The solution, Retool Mobile, is aimed at frontend and web developers who want to take advantage of native mobile capabilities, but don’t want to learn a new language, explained Sean Ren, Retool’s product manager. Front-end developers can often deploy it as a single web app, but this approach doesn’t allow access to the phone’s native features, such as the camera.
“We provide a very unique point of view where we use native apps as well as low code, which provides a lot of flexibility and all the native features of the app,” said Ren. “There [are] similar products out in the wild, but most of them are either no-code – so you don’t really provide code access or connectivity to your own database – or a web application.”
Despite its low code count, the tool is intended for professional developers and not for civilian developers, emphasized Michael Selvidge, a spokesperson for Retool. Retool was recently listed in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Low Code as a niche solution for professional developers.
Why low code for developers?
Instead of doing all the code in an IDE, Retool Mobile provides a visual editor where components can be assembled by drag and drop and then connected to the database with some event handlers.
“We provide UI Builder, a drag-and-drop builder that lets you quickly assemble a bunch of pre-built components on your screen. This further reduces the time to build the app,” said Ren. “This is a higher level of abstraction. It packages the user interface and the components together. All you have to do is assemble the user interfaces and create the data connections with a visual interface.”
Retool Mobile has built-in support for dozens of native mobile components as well as pre-made layouts. It also connects to most databases including PostgreSQL, MySQL, MS SQL and MongoDB.
“You can connect to any of the databases you already have in production, so you don’t have to keep your database in sync with the data in the application,” he said. “If you don’t have a database to start with, you can always create a brand new database using Retool dB, which is a Postgres database behind the scenes, with a user interface where you can directly edit the database – similar to Airtable or Google. Bed linen.”
The company is also working on a white-label feature that will allow developers to launch their own app under the company name, complete with the company’s logo. This white label offering allows developers to add additional libraries as needed.
Apps designed by retool can also support mobile hardware features such as geolocation, camera, NFC and QR code/barcode scanners. Retool Mobile offers pre-built Zebra integrations, a beta feature that allows the workforce to install applications on Zebra devices and use built-in Zebra scanners and sensors.
Support for remote offline applications
Another important supported feature is offline mode, Ren said.
“Offline is a very frequently requested feature in these remote work environments where the internet is sometimes very spotty somewhere when they are out in the field,” said Ren. “It allows you to cache information that you download while connected to the Internet, so you can still read the same permission when using it remotely. We also allow you to cache your edits on your device when you’re offline. The edited information is synchronized back to the server, so you can work on reading and writing remotely; and when you come back online, that information can go back to the server and be synced up to date.”
Some of the use cases it supports are inventory management, spot checks, and file sales updates – thanks in part to built-in Salesforce integration and filtering. Retool said its beta mobile solution has been used to deploy more than 10,000 apps so far, and companies like Amazon, DoorDash, NBC and Stripe have used the apps to solve internal workflows. The beta is free to use for teams of up to five people.
Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter with 25 years of experience covering technology issues from data integration to security. Before joining The New Stack, he served as the editor of banking technology site Bank Automation News. He has…