I recently had the chance to attend a CommNexus event in San Diego, titled “PhoneGap vs. Titanium: What Is the Best Tool to Build an HTML5 Mobile App?”
Two panelists and a moderator were battling it out, comparing the two frameworks, mentioned benefits, and also demo-ed the mobile applications they had built.
What is Titanium Studio?
“Titanium Studio is an all inclusive powerful Eclipse-based IDE, that simplifies the mobile development process. Use Titanium Studio to rapidly build, test, package and publish mobile, desktop and web applications. Take advantage of new functionality like advanced code assisting, ACS integration, module management, Git integration, an enhanced publishing workflow and a full-featured editor. Manage Titanium projects, test your mobile apps in the simulator or on device, automate app packaging deploy to a public or private App Store and much more … all from within the new Titanium Studio.”
What is PhoneGap?
PhoneGap on the other hand really is an HTML5, CSS driven framework, targeting Web front-end developers. Mobile applications that are presentation heavy, like store fronts and catalogs, maybe good examples for apps that are easier and faster built with PhoneGap.
The pundits came from small development teams (1 to 3 developers) and it took them each about four weeks from start coding to publishing the app in the two app stores (Apple’s App Store and Google Play). Those were no hobbyists, but full-time professional programmers. Still the PhoneGap app was tested only on the iPhone, while the app built with Titanium, was only tested on a single Android phone. Neither app seems to have crossed the 100K downloads yet.
Each pundit defended his framework choice vigorously, I don’t remember who brought up which of these statements, but that doesn’t really matter:
- I don’t really like Java, I have not used it much since college
- I tried QT and JQuery, but we settled with PhoneGap
- I didn’t want to write the same code four times – for Android, iPhone, Web, and Mobile Web
- We really don’t care about different screen resolutions
- Our app is not built for Tablets
- Now that PhoneGap is owned by Adobe, we think we made the right choice
- Titaium is onwed by AppCelerator. Therefore, it’s not going away anytime soon
Each framework has its strengths and weaknesses and like mentioned above, the kind of mobile application and available developer skill set, may determine which tool is the better choice. However, the value of either tool beyond fast prototyping remains very much questionable to me.
The history of platform-independent GUI libraries and frameworks is full of little successful and/or abandoned examples.
The first one I remember was zApp, a framework that allowed you to build apps for Windows and Mac. So far, the last and maybe biggest blunder may have been Java. Java desktop apps, no matter if built with AWT, Swing, or SWT, could not gain a foothold on any Desktop OS.
The (little) time and effort that may be gained by using PhoneGap or Titanium Studio, may have to be paid back later, with much interest of course, when customers demand a full featured, native experience, or when your competition delivered just that.