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Mobile development alternatives

Mobile development alternatives

So you had planned spending the holiday checking out Flash CS5 and now feel at a loss with what to toy with during the holidays? Here's some alternative ways of authoring iPhone, Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile applications.

While Adobe dropped the ball on the CS5 beta, there are other options if you want to play with mobile devices during the holidays. Corona allows you to create iPhone apps and soon also Android. Open Plug allows you to target Windows Mobile and Symbian phones and soon also iPhone and Android. Both tools compile to native code and run at "native" speeds and they're much easier to get started with than Apple's Xcode and ObjectiveC.

Open Plug

Elips Studio 3

This toolkit is not yet released, but they are accepting Beta applications. The development process sounds really appealing to Flex developers. Just author your app in Flex 3/Flash Builder using their mobile friendly version of the Flex framework. Then, export directly to the mobile platform you want (iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile and RTOS systems).

The Open Plug API offers features such as making voice calls, accessing the phone's address book/calendar/contacts, sending SMS or MMS, taking snapshots or videos with the camera, GPS support and more. Whereas Flash CS5 will generate signed binary files ready for distribution, Open Plug will generate native C/C++ code from your MXML and Actionscript. This will allow you to simulate your app in Apple's iphone simulator and add manual tweaks, but it'll also make you use Apple's cumbersome deployment procedure so that's dual edged sword. Your Flex components will be replaced by native components, so your iPhone app will look like other iPhone apps. This is generally a good thing and if you don't want that, you can work around it.

We've not yet played with Open Plug and they do use a lot of superlatives such as "unforeseen performance" but we guess their history speaks for them. Open-Plug’s Mobile SDK has been around since 2004 and this is the third iteration of their product Elips Studio.


Corona dev setup

This toolkit is developed by Ansca Mobile, a company started by two former Adobe employees. Corona aims to be as easy to use as Flash once was. Simple commands do advanced things on the device and while only iPhone is available right now, Ansca has indicated that they will support more platforms than just the iPhone (read Android)

Corona development is done using the programming language Lua a fully featured and fast language that Corona offers iPhone SDKs for. Using Lua, you can make advanced iPhone apps with a base filesize of only 300Kb. The Corona API lets you  read and write files, control and display sprites, text, buttons, sounds and animation (named MovieClips), respond to device events such as rotation and gestures, use audio/video/camera, open URLs/streams/alerts/phone numbers and more. Ansca is also working on integrating GPS and keyboard input for a complete experience.

The SDK comes complete with a device emulator but to deploy to your iPhone or the App store, you'll need to join the iPhone Developer Program. Corona also requires that you download and install XCode and you'll also need a good text editor with Lua support such as the excellent TextWrangler. We've played around with Corona/Lua a little and it's very enjoyable. A 30 day trial version of the Corona SDK is available and a commercial license is only $99.


Lastly, we should add that if you want to create iPhone games, check out Unity Iphone that also compiles to native iPhone code and is probably THE iPhone solution for 3D games.

Did we forget something? Add it in the comments.

Illustraton photo by / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0



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Posted by iBrent on 12/30 at 05:14 AM

Don’t forget Unity! It’s a great 3d game engine, and the Indie version is free (though the iPhone version costs money). And there are a number of Unity iPhone games in the app store


Posted by iBrent on 12/30 at 05:18 AM

Doh! I didn’t see that last line where you already mentioned it… ;-)

Posted by lexander on 12/30 at 08:06 AM

For people who don’t like to program, there’s an application called GameSalad (  GameSalad is a tool that enables non-programmers to make both iPhone and Web games. It’s also cheaper than Unity (only $99).  In the last 3 months since iPhone publishing became available, over 75 GameSalad-made games have made it onto the iPhone App Store.

Posted by marc.thiele on 12/30 at 03:10 PM

Nice as always, Jens.

If anyone wants to digg it:

Posted by paulo on 12/31 at 02:52 PM

Nice round up! Personally I think HTML5 is going to be interesting to watch now that the devices are only getting faster and faster.

Though when it comes to native app development I’m a steadfast believer in learning the native language and frameworks. That being said the OpenPlug tech seems pretty cool since apparently you can tweak it, whereas the other ones just produce something that’s “done”. Could provide for an interesting workflow between Flash and “native” devs.

I’d be interested to hear what “Apple’s cumbersome deployment procedure” consists of. Deployment to the app store? Surely that’s the same no matter what tool you use (Xcode, Flash CS5, etc).

Posted by pjainpalak on 01/02 at 02:02 PM

Article is written very well
just want to add few points that now the real problem arising due to mobile compatibility of the users .
Because there are plenty of mobile application available on net but users don’t know which application supports his handset (or platform)
some of the developers like. who has developed a MITR platform which supports third party platforms also(Java,symbian, Blackberry, windows mobile)
working very hard to make application which is user friendly.
some others are snaptu, engine mobile


Posted by Jens C Brynildsen on 01/02 at 11:41 PM

Just found an alternative that is soon targeting iPhone and Android as well:

It’s Open Source and quite advanced but it also looks like it’s not a solution that tries to make the process itself easier. It’s more to make the porting between platforms easier…

Appcelerator also looks interesting

@plo Yeah. I didn’t actually mean the deployment process, but rather having to learn a full blown programming language like ObjectiveC just to target a single platform. It’s the most important mobile platform though so that kind of justifies it I guess.


Posted by CaptainN on 01/04 at 07:37 PM

I’m not sure how mature it is yet, but to get something like the Flash API there is haXe and gamehaxe

Posted by PackuMan on 03/10 at 09:02 AM

You may also add to your list iSpectrum by FlexyCore.
This is a Java 1.5 compiler that produces native iPhone applications.
It comes with an Eclipse plugin, a debugger and it’s linked to XCode, to launch the SDK simulator. It also provides a Java binding for iPhone APIs (UIKit, CoreLocation…)
The deployment process is really simple, you just click once, and it launches your app in the simulator or on the connected device according to projet settings.

Posted by aarensmith on 09/08 at 06:48 AM

Great Article.!
I want to add some points that is the actual problem arising due to mobile compatibility of the users .Because there are many of mobile application available on net but users don�t know which application supports his handset.They are confused.
Regards,Aaren from ‘mobile software development’

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