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Backends as a Service: Appcelerator ACS vs Parse vs Applicasa vs StackMob

Backend as a Services, dubbed “BaaS”, are companies that provide easily integrated cloud-based backends for mobile app developers (and web based). Meaning, nowadays, all Mobile Apps (may) need Users, Logins, Checkings, Places, Geolocations, uploading data, pushing data, and so on. It’s a Database on the fly, ready to be queried.

You can of course develop your own, but this comes right out of the box, promises to be secure and scalable (with some even offering Analytics).

On Monday (April 16, 2012) Cocoafish.com turned into Appcelerator’s New Cloud Service, which pushed me to write a post on the affairs of BaaS as it stands today.
(in alphabetical order)

★ Appelerator Cloud Services:

ACS is my first experience into BaaS ( when it was Cocoafish), I was privileged enough to get a Beta account as they launched into beta, and played around extensively with it. They offer you a custom Object you can save on the server, key-value objects, Push NotificationsGeolocation, and easy out of the box APIs such as: Places, Checkings, Users, Social integrations, Email Templates, Photos (& Collections), Posts, Access control lists, Users Status & Chat; And you can export your data if you ever choose to do so.

From what I’ve seen, they have the most feature rich out of all the other BaaS companies, as they also include Analytics (so all calls are being noted).

Libraries

AS3, JS, iOS, Android, REST & TiCloud module

Cost

They Do have a Free Plan, The following is on a Per Month Per App basis:
5 Million Push Notifications & 100’000 Emails
5 Million API Calls
20 GB Storage

Analytics 1 Million


★ Applicasa

Applicasa is the only BaaS that offers Drag & Drop functionalities to create your Custom Objects/Tables on the fly, its a little more tedious than having our of the box features like the ones provided by ACS. Applicasa offers the usual Push Notifications, Promos, Analytics and the only BaaS I’ve found to offer In-App Purchases. It seems they are targeting recently Game developers.

Libraries

There are No Libraries other than iOS & Android.

Cost

Applicasa has a unique business model for Startups they do not charge on the Number of API calls, they charge on the number of Users.
Unlimited Free API calls (and 1 Gb of storage) for the first 100’000 Users, then 0.03$ Per User.
In a way, keep your App clean with ‘active users’.

★ Parse

Parse offers a better freemium model than ACS, their service APIs comprises of Key-Value Data, Push Notifications, Social Integration, Gelocations & Files storage. You can also choose to export you data.

Libraries

I have found Parse to have the most number of Libraries (thanks to third parties). From LuaAS3, JS, iOS, Android and REST.

Cost

For the Free Plan you get on a Per Month Per App basis:
1 Million API Calls 
1 Million Push Notifications
1 Gb
Storage (for files)

An Enterprise Plan will run you 199$/month and provide you with 15 Million API calls + 5 Million Push Notifications and 10 Gb of storage.

★ StackMob

StackMob is the most custom, which also means the most tedious (relative), you can upload your code to their servers to manage any custom server side calls and provide you with those custom APIs, Social Integration, Access control lists, as well as creating your Schema. Interestingly, they have a Marketplace of APIs.

Libraries

Offered: iOS, Android & JS. Also have an SDK with the option to upload your custom server code.

Cost

Their full Price Plans (prices may have changed)
For the Free Plan you get on a Per Month basis:
60’000  API Calls 
60’000 Push Notifications

I did not add Kinvey to this comparison sheet, because they do not have a pricing list, unless they intend for it to be Always Free (which would certainly be an eye opener).

Its your Choice

Flex DateTime Formatter for ACS

This Date Format String is to be passed to Appcelerator Cloud Services for handling all Dates on the Cloud.

