Monday, May 2, 2011

Utilizing Hybrid Toolkits for mobile development

In my previous posts, I touched on the fact that Mobile Web applications have a wide reach across a range of devices, but fail to benefit from the mobile device capabilities.  This is contrasted with application development using native SDKs which have full access to the mobile device, but are restricted to a single platform.

Hybrid toolkits find that sweet spot in the Venn diagram where the device capabilities and device independence meet.  Two such toolkits are PhoneGap and Appcelerator Titanium.  Each of these tools allows you to access the sensors and work with the device capabilities of Android and iOS devices.  In addition, PhoneGap has support for BlackBerry, WebOS, and Symbian with beta support for Windows Mobile.  Appcelerator is currently in beta on their Blackberry Support.

Each of these tools allow you to develop mobile applications with JavaScript.  PhoneGap applications are hosted in a Webkit browser.  Appcelerator applications benefit from compiling down to native controls for the destination platform.  Both tools allow developers to interact with the mobile devices including:  SQLLite databases, local storage, sound recording and playback, location (network/GPS), camera, orientation, vibrate, and accelerometers.

Both tools are supported by Android Market and Apple's App Store.  Both tools are free and open source.  This means that you can download them BOTH and try them out to see what you like.  Both toolkits have similar feature support on Android and iOS.  PhoneGap gets a nod for widest device support and Appcelerator gets a nod for native control support.  Right now, I've found that the PhoneGap documentation seems more complete and well written, but I think both tools have a tremendous amount of potential.

I'm working on some demo applications right now and hope to post some details soon!

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