PhoneGap 1.0 now available for cross-platform app development | webOS Nation
 
 

PhoneGap 1.0 now available for cross-platform app development 35

by Tim Stiffler-Dean Tue, 02 Aug 2011 1:43 pm EDT

Whether you knew it or not, a few days ago a big part of the mobile development world was celebrating PhoneGap Day in Portland, Oregon. No, it's not some National Holiday that you've somehow missed out on (though that would be cool if it was), instead it was just PhoneGap's way of celebrating the public release of their open source, cross-platform, mobile development tools as version 1.0. From their website;

PhoneGap is an HTML5 app platform that allows you to author native applications with web technologies and get access to APIs and app stores. PhoneGap leverages web technologies developers already know best... HTML and JavaScript.

What that means is, PhoneGap allows you to build applications for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and webOS devices all at the same time - you'll just need to edit a small bit of code before submitting to each separate catalog. We've looked at how PhoneGap works a few times before, and even showed a video on how to port an app from iOS to webOS using PhoneGap in 10 minutes flat, but with version 1.0 that work should be even easier than before. Enhanced APIs, more secure code, compatibility with more APIs that are found on mobile devices, debugging tools and more are all made available in this update, and even the most novice of developers should be able to find their way through the tutorials to get some applications built.

One thing that we're wondering about is the number of PhoneGap applications already available to the other app stores. We contacted PhoneGap to see just how many apps have been built using their platform, and it's a surprising number. More than 40,000 downloads of their HTML5 platform happen each month, which means there are potentially dozens of thousands of applications in the wild that use the services provided. That begs the question, where are all of the PhoneGap-based webOS apps?

According to Brian LeRoux, Software Architect at Nitobi, which manages PhoneGap, the lack of PhoneGap-based webOS apps more than likely has something to do with developers simply not owning webOS devices - they build apps for the platforms they're familiar with. That all makes sense, of course, but we're hoping that this new update to PhoneGap and a renewed interest in webOS through the TouchPad and upcoming Pre 3 will change all of that. 

If you'd like to know more about PhoneGap version 1.0, you can head to the product website at the link below. Check back here later in the week for a PhoneGap run-through from a PreCentral perspective, too; It'll be a good one!

Source: PhoneGap;

35 Comments

Cool. It will be interesting to see if people actually make use of this for webOS.

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Something is wrong here if there are no examples of PhoneGap apps that exist across multiple platforms. I'm guessing this sounds good but does not really exist.

Can anyone think of an entity that has access to all of the devices that could do a comparison of apps across these platforms? Mobilenations? If you guys can't find these apps to do a side-by-side comparison then it probably doesn't really work.

The only thing "wrong" is that it just hit release state. You need to give it time for professional developers to actually start utilizing it.

Actually, professionals (lots of them) have been using it for quite some time. It's pretty popular even when it was in it's .94 and .95 state. We've made heavy use of it for clients that don't require truly native apps (we also use appcelerator or pure native depending on the needs of our clients). Our clients only ever ask for iOS and Android however. We've never had company even hint at BB, webOS or WP7 so we've never bothered to see how well it works with those platforms.

This is just the perspective from "one" development shop.

This is where mobile app development is heading with more than one big media company beginning to take this strategy for their mobile apps. Great to see that developers will have an even easier time writing their apps and having them available on all of the mobile OS platforms. It could level the playing field in a few years.

I doubt that. Tools like this are always a bad idea for anything but the simplest apps.

If you want to build a good application you have to learn the native way to do it.

For example , if you have an app that displays accounts and content. On webOS you would use sliding panes , on the iPad you would use panes with a software back button and on the honeycomb you would use fragments.

Tools like this are simply no good for application development. The only good middleware is for games - like unity since games usually have a fully customized experience that is not bound to any platform.

Agree. The problem with using a platform like this is that your app will not run well on any platform. That means that your app will surely suck compared to other apps. That's fine if you are Bank of America and have exclusive rights to develop a banking app for your customers.

