15 low-code tools for building mobile apps fast

These simple mobile programming tools give business users and developers a fast track to mobile app success

More no-code and low-code development tools
More no-code and low-code development tools

The debates over mobile web, native code, and hybrid mobile apps may never end, but one thing everyone can agree on is that we can’t build mobile apps fast enough. Low-code development platforms take a visual, drag-and-drop approach to building apps, allowing developers to deliver applications faster at lower costs. So-called no-code tools even promise to put app building within reach of nondevelopers.

A growing number of tools vendors are addressing the difficulty and cost of mobile app development. Our recently published “10 simple tools for building mobile apps fast” merely scratched the surface. Thus, I've picked 15 more tools from the category to discuss over and above the 10 from last time, for your delectation and delight. All of them are focused on the enterprise; many have a business process orientation.

For an in-depth comparison of some of these tools, see “Review: 7 excellent mobile app builders.”

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AgilePoint NX
AgilePoint NX

While AgilePoint started life by implementing BPM workflow on top of Microsoft SharePoint, the current version of AgilePoint NX is a player in the low-code app development space. It combines a drag-and-drop development environment (App Builder) and strong support for connecting to external systems.

AgilePoint NX creates responsive web apps without requiring you to write code; the company claims to have the "industry’s most extensive list of predefined activities." In addition to App Builder, AgilePoint provides an integrated forms builder, a field-mapping utility for data sources, and a report building tool that includes charts. AgilePoint can be deployed on-premises, in a private cloud, and in a public SaaS cloud.

AgilePoint NX, AgilePoint, $5 to $125 per user per month depending on number of apps and type of license.

Appery.io
Appery.io

Appery.io is a capable cloud-based mobile web and hybrid mobile development platform with online visual design and programming tools and integrated back-end services. You can think of it as a cross between an app builder and a mobile back end as a service (MBaaS).

Appery.io depends on Cordova for its native shell and does all the custom application work in the embedded browser control. It’s nice that Appery.io has its own cloud-based builder service. Coupled with the browser-based IDE, this means that mobile developers don’t need to have multiple computers or multiple VMs to create native apps, and they don’t have to maintain multiple native SDKs and IDEs.

Appery.io can talk to essentially any REST APIs, whether or not the company has prebuilt the interface. Tying a prebuilt REST interface to a service is a matter of a few minutes; building the REST interface yourself takes a little longer and requires knowing a little more, but it’s not a big job.

Read my full review, “Review: Appery.io pairs mobile app builder with back-end services.”

Appery.io, Exadel, Free to $100,000 per year, depending on the number of apps and IDE users.

Appian Quick Apps
Appian Quick Apps

Appian has parlayed its business process management product into a mobile app development platform after about two years of intense development. With a full-featured process modeler, mobile and user experience development, and cloud deployment, Appian allows developers to build and deploy iOS, Android, and web apps. Appian apps feature collaboration, event monitoring, task management, business data access, reports with charts, multimedia capture, and layered security with SAML authentication.

Appian Quick Apps, Appian, call for pricing.

Bizagi BPM Suite
Bizagi BPM Suite

Bizagi is a BPM vendor that has built its Windows-based business process modeler out into a web and mobile web app development system with the addition of virtual data modeling, intuitive forms and user interface design, workflow modeling, and an app-building wizard. At runtime, web apps talk to a presentation layer that is ultimately driven by the model as interpreted by the Bizagi Engine, which runs either on .Net or Java EE.

Bizagi BPM Suite, Bizagi, call for pricing.

Caspio Bridge
Caspio Bridge

Caspio started out in 2000 as a SaaS web database application builder and platform aimed at businesspeople. It has since expanded its services, integrations, security, and deployment options. Caspio bases its applications on a SQL Server database plus a web interface to the database. From there you can design your web app with a visual application builder, report generator, role-based permissions, online forms, JavaScript code, and both REST and SOAP APIs.

Caspio Bridge, Caspio, $79 to $999 per month.

K2 Blackpearl and Appit
K2 Blackpearl and Appit

K2 uses customized forms, multiple views, workflows, and connectors to LOB, content management, and cloud storage systems to create web and mobile apps. Mobile users can take advantage of offline forms and sync to back-end systems when they are online. K2 client apps are available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. K2 is available as a cloud offering and as a Windows-based server.

K2 Blackpearl, K2, on-premises licensing is typically $100 per user per year, K2 appit for SharePoint starts at $500 per month as a cloud service.

For pricing information, please contact K2 directly

 

Kony Visualizer
Kony Visualizer

Kony Visualizer is a drag-and-drop development environment for building native mobile and web apps for phones, tablets, desktops, and wearables. Behind the scenes, Kony uses a JavaScript API. The Masters multichannel template engine is a reusable templating framework that can create a single UI definition for mobile, tablet, and desktop form factors. In addition, you can design and develop end-to-end Apple Watch applications in the application canvas, then add business logic using Watch APIs to build a communication channel between the mobile application and the watch.

