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Native App or Web App? PhoneGap Offers a Bit of Both

phonegapUpdate! We now use a new tool to deliver mobile apps. Read all about Xamarin

Original Post:

We wrote a post last summer that discussed whether html5 would make native mobile apps obsolete. Since then, we’ve come across many similar discussions on other blogs and sources.

There’s no denying that mobile-friendly web (as opposed to native mobile) apps make a lot of sense in terms of cost and development time. However, there are marketing and functionality advantages with native apps over web apps, as pointed out in a previous post in which we covered cases where a native app makes sense.

We find some of our clients and their customers are more familiar with the concept of a native app that can be found in an app market/store. We’ve recently begun to use a great tool that lets us cost-effectively develop one mobile web app, “wrap” it as a native app in our choice of platforms, and deploy as if it were written natively.

PhoneGap is the open source mobile framework we’ve been using recently for our mobile app development projects. We’d like to share with you what we’ve discovered, through our work, as PhoneGap’s advantages and disadvantages.

PhoneGap Advantages

  • You can code in standard HTML, CSS and JavaScript instead of Objective-C or Java and build apps quickly.
  • Because you develop the app once, but can deploy in multiple platforms, the client saves time and money.
  • You are still able to tap into many of the device’s built-in features (location services, push notification, etc.).
  • The apps can have their own icons, rather than just being bookmarked, which offers a marketing & branding advantage.
  • The apps have a cleaner interface, operating similarly to native apps without a browser frame around them.
  • You can distribute the apps via app stores.
  • PhoneGap supports seven different mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, BlackBerry, webOS, Symbian, Samsung Bada and Windows Phone.
  • Because it’s open source, new modules are continually being developed.

PhoneGap Disadvantages

  • PhoneGap doesn’t support all built-in phone features.
  • Because it’s covering multiple platforms, PhoneGap is often one step behind the native platforms when new features are introduced.
  • PhoneGap apps look the same in all phone environments.  While they all look and function like a native app, the look is a little more generic—not necessarily like an iPhone app or an Android app.
We’ll definitely continue to use and experiment with PhoneGap to provide more affordable mobile app development for our clients. Have you given PhoneGap a try? We’d love to hear about your experience with this tool.