However, if you've got a good idea for an app and put it out there on this kind of platform then all it takes is someone who can copy your app idea, add specific features for iOS or Android, make it run more efficiently and you've lost 80% of your market.

Yeah....while almost every platform is going to an HTML5 base, they have RADICALLY different design languages. Anything optimized for iPhone is going to look weird and out of place on Windows Phone 7, and alien on Blackberry. Android apps probably would look ugly in the design language of WebOS, and so on and so on.

I understand the appeal of "code once, run on a kazillion different platforms", but pretty much NONE of our favorite apps that are cross-platform do this.

I have to disagree here to some extent. Yes, there are apps that lend themselves to the requirement of native languages, but not all of them do. A decent amount of our clients are actually ok with phonegap-based applications. We do have a good mix however. So when a client needs cross-platform and native, we go with appcelerator. If they are targeting a single platform and need native, it's a toss up between appcelerator and pure "platform language native" and it depends on the requirements of the app.

I can tell you that there is a huge chunk of apps that really don't require "platform language native".

The biggest drawback that we've found is that many of these solutions tend to focus on the lowest common denominator between platforms. So with PhoneGap you wind up writing (or getting open sourced) plugins to get beyond the basics. It really does work fairly well...but again...it depends on the needs of the app. I wouldn't write high-performance games with PhoneGap. A banking application, on the other hand, is probably fair game.

Totally. It is Java's story all over again. Good for writing multi-platform "Hello, world!" application, but not much more than this.

Uhm...as a developer with more than 10 years of Java development under my belt, I must say that this assertion is grossly incorrect.

...OK, maybe a little bit exaggerated, you can do a fair bit more than "Hello World" in Java ;).

I do agree however (and that is really my point) with your: "biggest drawback (..) is that many of these solutions tend to focus on the LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR between platforms.", emphasis mine - there's really no work around this, if you want to be portable, you have to chose a baseline functionality that will run on all of them.

And while I admire Java as a server-side platform, I can hardly agree that there are mobile/client Java apps that do not suck, from UI point of view. At least I haven't seen many.

Yeah, the lowest common denominator is the main issue I see. PhoneGap attempts to solve it by allowing for native plugins. It's not a bad solution considering the vast majority of what apps tend to need fits into that lowest common denominator. It's the difficult 20% or so that has to be written for each platform as a plugin (and developers may not have the time, resources, interest or ability to port those plugins to anything other than their platform of choice). In some cases, other platforms may not even support the feature the plugin provides (you can't do push notifications on Mojo, for example).

Appcelerator takes a slightly different approach in that they give you some platform specific APIs built right in. So it's a bit more than the lowest common denominator. There are features you'd use only if you plan on running your app on iOS for example and others that are specific to Android.

In the end, most of these solutions only offer a subset of the features that are present in their supported platforms.

Notice all the fruit logos on their conference room laptops?

It does have storage APIs (which at first I thought they wouldn't have), yet no notification APIs for webOS devices. They only support iOS, BB and Android with those. Big miss, guys.

Yeah, big miss guys. Now that

Maybe H/P should open up Enyo to make apps for other platforms as well.

HP is having a hard enough time getting Enyo to be compatible with all webOS devices.

haha so true

"...but we're hoping (...) and a renewed interest in webOS through the TouchPad and upcoming Pre 3 "

"Renewed interest"? Did I missed something? Where exactly is it "renewed", apart from Precentral.net and webOSroundup.com (and not even in the user's community, by and large)

User's adoption? Nah... (probably insane pricing has something to do with that, but whatever) Excited reviews in technology press/daily press? Nah... no "renewal" here, either. Developers??? Enterprise??????

Jaysus, people, when this blog has been converted into HP's propaganda tube???

aww **** I was actually at OSCON but heard nothing about this! :-(

color me completely skeptical... it may work for some basic apps that just "run" but to take advantage of certain features of webos this aint gonna work.

We do have something that is cross platform tho..its called a browser and it was developed to address all this bs. ITs liek we started all over again with these downloadable apps thanks to the "future looking" apple. If you have a full feature browser you really shouldnt need as many apps on a device.

