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Mobile apps using web view wrappers

Discussion in 'Resource and Add-on Discussions' started by Jake B., Oct 21, 2015.

  1. Jake B.

    Jake B. Well-Known Member

    [Thread split off of: https://xenforo.com/community/threads/branded-turn-key-iphone-android-apps-for-xenforo-paid.107202/]

    Looks like just a webview with support for push notifications, could probably do something similar in an hour or two. I know in Android it's (for the most part) a few lines of code for the webview, then a few more for the push notifications. Probably just need an API of sorts for that part.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
    Jarod, ProCom, Freelancer and 6 others like this.
  2. Kintaro

    Kintaro Well-Known Member

    Just Do it and you'll became Jake "Nike" B. ! :D
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
  3. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Well-Known Member

    Until now, no one has released any mobile App, while the xenforo community has been begging for a solution for years. If it's done in two hours then why was no one able to come through all these years? Or didn't anyone think of it?
    Digital Doctor, gfc, vanucci and 4 others like this.
  4. HWS

    HWS Well-Known Member

    Correct. Just buy a license (or use the trial) for Adobe Flash Builder and you are set with iOS and Android.

    Because a simple wrapper is really easy to make and offers no advantage to putting just an icon at the home screen with a link to the browser. The problem is the app management. I would not want to have customer apps to be published through my account. Apple is too quick with closing accounts if they do not like the content of an app.

    And publishing by the customer itself needs some knowledge. More knowledge than to build the app itself. ;)

    The push notification part can be bought by DigitalPoint for $75. But it is self service with Apple & Co. ;)
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
    kontrabass and Jake B. like this.
  5. Jake B.

    Jake B. Well-Known Member

    Apps like these don't actually do anything (apart from the push notifications) it basically just opens the site in the device's default browser but without the address bar, tabs, and some other functionality. You can create a WebView using React Native very easily, and it's already cross platform. See https://facebook.github.io/react-native/docs/webview.html. Not to mention, as @HWS said, creating the app isn't the hardest part, it's distributing it. Not to mention that if you want to compile it for iOS you're required to have a mac, and a lot of people don't.
    ProCom and kontrabass like this.
  6. Rob

    Rob Well-Known Member

    No offence here but put your words into action and make this and sell it for half the price?? Until then this is the only option, and a wrapper around a browser with push support is the best possible solution if you want your mobile apps to factor in add-on content. If mobile apps cannot be customised to the website and if mobile apps cannot bring the website's full functionality to the mobile then it's a half baked piece of bloatware (for that particular website)..... this suffers none of these problems and whilst I can't afford to buy it I do commend the work that has gone into it because it's truly the way forward for many sites.
    Alfa1 and RDR like this.
  7. Dakota Storm

    Dakota Storm Well-Known Member

    Well if you have money to burn, more power to you, but the last thing this community needs is another dev releasing half backed addons, sub standard addons.
    Did someone say *******? :rolleyes:
  8. RDR

    RDR Well-Known Member

    This "community" can certainly be toxic.

    @Rob - well stated.
    Alfa1, Rob and Glockie like this.
  9. Daniel Hood

    Daniel Hood Well-Known Member

    I've considered making an app for Android for XenForo but there's several problems; A good app won't be as simple as the webview (which has already been explained), push notifications do require at least a basic understanding of Java which not all developers (even the fluent php ones) have, and distribution (as other people have said) is difficult. I'll elaborate on the distribution aspect of it.

    For the distribution of an Android app (we'll ignore iOS which is even more complicated), you have to:
    • Have an account to publish the app with, your options are:
      • One account with every single site's app being promoted within it (which could lead to having numerous conflicting communities, over-crowding, your name associated with a site that you don't condone, etc).
      • Make your clients get an account, which has a fee for each account (small fee, I think $20, I've had my account a while), requires a lot of tedious steps.
    • Each app has a specific key, you have to save them in a very organized manner and every time you make a change you have to open each client's app, make the same change, recompile with their unique key, and push it out. This is very time consuming and more complex than just zipping one set of files (such as a normal add-on or style).
    iOS has a more complicated process, a higher fee, requires a mac for development, and they are very strict in terms of shutting down accounts. They still have the same type of unique key for packaging the app as well.

    Supporting the app for several clients would be more work than the original development, especially once it got popular. There is no way I would take part in a project like this without an automatic monthly rebill in place.

    To do an app the right way, something I have absolutely considered. You need to know two different programming syntaxes (iOS and Android have a different basis). That's not really a dealbreaker as they are pretty similar but there are differences, it's not just copying and pasting to port it over. You need a mac, nobody is going to take an Android app without having an iOS version available. It doesn't need to be done with webview, it needs to be done with reading and parsing the json XenForo outputs (and making more data available than the core), rendering it in the platforms standard style. It gets a lot more time consuming. Making it acknowledge add-ons, like people still want their gallery and showcase items available. Making it take advantage of core, prominent features like directly uploading a picture from the phones camera. These are all much more complex. They're all doable, they just take time and more advanced skills. There are likely capable people in this community but XenForo is still a small market and this falls in line with other large add-ons, it's hard to justify making large add-ons when the money isn't guaranteed. Especially when you know the cost is going to be expensive and a lot of times the community doesn't like expensive.
    rhodes, HWS and Dakota Storm like this.
  10. Dakota Storm

    Dakota Storm Well-Known Member

    Yes, because $400 for an 'app' that is effectively just a browser page with pushbullet like functionality is great value for money.