Kony can also convert Photoshop designs to Visualizer forms, as long as you use the Kony plug-in for Photoshop.

Kony Visualizer, Kony, free starter edition and per-user enterprise licensing.

MATS BPM
MATS BPM

MATS is a low-code BPM app builder with a rapid drag-and-drop design environment. It has strong process modeling and automation capabilities, as well as UI and form designers that produce responsive user experiences. It can also produce mobile apps for iOS and Android, do real-time reporting and analytics, and integrate with legacy systems. MATS can be deployed in a secure cloud or on-premises.

MATS BPM, MatsSoft, variety of pricing models.

Mendix App Platform
Mendix App Platform

Mendix uses a Windows-based Business Modeler to design responsive web apps that run in desktop and mobile browsers, as well as hybrid mobile apps for phones and tablets using a PhoneGap wrapper. One of the supported device profiles is for offline-enabled apps. Mendix incorporates agile and continuous delivery methods. You can deploy a Mendix app to your local machine for development and testing, as well as deploy to the Mendix, AWS, or Azure cloud, to Cloud Foundry platforms, and on-premises to a Windows or Linux server.

Mendix App Platform and Mendix Modeler, Mendix, free to $1,675 per month.

MicroPact Entellitrak
MicroPact Entellitrak

MicroPact Entellitrak is an application platform for building workflow and case management applications that provides strong support for modeling data and business entities. The mobile module enables Entellitrak apps to generate mobile versions of existing desktop forms, both for display and for data collection. There are more than 20 Entellitrak preconfigurations to use as starting points for applications, in addition to the from-scratch approach of starting with your data and building out the forms, reports, dashboards, and security rules. MicroPact Entellitrak is available to federal agencies under FedRAMP.

MicroPact Entellitrak, MicroPact, call for pricing.

MIOedge
MIOedge

MIOedge is a data-centric application platform for delivering applications that adapt to your business needs. MIOsoft is a company that specializes in data-intensive applications and big data platforms, including Hadoop. Its capabilities include data modeling, prep, quality, and movement. The company also offers HIPAA-compliant and PCI-compliant containers.

MIOedge, MIOsoft, $3.92 per Edge unit-hour, plus 2 cents per gigabyte-hour.

Nintex Workflow
Nintex Workflow

Nintex is a workflow automation product that works with Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint, and Project Server. In addition to workflow design, Nintex supports forms, connectors to various business applications and content repositories, and mobile clients running iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows. Nintex Mobile supports online and offline operation with real-time synchronization, and it accepts photos and videos as well as text input. Nintex is available in the cloud and for on-premises installation.

Nintex Workflow, Nintex, subscription pricing is tied to edition and usage.

OutSystems Platform
OutSystems Platform

OutSystems provides a low-code rapid application development and delivery platform that generates .Net or Java code, depending on your choice of platform. OutSystems allows you to develop web applications that support both mobile devices and desktops. The OutSystems development environment runs on Windows; the platform can run on Windows and IIS or Linux and a Java application server. OutSystems can integrate with major databases, SAP, Amazon RDS, email, SMS, and cloud systems such as Facebook and Dropbox.

OutSystems Platform, OutSystems, free development environment; subscription cost based on number of apps and users.

Microsoft PowerApps
Microsoft PowerApps

Microsoft PowerApps is an easy-to-use but simplistic builder for web apps that can also run on mobile clients for iOS and Android. PowerApps Studio for Windows is the design tool; account and app management happen in a web interface. You can start with a sample app or allow PowerApps to automatically generate an app from your data source using heuristics based on the data fields. Then you can customize your app design and publish your app.

Data sources include Excel files stored on OneDrive for Business, Dropbox, or Google Drive, SharePoint Online lists, Salesforce objects, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online records, Azure SQL Database tables, Office 365 Exchange data, Twitter, Microsoft Translator, and your custom Swagger APIs. You can also add formulas to your app. You can only share apps within your domain.

Read my full review, “PowerApps first look: Create mobile apps without coding.”

PowerApps, Microsoft, currently in Preview, free and paid service levels planned.

ServiceNow Platform
ServiceNow Platform

ServiceNow is an enterprise application platform as a service with prebuilt applications for IT service and operations management, business management, and cloud-native application development. ServiceNow Studio is a cloud and browser‑based integrated development environment for application developers and IT administrators that produces apps for the ServiceNow Platform. ServiceNow also offers an app store, which currently contains 165 ServiceNow platform apps from third-party vendors.

ServiceNow Platform, ServiceNow, call for pricing.