This isn't really a differentiator anymore. Playbook, Honeycomb, and WebOS all run Flash on dual-core processors. If it's that big a deal to you and you own an iPad, there ARE Flash-enabling browsers available - some even offered in the App Store officially.

Meanwhile, there's not going to be a Web version of, say, Garageband, or Crayola Color Studio or Infinity Blade or the T-Pain app or Soundhound or...

You're missing the point. The apps you describe are exceptions of apps that just "run". It is a simple app controlling a mic for the t-Pain app etc. I said those would be fine. Thats like me installing a recording app on my desktop... but I don't install banking apps or weather apps. Standards of web technologies are what makes this all work so its better to approach some app development where it belongs...which is on the web not in an app store.

Its as simple as this: I don't need a banking app on a device with a solid browser. I also dont need a slingbox app if slingbox would support more browsers. See the point?

The other point is that things like sliding panes are not going to automagically happen. Further would be leveraging just type or synergy etc. These are currently unique to the touchpad.

Basically the devices and OS's are different. This grand notion of code once push everywhere will only work in the most basic sense. Enjoy your T-pain app.

"Its as simple as this: I don't need a banking app on a device with a solid browser. I also dont need a slingbox app if slingbox would support more browsers. See the point?"

Sure, but I wonder if you see the point of tablets or why iPad is so explosively popular. People aren't buying every one Apple can possibly make to do banking or to check the weather or many other things a kazillion other devices - or their laptop - can already do.

Watch an iPad commercial. Look at a keynote when they demo Garageband or something like Infinity Blade. That's what people want. Stuff that pushes the envelope for mobile touch devices. Flashy games and Netflix comprise the vast majority of the top free and paid apps on the App Store right now. The best mobile browser in the world (since there is no Silverlight mobile to enable Netflix yet) doesn't mitigate that.

I was thinking as others were. That the apps might run on multiple platforms but not look native. But on PhoneGap's site it states: "Write a PhoneGap app once with HTML and Javascript and deploy it to any mobile device without losing features of a native app."

So I'll withhold final judgement until I see it in action.

If this works then this would be a good side business for someone. Port others apps for a cut of the action or a flat fee.

Appcelerator claims the same thing, but if you go to their web site and look at the "featured" applications developed on their platform, the majority are iPhone only, and the ones that aren't are only on Android and no other additional app catalogs.

This just isn't a panacea for lack of apps.

Appcelerator actually does work cross platform. We use it when our clients require native Android and iOS.

But you are 100% correct. These tools by themselves will not solve the "lack of apps" for a platform. Like I've stated earlier, NONE of our clients have expressed any remote interest in BB, webOS or WP7. They all want Android, iOS or both Android AND iOS.

PhoneGap has been available and production ready for quite some time (despite only becoming 1.0 recently). I have not noticed it changing developer interest in any specific platform.

Appcelerator just put out a report showing roughly 88% of developers surveyed are interested in iOS and Android. webOS only got 2% interest. While these tools make it easy to develop across platform, people are still developing only for the platform they think matters.

I can verify that it DOES work for Android and iOS. The webOS support has seemed underdeveloped so far. Not sure if that has changed in 1.0.

I'd have to agree on this one with guys I don't usually agree with. Those "one size fits all" solutions usually don't do anything well.

Try replacing your tool box with a Swiss Army knife. Even with its 25 tools, none of them are as good as a dedicated tool.

Pretty much a non-story from a webOS perspective.

It's not the same as a tool box vs Swiss Army knife.

There are lots of apps that can be built using this technology because it is not fixed. It comes with certain native support out of the box but allows you to add your own (or opened source) native plugins.

I agree with you on the webOS statement however. When we need an unsupported feature we write the plugins in native code and then plug it into phonegap. It is very unlikely that we'll write (and maintain) those native plugins for anything other than the popular platforms. It's just not cost-effective.

Wonder what Phonegap's business model is? Same as Java? Tools are for free but if you need help you need to pay us?

Interesting. There is a company called Rhomobile that aims to do something similar, but using the Ruby framework as a base, and I don't think they support WebOS yet.