<s:DateTimeFormatter id="dateACSFormatter" dateTimePattern="yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm:ss Z" useUTC="true />
var stringed = String(dateACSFormatter.format(eventDate.selectedDate)).replace(' ', 'T').replace(' ', ''))

To Get Back from the Server an ACS Formatted Date String into an Actionscript Date Object:

DateUtil.parseW3CDTF(stringed))

In Titanium... momentjs comes also very handy:
moment(message.updated_at, "YYYY-MM-DDTHH:mm:ssZ").fromNow()

Flex Containers – From Lightweight to Most Expensive

When to use the appropriate Container may not be as straight forward.

Out of many projects I’ve seen in Flex, there is too many too often, nested containers and extraneous properties that aren’t serving any purpose.

Below is a reference guide for you to choose your containers wisely. (click to view in separate window)

Image

HTML5, Javascript & CSS3 – The “Basic” language of Web Developers

As it stands today, the web developer needs to know HTML5, Javascript and CSS3 like the back of their hand. With all the hype, such open standards developers are experiencing what Flash Developers experienced in 2004, and the know how, tip and tricks that would accumulate years after.

However, now it is something that Adobe would resolve very easily with the help of two different tools “Muse” and “Edge”. Makes you wonder why not have Flash CSx/Flex just export to HTML5/JS/CSS3? Could we be surprised?

Unlike the Dreamweaver, Muse is a tool which designers do not have to worry about a single line of code, and it comes out to be compatible with all the popular browsers, while taking advantage of CSS3 and HTML5 where possible. Currently, Muse is already in a Free beta version which can be downloaded from Adobe Labs, so you can test drive for free right up to the crisp version is released in early 2012 as predicted by Adobe.

Read more…

Installing the new beta version of AIR

Ever get this error: “”Directory does not contain Flex SDK”, well this is what you’d need to get the AIR version you want.

  1. Download the AIR 3.x SDK Beta 2 (say, to your download folder)
  2. Duplicate your latest Release Candidate (mine found in the sdks folder of Flash Builder)
  3. Open Terminal and run the following: (make sure yours suit the path+foldernames):
ditto /Users/yourname/Downloads/air3-4_p1_sdk_mac_071612 /Applications/Adobe\ Flash\ Builder\ 4.6/sdks/NewAIR3.x_b2

4- Add new it to your Flex Compiler

Test on Nexus One: Flash 10.1 has Higher Frame Rate & Consumes less Battery Than HTML5

It’s been a while I haven’t posted, but our company has been trying to figure out how to build a new mobile app that would encompass the most number of mobiles. If we would do it Natively or WebBased, HTML5 would cover almost all browsers, including natively with the help of many third party wrappers. Another option was doing Flex Mobile Apps, so it would encompass all iOS, Android and Blackberry that’s about 92% of mobiles today.

So we decided to do a test:

On a Nexus One, Flash 10.1 consumes Half the battery of what HTML5 can do. Not to mention, the experience of animations in HTML5 is jittery, very obvious to a sharp Flash developer.

Funny enough, Chris Black has done a similar test with very similar results.

Flash on TV. TV on AIR.

Google TV adopted the Flash Player and Adobe AIR, seamlessly into many TV sets, namely Sony, Samsung and many other devices. Makes sense when they coined the term, the ‘Open Screen Project‘. One of the most important new technologies presented at AdobeMAX 2010 is in my opinion “AIR for TV”. Flash Player is now present on multiple screens ranging from desktop to mobile passing by tablet and set-top-boxes.
The TV screen is always been one of the most desired and the availability of Flash on TVs and STBs is a strategic move. We already knew that Flash will be supported by Google TV.

The world of applications for the living room is one of the most promising and “rich”. The income generated by the traditional TV world is still huge and the kind of interactity that a connected tv can assure can only enhance the business giving tailored advertising at a generally untargeted media.

In this scenario Flash is the perfect mate for the big companies who want to create new business model in this market (Sony, Google, Samsung in primis) but has to fight at the same time the power of Apple and his vision. In this context Flash is a tool that assure the availability of millions of developers ready to develop very good applications for new app markets. The most important features of AIR for TV is the StageVideo.

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