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Creating Mobile Apps with This List of 22 Free and Open Source Mobile App Development Frameworks

Updated on January 28, 2012

Smartphones have been around for the last decade, but it is only since the advent of the iPhone and later the iPad; collectively known as IOS devices, that the mobile app eco-system has really mushroomed into its own industry. Today millions of publishers and possibly billions apps jockey for our attention and our dollars in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Likewise, in the last three years, we have seen a whole new generation of devices and platforms like Android, Windows Mobile 7, Bada, Ovi, Blackberry to name a few have solidified the marketplace with a slew of tools and APIs to allow developers, publishers to stretch their imaginations to create apps to cater to every niche our society.

This frenzy has also spawned a huge development environment to help developers create all types of apps. From simple apps, to games and sophisticated business apps with back end integration. Several free and or open source development frameworks that offer the same sophistication as paid frameworks have been developed in the last few years to allow developers quickly produce these apps.

Here is a guide to the Open Source or free development frameworks that are available now at the time of this writing.

PhoneGap is a framework that allows developers to use HTML (5), CSS and Javascript to create apps that integrate with the host’s device native APIs. It allows developers developers to create IOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod), Android, Blackberry, Windows, Symbian (Nokia), Bada (Samsung) apps. PhoneGap has been recently been acquired by Adobe.

AppMakr is one of the new generation of frameworks that allows non developers and developers alike create apps without any coding at all. This is great if you a web app that you want to convert to an app or documentation; marketing material, catalog, e-book, recipe book. You can use AppMakr create an app in minutes using existing web content. Three mobile platforms: IOS (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch), BlackBerry and Android. Use AppMakr to promote your online media, monetize your app by selling through appropriate marketplaces or by serving up ads. It’s perfect for non developers and developers alike.

iBuildApp, another great platform for building mobile apps in minutes. You can build native apps or use existing web content like ezines, ebooks, web applications, or blogs. Need to promote a service or a product, iBuildApp is perfect solution for the task. Building apps is easy by using iBuilApp’s custom widgets and templates.

RhoMobile allows you to use your existing HTML skills to create native apps that can connect with entreprise data or as standalone apps on a wide variety of smartphones and tablets. You can download the framework or completely build your app online with RhoHub. RhoMobile is a Motorola Solutions Company having been recently acquired. In addition to building apps for IOS devices and Android, you can also build apps for Windows Mobile devices using RhoElements.

This framework allows developers to leverage HTML 5, Javascript and Css3 to build sophisticated native apps. With Joshfire you write once and deploy to multiple devices, including webTV and other connected devices.

A player on the block. Don’t let the name fool you, ChocoloteChip-UI offers a state-of-the art framework for creating sophisticated web based mobile apps using their own markup language: WAML (Web App Markup Language). It also provides a wide assortment of layout and widgets to help, the developer create stunning apps quickly.

Wink Toolkit
Wink toolkit is a Javascript based framework that comes complete with a wide assortment of templates, widgets and other components to craft a fantastic mobile. It offers support Bada based apps (Samsung) and ios devices and Android devices as well. In addition, it comes with full support for HTML 5, geolocation, motion detection, audio and video.

The M Project
This framework is a jQuery based framework for building apps using HTML, JavaScript and of course the jQuery framework which is revolutionizing the way web RIA apps are developed. The M Project helps you create apps quickly by providing sample apps that can be modified for your unique requirements.

A Javascript framework that provides building blocks to allow developers create professional looking and functioning apps. They provide a suite of layouts, UI widgets like a TreeViews, Datagrids, skins, full screen or window modes. They also provides to export your content to PDFs, Microsoft Excel.

The Baker EBook Framework
As the name suggest, the framework is an optimize suite of technology that allows writers, publishers and others create beautiful ebooks that can be deploy to iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. The framework uses the open source WebKit framework from Apple that powers both Apple Safari and Google’s Chrome browsers. You also can include videos, audios and animation. Why not write an audio ebook?

As the name implies, this is another Javascript based framework that uses jQuery and Webkit to allow you to create stunning mobile apps. Zepto.js is a minimalist framework, having only 5 kb footprint. The project is still in beta at the time of this writing.

Sencha Touch
Sencha has been around for quite a few years and boast a string legacy. Sencha, originally Ext.js is an Ajax based framework that was spawned from Yahoo’s yui web framework. As such Sencha offers a very rich set of APIs that are proven with millions lines of code and that has been ported to other platforms like Google GWT (Google Web Toolkit). This framework is excellent for business class apps that also need back end integration. Also this framework works hand in hand with PhoneGap.

Hosted by the OpenWebConsortium, OpenMobileIS framework that provides all the tools to build nomad applications for a wide variety of devices and platforms. It provides tight coupling between the terminal and the embedded server. At its core, openMobileIS is a Java based framework that offers a wide array of components and superior security in addition to web technologies. Its boast 5 years of active development.

