Mobile Content Management Systems

February 15, 2012 General, Research

Mobile Content Management Systems

By Jon Mason and Julia Salem

February 15, 2012

Updated August 23, 2012

Most of the current mobile content management systems available are quite similar. The primary service they offer is simple data storage, with features like push notifications, geographical search, and social integration (Facebook and Twitter). The data storage offers CRUD (Create, Read, Update, and Delete) methods for standard JSONish documents (collections of key-value pairs) and for unstructured binary files. All of these systems offer search functionality for structured data. However, the range of apps that could be built this way is somewhat limited by the fact that most backends involve CRUD methods, and then a little extra stuff.  Examples of “extra stuff” include validation, complex search, and application behaviors that go beyond data management (matching compatible users, for example).

The types of mobile apps that can be developed on these systems are ones that only require basic data management from their backends. In these apps the majority of the action is on the client side, with the backend acting as a cloud based database, perhaps replacing the local databases used by many mobile apps. Other interesting things you could do with the features offered by these services include sharing objects between users, pushing notifications to users, and storing and searching locations (as in, find all points in the database within 2 miles of point A).

We have compiled a list and analysis of current mobile content management systems based on some of our research. Enjoy!

CloudMineThis service is one of the newer mobile CMS services available, but we believe it has a lot of potential. It allows developers to run some code on the server side, which partially reduces the limitations of CRUD. In theory, since it can run server side code, it could expand beyond this feature set, although in working around the limitations one might end up wasting the effort saved by using the services in the first place.

This tool offers libraries for Android and iOS for accessing the data from a mobile client, as well as some support for Javascript and Kinvey. It has no SDK, just a REST API. Some code is available on Github for accessing this from Javascript, apps using iOS or Android natively would have to write custom code. In addition, standard CRUD operations are supported on JSON documents, including fairly sophisticated query language. The query language strongly suggests that CloudMine uses Mongo or Couch as its database. Other features supported include geolocation, simple JavaScript, and beta support for SMS and email. One major feature that is not currently supported is push notifications.

Currently, CloudMine’s design philosophy and the pace at which it is adding new features is very good, but the product is too immature for general use. In a few months, this could improve.

StackMobAllows developers to run some code on the server side, which partially reduces the limitations of CRUD. In theory, since it can run server side code, it could expand beyond this feature set, although in working around the limitations one might end up wasting the effort saved by using the services in the first place.

This CMS has iOS and Android SDKs and REST API, which means less work writing native apps for iOS and Android. JavaScript apps would require custom code on the client side. Also, the database is based on modeling, similar to MySql. The features supported include push notifications, geolocation, and social integration (Facebook and Twitter).

Overall, this StackMob has very mature custom code capabilities (Java/Scala). This system is the one to choose for additional features beyond the available feature set.

ParseThis tool also offers libraries for Android and iOS for accessing the data from a mobile client, as well as some support for JavaScript and Kinvey. The system has iOS and Android SDKs and REST API. Parse has numerous built-in features, especially in terms of user management. An example of this is Parse’s user authentication, which includes relating users to objects, access control lists for objects, and a solid OAuth based authentication system. Other features include geolocation and push services, which are based on either sending things from the app’s dashboard or from a web service. One major drawback is the fact that you cannot run server side code. This system is the best way to go if you are sure it can do everything your app needs without the server side code.

KinveyHelps developers setup, use and operate a cloud backend for their mobile apps. Kinvey allows developers to code their app using any SDK of their choice, then connect the app to Kinvey’s backend features using auto-generated APIs and libraries. This new tool introduces two new mobile firsts: 1) backend middleware and data layers sit across multiple cloud service providers, so if one goes down, Kinvey is always up AND 2) Kinvey supports any mobile OS platform including iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, HTML5, etc.

CocoaFishAllows users to build mobile apps without writing any server code. API features include social integration, checkins, event planning, connect users, instant chatting, ratings & review & likes, geolocation, push notifications, and more. CocoaFish works on all platforms including mobile iOS and Android, Flash in the browser, Ruby on the server side and more.

Urban AirshipOne of the first services to tie push notifications, rich push, in-app purchases and subscriptions together into third-party service applications for developers. The rich push notifications are compatible with iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and numerous other mobile devices. In 2011, Urban Airship acquired SimpleGeo, which provides similar backend support, but from a location perspective. This system uses programming languages like Java and Python.

MobileBitsPringo Connect, a proprietary digital platform from MobileBits, includes everything a company needs to integrate external and internal content into one easy to use extensible platform. From full rich media delivery via a universal wrapper to complete social and communication features, the Pringo Connect solution empowers business to create a flexible experience across multiple devices including mobile, tablets and web. Their specialties include end-to-end digital solutions, local merchant, QSR mobile solutions, and rich media delivery solutions.

PhoneGapHTML5 app platform that helps you get access to APIs and app stores using HTML and JavaScript. This is an open source development tool that can build apps for iPhones with support of 7 platforms. This system requires strong knowledge of HTML and JavaScript. Unlike some of the other services above, PhoneGap requires long hours of code, but is extremely useful for building an iPhone app. PhoneGap is best for developers who want to be able to “port” the app to another platform easily.

TitaniumOften compared to PhoneGap, Titanium also serves as a wrapper for the browser, except via “webViews.” This service also offers native APIs for Cocoa Touch outside the browser. On Titanium, developers can code in JavaScript and end up with Objective-C (for iOS apps). The service also uses HTML and CSS. Titanium is best for those looking for a “native” looking app.

RhodesBased on Ruby, Rhodes provides a full server environment on the device and access to native features. Developers can use this to write their applications one time and run them on any major mobile device OS. This system will only work for data-based apps because there is no support for audio and video.

Trigger.ioThis is a cross-platform app framework that helps developers create native iOS and Android apps from a single HTML5 codebase. Features include the distribution on multiple native platforms, access native features from JavaScript, unlimited email support, simple command-line tools and Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Safari & IE compatibility.

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