Join the mobile revolution: Make your own app!

Jul 12, 2010

Google’s Android OS introduced a “make-your-own-app” program, a potential boon to anyone who wants to play app developer. Today’s App Industry Roundup also looks at smartphone data usage while HTC’s Evo and Incredible shortages persist.

DIY Android apps

If you have an idea for an app, there’s no need to pay for an app developer to create it anymore. Well, if you want a slick finished product, a developer may still come in handy, but if you just want to brainstorm ideas to test proof of concept — or just proof of goofing off — Google’s Android operating system offers a nifty new tool.

Called App Inventor for Android, you can “build apps that inform and educate,” the description explains. “You can create a quiz app to help you and your classmates study for a test. With Android’s text-to-speech capabilities, you can even have the phone ask the questions aloud.”

Sounds pretty cool. There is no DIY version for Apple’s iPhone, but with the growing number of Android phones available at all major wireless carriers and the coming wave of netbooks and tablets that run Android, you can bet this DIY app program will be a huge hit and a popular programing tool for the wanna-be nerd in all of us.

According to the Android team, the App Inventor program includes location tools (where you parked a car or find your friends at a concert), utilizes the accelerometer, connects with Twitter and can create an app that reads texts aloud while you drive. The App Inventor program is built around a series of building blocks — text, pictures, animations, spreadsheets, etc. — that can be combined to deliver a program of your own.

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The project is lead by Harold Abelson, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is working at Google while on sabbatical. It is intended to give users, especially young people, a simple tool to let them tinker with smartphone software, much as people have done with computers, he told the New York Times. “The goal is to enable people to become creators, not just consumers, in this mobile world.”

To see how the App Inventor works, check out this video. Then prepare to spend the next several days refining your million-dollar app idea.

A case for AT&T’s new data plans

Perhaps if you start creating your own app, you’ll start using your smartphone more often. Apparently, most of us are not getting our money’s worth when it comes to smartphone usage.

While many of us use our smartphones more than ever — average data usage increased by about 230 percent in a year — that increase was centered among the heaviest users, according to a new survey from Nielsen. But on the lower end, Nielsen estimates that 20 million people are hardly using the data capabilities of their smartphones.

Clearly, these findings help justify AT&T’s tiered pricing strategy and indicates that other carriers are sure to follow. Nielsen concludes that such pricing may be a fair model: “The vast majority of customers, 99 percent according to the 60,000 phone bills that Nielsen collects and analyzes every month as part of their Customer Value Metrics product, are better off with a pricing scheme like AT&T’s new data pricing mode,” the survey finds.

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Finding an Evo still tough

Sprint has a hit on its hands with the Evo, but unfortunately phone-maker HTC can’t keep up with demand.

The Evo 4G is delayed without a ship date, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing Sprint’s website. The problem with HTC extends to Verizon as well, as the HTC Incredible is also hard to find. HTC cites issues with suppliers who pulled back during the recession and have been slow to meet the renewed market needs, according to the WSJ.

If you are fortunate enough to have your hands on an Evo or an Incredible, or any other Android phone, you may need some app suggestions. Even though Android users can create their own apps now, Appolicious users have created great lists of their favorite Android apps.

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Eric Benderoff

Eric Benderoff is the principal of, an editorial services firm, and a founding member of the Appolicious content strategy team. His personal technology column for the Chicago Tribune has appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide. He is a regular guest on Chicago's WGN Radio and is a frequent commentator about consumer technology on national TV news programs.

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