Selecting the Right Hybrid App Development Framework

Posted in August 2017 by Adriana Blum

App Development

Proliferation of the internet and mobile devices has encouraged businesses to extend their reach globally. A growing number of enterprises are using the power of various mobile platforms to develop mobile apps that can be used by their customers. Moreover, enterprises are developing mobile apps that can be used by their employees and business partners to improve productivity.

Mobile App Development Challenges

Companies often face challenges while developing mobile apps because it is not feasible to develop separate apps for different platforms. Firstly, it is risky to be dependent on developers who specialize in developing an app for a particular mobile operating system. The below graph clearly reveals that there are at least a few mobile OSs that are available for today’s mobile devices.

Number of mobile and tablet devices currently in use Source: Digital Fractal

Secondly, customers often switch mobile phone brands due to the intense competition on the mobile device market. Organizations are meeting these challenges by relying on hybrid app development.

Hybrid App Development Frameworks

Typically, in hybrid app development, a web app is developed using common web technologies, and then it is featured in a thin client or a native container. A container ensures that the app functions well on various mobile platforms.

Hybrid apps are developed using hybrid app development frameworks that provide libraries and integration tools. Selecting the right framework is critical for closing the gaps between the performance of a native mobile app and the ease of development of a web app. The following paragraphs highlight the features of some of the hybrid frameworks that are popular among developers.

Ionic

Ionic is a free and open-source JavaScript MVVM framework that allows developing of interactive apps using HTML5 and AngularJS. Ionic, a relatively new entrant on the market, was built using Sass and hence developers have access to several UI components. These components facilitate the development of complex and scalable apps. Ionic is highly popular among developers because it offers a good built-in support for designing apps.

The framework has become even more popular due to the release of AngularJS 2.0. It has been specifically designed for mobile devices and it resolves most of performance-related issues. Ionic uses the Cordova JavaScript APIs for pushing the web code to a native environment. Ionic’s key strength lies in providing fast and consistent UI across platforms.

Sencha Touch

Sencha Touch is another app framework that is based on an HTML 5. Its main advantage is that it can provide a native look to a mobile app across different mobile platforms. However, a developer keen on learning Sencha needs to spend a considerable amount of time and effort while mastering the framework.

Sencha has been around for a long time, and it had a definitive advantage over its competitors until the product got merged with Ext JS. The merger also unified their licensing versions and frameworks. Developers wishing to use the framework for free can still use the free and open-source version of Sencha. However, professionals who want to produce a licensed mobile app have to pay fees for using the licensed version of Sencha.

In recent years, the popularity of Sencha has decreased and there aren’t many online discussions about this framework. Additionally, it is reported that the requirement of Sencha developers in the job market has gone down drastically over the past few years. Here are just some detailed statistics regarding Sencha’s dwindling demand. The decline in Sencha’s popularity can be partly attributed to the phasing out of the free version of the framework. The licensed and most effective version of Sencha come at a premium price that is far higher than that of its competitors.

Mobile Angular UI

Mobile Angular UI is a framework that relies on Bootstrap 3 along with AngularJS for developing highly interactive mobile apps. Bootstrap 3 offers more value because developers can use such components as switches, sidebars and overlays that are not available in previous versions of Bootstrap.

Moreover, app interactivity can be further enhanced by using AngularJS modules such as angular-animate, angular-route and angular-touch. Instead of relying on JQuery, developers should rely on directives that help to create an awesome user experience. Even though it is one of the up-and-coming frameworks, Mobile Angular UI isn’t as matured as other established frameworks. There is no detailed documentation available and search engines fail to list any websites that would serve as useful guides. Additionally, there isn’t a big community that actively engages in discussing issues regarding this framework. However, the framework’s popularity will increase with time due to its advantages. In fact, it is very easy to learn and hence can be regarded as one of the best frameworks for rookie developers.

PhoneGap

PhoneGap is one of the most popular mobile app development platforms that has been extensively used for packaging a mobile app before releasing it. As such, it is not a platform in a truest sense but a framework that serves as a backbone for other popular platforms such as Monaca, ViziApps, appMobi, Convertigo and Worklight. PhoneGap serves as a container engine that takes the code and presents it in a way that is compatible with the native OS.

PhoneGap helps to develop content that is developed and displayed in a web view. The combination of JQuery Mobile along with AngularJS is considered to be perfect for creating code that can be packaged and released using PhoneGap. Developers can choose any JavaScript framework that can be used along with PhoneGap. It is reported that the framework provides the necessary platform API’s for communicating with the phone’s hardware. Here’s a detailed table of various platforms’ APIs offered by PhoneGap.

In addition, customized plugins can be developed to meet various requirements. The open source version of PhoneGap is called Apache Cordova and uses the same codebase as that of PhoneGap.

The Road Ahead

Apart from providing cross-platform functionality, hybrid application development has a definitive advantage due to lower development costs, lower time-to-market and an easily accessible pool of developers. Organizations should carefully consider the above-mentioned frameworks to achieve these benefits.

Considering the latest trends, it is clear that hybrid mobile apps will continue to gain adoption. Hence it is recommended to thoroughly test and verify every hybrid mobile app irrespective of the framework adopted to develop it. Appropriate tools such as MonkeyRunner12 can be used to check app performance across multiple mobile devices.

Guest Author
Adriana Blum
Adriana Blum is a senior technology architect at a mobile app development company Iflexion, has over 12 years of experience in managing and delivering custom mobile solutions. She helps organizations automate processes, find new opportunities and create applications that bring high value to businesses.

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