PhoneGap Simplifies iPhone, Android, BlackBerry Development

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-03-13 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Nitobi Inc.'s PhoneGap is catching on with smartphone application developers who want to avoid the pitfalls of writing to different phone platforms. PhoneGap is a development framework that lets HTML and JavaScript developers build native mobile phone apps that take advantage of native capabilities of the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

Nitobi's PhoneGap is catching on with smartphone application developers who want to avoid the pitfalls of writing to different phone platforms.

In a video on the PhoneGap Web site, Andre Charland, CEO of Nitobi, said, "PhoneGap is a development framework that lets HTML and JavaScript developers build native mobile phone apps that take advantage of native capabilities of the phone. And it will run on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, and eventually it will run on other platforms."

In essence, Nitobi is building out a "write once, run anywhere" platform for mobile application development, with the first three devices supported being the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. Rob Ellis, one of the co-creators of PhoneGap said, "The idea is you write one code base and it should work smoothly on all three devices."

At a recent meeting of the New York Linux User group, (NYLUG), Nathan Freitas, a mobile phone application developer with the New York-based Oliver+Coady design and development firm, encouraged developers to try the open source PhoneGap framework for building applications for the Android and iPhone. "PhoneGap is a developer tool that allows Web developers to take advantage of the core features in iPhone, Android and BlackBerry SDKs [Software Development Kits] using JavaScript."

According to the PhoneGap Web site, "The purpose of PhoneGap is for PhoneGap to cease to exist... Today, mobile development is a mess. Building applications for each device--iPhone, Google Android, Windows Mobile and so forth--requires a different development framework and programming language. As such, phones and other mobile devices have become second-class citizens. We aim to change that by enabling Web technologies to work with native device features such as geo-location and accelerometers. In PhoneGap, we're building a cross-platform framework for device-neutral mobile development."

Ellis said the idea for the PhoneGap technology came out of an iPhoneDevCamp event in San Francisco. Brock Whitten, PhoneGap's co-creator, said by the end of the second day of iPhoneDevCamp, he and Ellis had the concept for the software down and geo-location features exposed.

As for why the need for PhoneGap, Ellis said, "There are not a lot of Objective-C developers..." Objective-C is a primary language used to develop iPhone and Mac OS applications. "We're all Web developers here," Ellis said of Nitobi. "And there are more Web developers than Objective-C developers."

Freitas said, "Apple had half of a good idea when they launched the iPhone with only the mobile Web SDK, but it was missing access to all the killer features that make the device so great. PhoneGap picks up where Apple left off, with offline access, GPS and camera support, and a model that allows mobile Web apps to be distributed inside the app store just like their native brethren."

Moreover, added Freitas:

"Except for the most intensive gaming apps, most the functionality an iPhone developer needs is available through HTML, CSS and JavaScript, all powered by the standards-based WebKit browser. If you can build apps -- using open, cross-device standards and tools -- that look and act just like the ones built with proprietary, closed tools, why not be open? PhoneGap gives you that choice, allowing me to support iPhone and Android nearly simultaneously."

Indeed, "PhoneGap has cut my iPhone development time in half, which has been good news for my clients," Freitas said. He also said that when he builds an iPhone application he typically builds an Android version, too.

Dion Almaer, co-founder of Ajaxian.com, said:

"Ben and I have been promoting PhoneGap as a great solution for Web developers to create applications with the technology they know and love, without having to jump off of the cliff to other proprietary worlds. PhoneGap is still new, but gets more impressive every day."

Charland said PhoneGap is open source and "will always remain free and open source." The technology is licensed under an MIT license.

"With PhoneGap today, just from JavaScript you can get access to geo-location, accelerometer, vibration, access to photos, contacts, offline storage and more features coming out," Charland said. "Most developers have been exposed to HTML and JavaScript, and anyone can build a Web site -- it's the same idea with PhoneGap." 

 
 
 
 
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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