The Best JavaScript Frameworks for Mobile Development

javascript-frameworks

JavaScript frameworks are great tools for building mobile apps. They’re efficient, lower development costs, and tend to have the security benefits that come with large, active communities of developers.

Deciding to use a framework is an easy choice. The harder question is, which framework fits the project at hand?

Here’s Concepta’s take on four of the best JavaScript frameworks for mobile development.

jQuery Mobile

This lightweight mobile framework is based on the popular jQuery library. Developers use jQuery Mobile for mobile website development as well as apps. It’s touch-optimized with a focus on broad compatibility (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry).

Eliminating cross-browser issues is one of jQuery Mobile’s biggest draws. The framework supports a huge variety of platforms, devices, display sizes, and screen resolutions. There’s no need to use a device-specific programming language. Instead, developers can use standards like JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, or AJAX.

Designing is simplified with the ThemeRoller customization toolkit. ThemeRoller offers a lot of tools that make editing themes easy, including drag and drop color and component changes. There are plenty of options for manipulating page layouts, headers and footers, and other design details.

Limitations

While jQuery Mobile makes it possible to perform complex scripting operations with little code, there are drawbacks. Performance varies by device. For example, jQuery Mobile apps lag noticeably on Android but run more smoothly on iOS.

Although the framework can outperform other mobile websites, it doesn’t outperform native apps. jQuery also lacks the full access to device features offered by other mobile app development tools.

NativeScript

NativeScript aims for a “write once, use everywhere” philosophy and comes very close. It’s an open-source framework for building Android, iOS, and Windows apps. With access to native API, it creates applications that behave like native apps on those platforms. Heavy code reuse between platform versions cuts the overall development time, too.

The framework supports the use of Angular, Vue.js, TypeScript, and Javascript. There are hundreds of NativeScript plugins, but developers aren’t limited to that toolset. They can integrate Node Package Manager, CocoaPods for iOS, and Gradle for Android.

Being open-source and free lowers the cost of working with NativeScript. Companies see extra savings through shorter development timelines.

Limitations

NativeScript aims for native performance. In practice, though, users experience some lag when opening apps. Also, critics point out that there are many inefficiencies in the NativeScript core that make debugging unnecessarily complicated.

It’s worth noting that plugins aren’t 100% verified and vary widely in quality. An inexperienced developer could accidentally introduce a vulnerability if they aren’t careful to check every plugin before use.

React Native

Facebook created this cross-platform native app development tool for its own use before releasing it to the public in 2015. Like NativeScript it features heavy code reuse, though the philosophy here is “learn once, write everywhere”. Once the tools are learned they can be applied to any platform.

React Native provides the native performance missing with NativeScript. It renders native UI elements for a “true to platform” feel that appeals to device loyalists while being less expensive to develop than a native app.

Real-time reloading leads to a smoother, more responsive development process where users can get faster feedback on changes as they work. This is one of the developer-friendly aspect of React Native that attract its large, active community of developers.

Limitations

Despite matching native apps in performance, React Native doesn’t fully support all native features yet. Users have to wait for Facebook to add those capabilities. There are generally fewer specialty and custom modules than some frameworks, as well.

The different design styles of Android and iOS will result in unpolished apps if a designer isn’t careful. Navigation is sometimes a little irregular regardless of skill.

Aside from technical considerations, some developers are wary of being totally reliant on Facebook. All signs point to a long future for React Native and Facebook is still putting resources into it, but the platform does still own the license and can theoretically revoke it.

PhoneGap

PhoneGap is a hybrid app development framework that is open source version of Apache Cordova. Users can build for multiple platforms with a single codebase, writing in HTML, CSS or JavaScript. Apps built with PhoneGap have decent access to device hardware. There are allowances for offline capabilities as well.

PhoneGap has a healthy library and a robust backend that makes development fast and easy. Developers don’t need specialty skill sets to use it; web development skills will give them access to all the framework’s features. Those qualities combine to make it a great tool for rapid prototyping on a budget.

Limitations

PhoneGap doesn’t offer a lot of UI widgets, but performance is far and away its biggest limitation. It suffers from noticeably lower performance than other frameworks.

Making the call

There’s no single framework that’s best in every case.

  • PhoneGap is great for rapid prototyping, but the performance issues may frustrate end users in the long run.
  • React Native and NativeScript take opposite approaches to cross-platform development which should factor into their choice for a specific project.
  • jQuery provides slightly lower performance but much wider compatibility, making it useful when end users can be expected to access the app through many kinds of devices.

Try not to go into a project with a favorite framework in mind. Look at the specific needs of the app, consider its purpose and who the end users will be, and discuss options with an experienced developer.

The wrong framework can lead to a frustrating, “square peg in a round hole” development process. The right one saves enough time and money to make it worth a little extra forethought.

Mobile Development Company in Orlando

As one of Orlando’s most renowned mobile development agencies, Concepta has a collection of clients who need fast, economical development.

Our developers stay on top of emerging JavaScript frameworks to be sure they have the right tool for any job, whether it’s building a client-facing app for The Learning Company or a sales portal for Anago.

