Making a truly great mobile app, for Android, iPhone, WebOS, or whatever else, is a very difficult game, requiring skill, luck, imagination, creativity, obsession, and a fair bit of time. The Doodle Jumps of the world don’t just spring up out of nowhere. For most people, app creation is just too complex and nerdy to even think about tackling. Google‘s new App Inventor software aims to change that.
Google App Inventor is a DIY program that lets any interested parties create their own custom apps, even without any advanced development or software coding skill. It’s been under development for about a year, and according to the New York Times, its test groups haven’t been the usual code monkeys:
User testing has been done mainly in schools with groups that included sixth graders, high school girls, nursing students and university undergraduates who are not computer science majors.
It’s a very simplified tool, nearly to a fault–you won’t be creating any masterpieces here–that uses a drag-and-drop interface rather than difficult alternate languages of code. Some examples of easy-to-create apps include variations on whack-a-mole, an app that locates nearby friends, or an app that automatically replies to text messages at predetermined times.
App Inventor gives its newborn developers access to an Android phone’s GPS sensor, its phone (including voice and text messages), and certain Web APIs (Twitter and Amazon are specifically mentioned).
It’s a very cool idea–I’m not sure that neophytes are going to be too interested in even such a drastically simplified interface, but those with a casual interest in development or the app world may give it a try. Everybody with a modern smartphone has likely had an idea for a great app that doesn’t exist–and this tool might actually give people the ability to make that idea a reality.