Appcelator is a cross platform development environment that allows developers to create apps for a multiple of devices, even laptops and desktops (remember those?). As a developer to can leverage your skills with HTML, CSS and Javascript as well as python, ruby, and PHP. They also provide the Titanium Suite that can create apps for Windows, Mac and Linux on one side and Android and ios apps on the mobile side as well. Titanium Studio is an Eclipse based development environment with code assist and an integrated debugger, testing and packaging capabilities. In addition they offer a one stop marketplace to allow to sell and buy components for their platform. Enhance your app with Titanium+ modules from leading vendors and providers like eBay, Facebook, Flikr to name a few. This framework offers free and paid packages and subscriptions

IPFaces offers a unique mobile app development experience. It is a form based client that enable you to build apps within this client. Once finished, you app is uploaded to their server for deployment to the targeted platform. You can build apps using ASP.Net, Java or PHP. IPFaces addresses unique business needs that needs a back end server for data synchronization like sales reps, out of office staff or trades shows.

This framework is part of Sencha and is based on jQuery. It is a jQuery plugin that uses WebKit animation.

This is a simple app framework that targets multiple devices like ios and Android as well as Google Chromebooks and Chrome Browser. It integrates with PhoneGap and allows a developer to create apps completely in HTML 5 and Javascript. As part of the framework, Jo provides a wide assortment of widgets to help create mobile and web based apps easily.

ZK, java based framework, leverages client-server technology and modern POJO frameworks like Spring to deliver entreprise class mobile and web apps. ZK offers their own markup language, ZUML, to easily automate CRUD operations between the UI and the backend using data bindings. Its client side technology is based on jQuery and Json. They offer a full suite of pluggable components, entreprise class security and event handling. This platform primarily targets Java Mobile, Android and Sony's BD-Live devices.Their Studio is an Eclipse based development suite, They also offer technologies like Spring, Spreadsheet that mimics Microsoft Excel.

Red Foundry
This framework is free for basic apps and they also have monthly packages for more robust app development and deployment. Red Foundry was built on the principle of designing apps rather than coding or developing apps. To that end, Red Foundry provides an online app design environment that is used by many top corporations. To help design your app, Red Foundry building blocks and customizable templates. Add a vast array of components like video, audio, photos, presentations. Great for marketing materials, ebooks, magazines, catalogs. Integrate with your back end with json or xml. Using their RFML language, you create and share or customize re usable components.

Build your app online. This online development environment requires absolutely no coding. Their unique approach starts with custom appKits that target specific uses like bands, events, portfolio, business, real estate, legal, travel and tours, education, restaurant and full flexibility. You can build ad supported apps for iPhones but are regired to pay a monthly fee for Android and BlackBerry devices or apps without advertising.

eBook App Maker
As you migth have guessed, it is a framework for making ebooks. This framework is for writers, authors, publishers and other content providers. You simply upload your work in pdf, rtf, doc format and their app converts our manuscript into an iPhone app or Android app and then deploys it to the appropriate marketplace without you requiring a certificate which can cost up to a $100 (one time purchase). Their service is mostly free and is based on a revenue sharing format through the sale of your book.

An unique framework for creating games for mobile devices. Interestingly you don’t need any coding skills, just ideas. They have a development environment, called Creator, that allows you to create game for mobile device for free. They make their money by selling added features like animations, icons, skins, sounds, etc. Deploy your game to their arcade or to the Apple App Store directly from their integrated content management system.

That is it for now at least. Probably their might be another slew of APIs or frameworks by the time this article is published. I also focused on frameworks that are free and or open source, or that offers free and paid revenue models. There are a whole bunch of paid frameworks out there that offer many more unique benefits and targets different segments of the market.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks so much for the helpful information.

      The new era of computers it's all about apps creation. I started from scratch from zero to developer, the hard way. But there's a short cut you can find in the internet, its called Apps Developers! You can check it here!

    • klanguedoc profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin Languedoc 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for the feedback

    • keirnanholland profile image

      pulled name 

      6 years ago from nowhere

      You are not using "of", "a" and "to" enough when writing your sentences, it looks strange in english and can stop ones thoughts when collecting information. I've found about at least ten places in the first several paragraphs where you have skipped past using these.


      "iBuildApp is perfect" should be "iBuildApp is a perfect"

      BTW, there is only about 800,000 apps according to apple's advertising.

    • klanguedoc profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin Languedoc 

      7 years ago from Canada

      You're very welcome. Let me know how it works out for you.


    • auirek profile image

      Tsvetelin Naydenov 

      7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Thank you :)

    • klanguedoc profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin Languedoc 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Hi auirek,

      GameSalad is a great framework for games with no programming. As for using C, I would say try PhoneGap because you can interface with the native API of the target device/platform.


    • auirek profile image

      Tsvetelin Naydenov 

      7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Which software of these is the best for making games with no programming? Also, does any of these programs allow app developers to use C programing?

    • klanguedoc profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin Languedoc 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Yes and they are easy to use. some of them don't require any programming skills. You can even create games with no programming.

    • firstthingfast profile image


      7 years ago from india

      i does not know that there are so many tools for app development.

    • klanguedoc profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin Languedoc 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Hey Scott,

      Nice framework. Online development is really growing by leaps and bounds.


    • profile image

      Scott Levy 

      7 years ago

      Perfect post. Here’s a tool that lets youbuild web and mobile appsfast and without coding!


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