preview your app. If you want to be able to use it as a real app on an iPhone or publish the app for others to download, you must sign up for an Apple Developer Account and pay a fee to AppMakr. See Apple Developer Network on the following page.

Create an iPhone app step 6

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Apple iPhone 3GS review

Apple iPhone application reviews

Those who have given into the marketing hype of the iPhone may well have found that, despite having thousands of apps available in the App Store, the one you really want doesn’t exist. Creating your own app will provide the functionality you need, and companies who do so stand to gain real kudos. We'll also show BlackBerry and Google Android users how to customise their handsets.

Offering your iPhone app for download

Step 1. Now we’ve got our basic app assembled, we want to test it. AppMakr includes a preview mode, but to go much further we need to stump up £60 for an Apple Developer Account. Note that Apple is very rigorous about what can and can’t be offered for download from its App Store.

Offer your app for download step 1

Step 2. It’s easiest to get AppMakr to assist with the accreditation process. AppMakr charges a $250 admin fee, but this will be refunded if you pay $299 to download the finished app. AppMakr can pass only the apps that will be made available as free downloads.

Offer your app for download step 2

Step 3. Another alternative is to use the AdMob service and make some money by displaying ads on your app. Create an account at admob.com and enter the details of your embryonic app.

Offer your app for download step 3

Step 4. Go back into AppMakr and paste in the code Admob provides. Alternatively, you can use Apple’s own services to offer the app to consumers – for a fee. For more details on what’s involved, see Apple Developer Network (below). Validating an app after this takes around 30 days.

Offer your app for download step 4

Apple Developer Network

If you want to go down the more professional route when creating and testing out applications you’ve developed in AppMakr on your own iPhone, you could investigate joining the Apple Developer Network.

You can join the Apple Developer Network for free, but Apple also has a paid-for option ($99 – around £63). By paying Apple’s subscription, you’ll benefit from a range of services, including provisioning and distribution certification.

Once you’ve signed up for a developer account there’s a three-step process to attaching your developer account information to AppMakr. You need to generate a Certificate Signing Request and upload a Certificate to the Appmakr website, upload a private key, and upload both AdHoc and App Store Provisional files (downloaded from the Apple Developer site and uploaded to the AppMakr site).

The process itself is pretty complex, but Appmakr has a step-by-step guide that will walk you through it here.

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Those who have given into the marketing hype of the iPhone may well have found that, despite having thousands of apps available in the App Store, the one you really want doesn’t exist. Creating your own app will provide the functionality you need, and companies who do so stand to gain real kudos. We'll also show BlackBerry and Google Android users how to customise their handsets.

Create a custom BlackBerry theme

Step 1. Downloadable apps let you customise your handset. As well as the widgets for Android below, you can make some pretty radical changes to the look and behaviour of a BlackBerry handset with BlackBerry Theme Builder Studio. Launch the program and specify your handset.

Create a BlackBerry theme step 1

Step 2. Choose between three layouts: Zen, Today or Custom. We’ve chosen Zen. The Inspector palette lets you customise various elements, from the colours indicating callers in your contact book to the wallpaper and button icons. You can’t save custom colours, so note down the RGB values if you want to reuse a shade.

Create a BlackBerry theme step 2

Step 3. You can import your own photos for use as backgrounds on the main caller screen or to superimpose on the button showing an incoming call, although you may need to resize them first. If you want to offer your theme via the BlackBerry AppWorld, you’ll need to own the copyright for any elements you include.

Create a BlackBerry theme step 3

Step 4. You can add icons and buttons to the theme. You can make your own and save them as PNG image files or SWF animations.

Create a BlackBerry theme step 4

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Apple iPhone application reviews

Those who have given into the marketing hype of the iPhone may well have found that, despite having thousands of apps available in the App Store, the one you really want doesn’t exist. Creating your own app will provide the functionality you need, and companies who do so stand to gain real kudos. We'll also show BlackBerry and Google Android users how to customise their handsets.

Customise an Android handset

Not everyone wants to create an app exclusively for the iPhone. One alternative to the AppMakr option we’ve looked at in our first walkthrough is iSites, which offers Android addicts another easy-peasy method of creating mobile apps based on your blog or website’s RSS feeds.

As with AppMakr, you’re given basic templates to edit and customise, along with warnings of incomplete feed entries or invalid strings (typically because they don’t conform to the W3C web standards that Apple and others mandate).

Sign up to the service, add feeds and specify Android as your preferred platform. As before, there’s a payment involved in getting your app from your handset or desktop to public availability. iSites can also custom-make apps on your behalf.

One of the most compelling Android apps is OpenHome. This makes use of widgets to allow handset owners to customise their Android phone as they please, adding 3D effects or skins for media players.

Other possibilities here include ‘live wallpaper’ for phones such as the oversized Google Nexus One.

If you like the paste-in-a-feed approach used to create apps in either iSites or AppMakr, the Google Listen music feed app will also appeal (see listen.googlelabs.com). The app works by queuing tracks and podcasts for you based on your feed subscriptions. News can also be queued using the service.

Also see:
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Apple iPhone application reviews