It’s open source, it’s free, and it’s saved us from more than one stress-induced headache. Meet PhoneGap, the app-building framework that helps eliminate the need for time intensive (and often expensive) platform conversions.
How it works.
Native applications, which are built using Android, Windows, or iOS development tools, will only function on the device which they were originally designed for. (e.g. A native iOS app can only be used on an Apple device, a native Windows app can only be used on a Windows device, etc.) Not only does this create an initial limitation on the number of people who have access to the app, it also makes way for many an annoyed developer who has to put in additional hours to basically recreate the whole thing just so that Android users can have what iPhone users have and ensure that everyone goes home happy at the end of the day. In the wise words of the late great Douglas Adams:
“This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
Luckily we have PhoneGap, which breaks down these development barriers and takes the hassle out of platform conversion. Run your web app through PhoneGap, and you’ll end up with an installable app that can then be uploaded to not only iTunes, but to Google Play and the Windows Store as well.
But wait — there’s more! With a web app in the device browser, you can’t access the GPS or the camera. If you wrap it in PhoneGap and natively install it, you can.
In short, PhoneGap creates the illusion of a natively developed app while using the shortcut of developing as a web application.
Why use it?
As highlighted earlier, the biggest advantages of the PhoneGap development process is the time and money saved by using it. Gone are the days of having to bring in a specialty developer who can help convert an Android Java script to iOS’s Objective-C. With PhoneGap, your web developer is your app developer. You also have access to just about any library for web development (like jQuery libraries for animations), which you wouldn’t have access to when doing native development. That alone can streamline an app development process.
PhoneGap is great for prototyping a complex application, especially when there are libraries like this one which allow you to build a web app in a native apps skin.
Why not use it?
Native developers will look down on you from their high horses.
Ok, maybe not. But there are some serious drawbacks. PhoneGap apps tend to be a bit slower than natively designed apps. Recent updates to PhoneGap have made improvements in this area, but any seasoned developer will be able to tell the difference when using a hybrid app created via PhoneGap vs. a native one.
You also have some limitations as to what the app can do. For instance, you don’t have access to the device’s full processing power, so games and processor-intensive apps shouldn’t be developed with PhoneGap.
Which seat can I take?
While there is no right answer, there are various points to consider. Weigh your options (particularly your budget) and consider what your priorities are for your app. If you want a super-sleek, super-fast app, then you should do it natively. If it’s your first app, and you’re still testing what your user will expect, or the app is simple, you might want to choose PhoneGap to get you started.
Have additional questions or comments about the PhoneGap tool? Let us know below!