    For all those people that can afford such silly prices I say this. You'd be better pooling your funds and paying a professional app developer to build you a proper app.
  11. Jake B.

    Jake B. Well-Known Member

    I think my original post was completely misinterpreted. I was just answering @Mike Edge's question about how hard it would be to build one that you have full rights to. I have nothing against @vbresults' add-on, and think it's a great addition to the community. The post wasn't meant to be negative in any way, just answering a question.

    It's not just a browser page, it is branded as your own, with your own icon in the app drawer, and has the push notifications combined in a single app instead of having to have pushbullet installed as well. Not to mention the costs of having a developer account (mainly with Apple, android's is only $25 IIRC).

    Cost of deploying an app on Apple's app store:
    Developer License: $99/yr
    Having a mac: A lower end macbook will run about $1k, and this is required to build the app for iOS and deploy it to the app store.

    So it's not that you are paying $400 for nothing but an web browser, the main thing you're paying for is someone to deploy the app for you. You can (i'm sure) easily find an open source webview app on Github change the URL and you're good on that part, but then you have to deploy it, which is where things get finicky, especially with Apple

    You can use JavaScript with React Native. The same code base will compile to both iOS and Android :)
    HWS and Daniel Hood like this.
  12. Dakota Storm

    Dakota Storm Well-Known Member

    Then surely it would be far more cost effective to deploy it from your own site. Why waste time/money with the app stores at all.
    vanucci likes this.
  13. Freelancer

    Freelancer Well-Known Member

    What is the problem with starting small and evolve over time through experience. (rethorical question)

    Right now it takes three things to make a lot of admins happy:
    1. Browser Wrap
    2. Custom Branding
    3. Push Notification
    Apple distribution: To my knowledge you can develop your app and rebrand and distribute it to multiple clients when they join the volume purchase program (it's free for them). You can make an individual price for every client according to your needs , their forum size and their budget. They can distribute their apps privately via their forum without being listed in the public AppStore.

    Mac: Make a GoFundMe campaign, 1k is achieved easily if this idea is communicated right. If you don't get together the money for a Mac you pay back the donators and the idea is not really supported by the community and therefore dead.

    Make this a community effort, have a project leader and make it a win/win for all.
    I am pretty sure the resources in cash and humans are here, someone must be willing to take over the responsibility as a start.
    Glockie likes this.
  14. Jake B.

    Jake B. Well-Known Member

    Most people won't trust an app from a random site, not to mention you cannot do this with iOS without it being jailbroken anyways, and you have to specifically toggle an option in Android to do this.
    Steve F likes this.
  15. RDR

    RDR Well-Known Member

    Correct me if I'm wrong but there was/is a long thread started by an xF moderator here who offered to start something but then nixed it due to the high developer costs.

    Now you have someone come onto the scene and offers a solution and the best people can do is ***** about it?

    Crowdfunding here has gone over so well in the past, great idea.

    This is what I meant about this place being toxic. Unless you are offering your time and efforts for free, your solution is not encouraged.
  16. Daniel Hood

    Daniel Hood Well-Known Member

    I don't think anyone is talking bad about the guy offering that. I'm glad he came in and offered an alternative to Tapatalk. What we are discussing is why it's not a complete alternative to Tapatalk, how it's not compared to what Slavik was trying to get built, and why nobody has done it sooner, etc.. People aren't thrilled with the pricing for what it is but I don't think anybody is trying to encourage the guy to stop.

    Silver linings. They may not have worked exactly as planned however each one has led to something good:
    • Robbo's gallery manager made Chris realize there was a demand for a gallery and because he felt bad for the people that contributed, ended up releasing a great gallery system. Hard to say if he would have done that without that crowd fund failing.
    • XenPorta, as rough as it went, a product was released and people seem very happy with it now.
    • XenReviews, as rough as it went.. well, you'll see.
    Aside from that, they said a "gofundme" page, that's different than those crowd funds. The idea behind gofundme is for it to be a complete donation. They didn't mention kickstarter or pozzible (sp?).
    Why? Because Jake answered an honest question with an honest answer? Because Alfa, as a big board owner, wants to know what's stopped an app from existing this long and what is needed for a full one? Because I explained the distribution risks for selling an app? Because people are asking about other features? As far as only people doing community service (giving time and effort for free) being the only ones encouraged to give a solution is odd. What makes it more odd is that the original product that started this thread is very far from free.
    rhodes, Kevin, Jake B. and 1 other person like this.
  17. Freelancer

    Freelancer Well-Known Member

    Well said in all points.
  18. SneakyDave

    SneakyDave Well-Known Member

    I created a simple app with MIT's App Inventor (WebViewer), for Android only. No push notifications yet. I'll release some information about it as a resource if anybody is interested.

    I think push notifications can be added with an additional framework, but I wanted to see if App Inevtor was really the thing I wanted to use first.

    Easy and free.
    magnanini, HWS and Dakota Storm like this.
  19. king8084

    king8084 Active Member

    didnt the developer say in his thread that the push notifications are not what we expect? and it only uses some alerts not all

    so even that isnt included
  20. Glockie

    Glockie Well-Known Member

    My measly opinion?
    I can't see a good/excellent mobile app tailored for XF specifically coming any time soon..
    I'm sorry to say.

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