Getting ready to build your next mobile app? Concepta has more than a decade’s experiences building dynamic enterprise apps for everyone from state-wide chains to national celebrities. We can guide you through the JavaScript frameworks that will help you meet- and beat- this year’s business goals. Reserve your free consultation today!

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The Technology Behind the Best Hybrid Apps

best hybrid apps

Gartner has predicted that by 2016 more than 50 percent of mobile apps deployed will be hybrid. Hybrid apps are cheaper to build, have shorter development turnaround, and are fast enough to meet the majority of companies’ needs. Native still offers a better experience, but a growing market of tools are helping hybrid apps near- or even match!- native performance.

The challenges facing hybrid apps revolve around performance and user experience. Consumers tend to be loyal to their favorite platform, as demonstrated by the popularity of “Android versus iOS” jokes. Hybrid apps in their basic form can’t provide the intuitive navigation users have come to expect from their apps.

Performance is a major concern. Users expect an app to open fully within two seconds, and 80% will stop using an app after three failures. Experts cite poor performance as the leading motivation behind the more than 26% of installed apps which are abandoned after the first use.

Fortunately, modern hybrid frameworks are working to compensate for these structural problems. No single framework has solved all of them (yet), but several have come very close. Here’s a rundown of the best frameworks around for building fast, functional hybrid apps.

Xamarin

Xamarin uses C+ to build cross-platform mobile apps. It creates a platform-specific user interface layer, giving apps the familiar look and feel of their preferred platform.

The unique approach to coding also allows apps built with Xamarin to access specific-device features. Need to use the compass on an iPhone? No problem. Want the accelerometer to track movement on an Android phone? Done. Combine that with the fact that Xamarin is natively compiled and it’s easy to see how it simulates the power of a native app.

Maintenance and development is relatively simple. Developers can share as much as 75% of the code across platforms, which shortens the development cycle.

The downside is that Xamarin isn’t suitable for graphics-intense applications. It also demands a much higher skill level, has limited access to OS libraries, and is slow to support new platform updates. Finding a developer with the experience needed to build good apps with Xamarin may be difficult.

Appcelerator Titanium

Appcelerator Titanium uses common programming languages (JavaScript, HTML5, jQuery, CSS3). Its main selling point is that it dramatically shortens app development timelines. Developers can push out prototypes, get feedback, and adjust more quickly than with other frameworks. It also allows access to device features like camera, accelerometer, compass, microphone, touchscreen, and GPS.

However, the tradeoff for that speed is flexibility and performance. Though it bills itself as a freemium solution the free version is too unstable to use. Developers need to buy upgrades for it to work. Some developers have criticized .

PhoneGap (Cordova)

Companies that prefer a more traditional approach turn to PhoneGap. PhoneGap is an open-source cross-platform framework that lets developers build mobile apps using HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

There are two main advantages to PhoneGap. First, many organizations already have the in-house HTML/ JavaScript experience necessary for PhoneGap apps. Toolkits like JavaScript toolkits like jQuery Mobile, Sencha Touch or Dojox mobile help use those existing skills to develop apps for different mobile devices.

Second, PhoneGap has powerful APIs for accessing device functions. It can access features other basic hybrid frameworks can’t, such as the address book, camera, accelerometer, and more. The enthusiastic PhoneGap community continues to offer support in the form of tutorials, enhancements, and shared case studies for fine-tuning its use.

PhoneGap doesn’t handle background threads well, though. Applications that rely on background threads, particularly those that are analyzing user input as it’s entered, won’t run smoothly. In general the performance surpasses most hybrid frameworks, but performance can still be a little lacking as the app’s complexity grows.

While PhoneGap can approximate a native feel many developers have complained about it taking longer to fine-tune. There’s less code-sharing than solutions like Xamarin, which makes for slightly slower development cycles.

Ionic

Ionic is an HTML5 hybrid mobile framework with AngularJS components. It allows development in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Ionic is a solid framework with lots of community support. It’s easy to maintain and offers some native features like push notifications. There’s also a huge library of plugins to access native APIs.

On the other hand, Ionic can be slow compared to PhoneGap or Xamarin. In-app execution can lag. Structuring navigation is generally considered unnecessarily complex; the UI router can be hard to maneuver.

Users note that the UI has a distinctly iOS feel. This can be off-putting to those who dislike the iOS format (namely, everyone except iOS users).

Conclusion

Different frameworks work for different solutions. Xamarin best approximates the look and feel of a native app but has high technical expertise requirements. PhoneGap is open source and offers a near-native experience, but has some situational performance limitations. Ionic has a large library of plugins and lots of support, but leans towards one UI style. Appcelerator Titanium has lots of performance flaws but is perfect for rapid prototyping.

For more info on this subject, check out our blog post, Should You Choose Titanium, Xamarin, or Native for Your Next Mobile Application.

If you’re looking for other ways to build a mobile app and going the hybrid route is not one of them, you might want to consider creating a mobile web or native app instead.


Unsure which framework to use for your next app? Contact Concepta for a free consultation!

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