Cross-Platform Hybrid Mobile Application Development – a Tool Comparison


Hybrid tools try to resolve the debate of …

“Should you write a mobile web application which will render on multiple platforms without significant change but won’t be able to take advantage on native features?”

Or

“Should you create platform specific native application to fully utilize the power of the device but increase your effort?”

The basic premise of hybrid approach is that you can have your cake and eat it to. In this approach you use the browser control and create a shell application which is then used to render HTML pages. Since most of the popular phone browsers are Webkit based (Microsoft is an exception), they are expected to have similar behavior making you task simpler.

To access the native features of the handset, you need to create APIs in the shell application which can be invoked through JavaScript coding. The tools and frameworks are expected to provide the shell applications and the APIs for different platforms.

At least that is what the theory says.

In practice there are several issues that need to be looked into.

  • There are differences between the browser and the browser control. Their behavior is not identical. Normally, browser controls lag behind and are buggier.
  • Especially for iPhone, there is a chance that hybrid applications may get rejected by App Store.
  • For the current versions, performance issues have been reported.
  • It takes lot of effort to make the hybrid application look and feel like a native application and that is additional effort for each platform – this negated the original value proposition.
  • HTML5 have already started providing access to several native features and we can expect it to become more comprehensive.

Finally, hybrid application kills the differentiation between different platforms. So, why would either Apple or Google be interested in promoting it?

As I have mentioned earlier (here it is), there are five approaches to cross platform mobile application development and many tools are available under each category. They are:

(1)    Mobile Web (JavaScript-CSS library), (see this)

(2)    Visual Tool (No access to Code), (see this)

(3)    App Generator (Native application for multiple platforms), (see this)

(4)    Hybrid App (Leverages embedded browser control) and

(5)    Game Builder (see this)

Here are 5 hybrid tools – the ordering is alphabetic.

1. App Mobi

2. NS Basic

3. Phone Gap

4. Quick Connect

  • Home page:  Link
  • Genesis: Started as a tool for iPhone
  • Version: 2.1.2
  • Licensing: MIT
  • Download: Link
  • Documentation: Hybrid API
  • Sample application: ?
  • Implementation: ?
  • Wikipedia: No
  • Additional: Blog
  • Article on how to use: PB Works

5. Worklight

  • Home page:  Link
  • Genesis: IBM has acquired Worklight
  • Version: 5.0
  • Licensing: Free 30 day trial
  • Download: Link
  • Documentation: List
  • Sample application: Getting Started
  • Implementation: –
  • Wikipedia: No
  • Additional: Video Demo
  • Article on how to use: –

Do let me know if there are any errors and omissions in the details I have provided.

JavaScript Libraries to go with your Hybrid application

If you are looking for lightweight JavaScript libraries to help you develop your hybrid applications, then do check this site out.

This site lists out host of useful lightweight JS frameworks. I did not have the patience to count but the number more than 160. The site also allows you to filter the list using one of the 30 listed categories.

Do check it out – http://microjs.com by Thomas Fuchs

[Update: Here is one more from Telerik]

Icenium

 

Link to homepage

 

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Comments
17 Responses to “Cross-Platform Hybrid Mobile Application Development – a Tool Comparison”
  1. Mobile Application Development says:

    Great listing information of each tool –

    RhoMobile.com

    Appcelerator.com

    Sencha.com

    Corona.com

    appreciable post

    thanks

  2. Jimmy says:

    We have huge information about mobile Apps. come check out our website, http://www.taoteapps.com, we have a lot information to help making your mobile deployment a success.

  3. nice use of tools here!! My friend and I are starting a company focusing on app development for mobile devices. We are developing our first game and we are wondering we could use any of teh tools available here.

  4. Udayan,

    I hope you will consider adding Formotus to your ambitious taxonomy of cross-platform options. We have native client apps for iOS and Android that are configured from the cloud and provisioned to host as many custom ‘apps’ as desired. I put ‘apps’ in quotes because these are really pure XML forms that are compatible with Microsoft InfoPath. Each XML form runs cross-platform on all supported devices.

    You might put us in your Visual Tool category because we are a no-code solution that you can create using InfoPath.

    You can create your own full-featured trial account for 30 days and check it out if you like:

    http://www.formotus.com/platform

    Thanks,

    -Glen

  5. Perfect listings and information for each tools! But you can also include below tools also as they have gained popularity in mobile market.

    RhoMobile.com

    Appcelerator.com

    WidgetPad.com

    Mosync.com

    Sencha.com

    Corona.com

    • Udayan Banerjee says:

      I had categorized the tools into 5 groups:

      – RhoMobile, Appcelerator and Mosync are covered under App Generator.
      – Sencha is covered under Mobile Web
      – Corona will get covered under Game Builder

      Yes, I have missed out WidgetPad.

  6. Peter Jones says:

    Hi.. thanks for sharing this informative post… Cross-platform Hybrid Mobile Application Development is really a good idea and effective too… !

  7. sams says:

    Hi,

    Nice writing on Cross-Platform Hybrid Mobile Application Development – a Tool Comparison.

    Thanks

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