WP7 joins iOS, Android, BlackBerry, WebOS, Symbian and Bada in the PhoneGap-supported platform lineup.
Producing applications that run on
multiple platforms has never been easy, which is why desktop-native
applications have tended to target only one or two platforms at a time. In the
past several years, developers have broadened their platform reach by writing
to the Web browser, a trend that's allowed for more platform diversity.
It's no surprise, then, that
developers targeting the mobile device space, which is blessed (or cursed) with
much greater platform diversity than we see on the desktop, have looked to Web
technologies to stretch a common code base to reach as many users as possible.
Among the more popular tools
for pulling off this Web-powered multi-device strategy has been PhoneGap, an
open-source mobile-development framework from Nitobi Software, which Adobe
acquired in October. When Adobe announced the acquisition, the company said it
planned to donate the PhoneGap code base to Apache, where the project will go
by the name Project Cordova. (It was briefly named Project Callback.)
PhoneGap 1.3 began shipping in
December, with Windows Phone 7 support as its headline feature. WP7 joins iOS,
Android, BlackBerry, WebOS, Symbian and Bada in the PhoneGap-supported platform
The PhoneGap approach enables
developers to target multiple platforms via familiar Web technologies, while
still accessing native features otherwise not easily available to Web-based
applications, such as accelerometer, camera or geo-location features. For a
rundown of the features supported on each mobile platform, visit PhoneGap's site
However, a gap remains-if you
will-between what's achievable with PhoneGap and with a fully native
development approach, particularly regarding the look and feel of an application
targeted at multiple platforms, versus an application using native controls.
Also, the speed with which a device can render the Web elements can be an
issue, depending on the vintage of the device. With that said, the approach is
well worth investigating further, particularly for corporate applications for
which broad device support is a top priority.
Putting PhoneGap to the Test
I tested PhoneGap 1.3 for WP7 on a
Windows 7 notebook outfitted with Visual Studio 2010 and the WP7 software
development kit. From the phonegap.com/start, I downloaded a project template
for WP7 that got me up and running with a basic application comprised of HTML,
The trickiest part was getting the
WP7 emulator running properly. The emulator would start up, but in order get
any applications working, I had to locate and install a Windows Display Driver
Model 1.1 (WDDM 1.1) for the graphics adapter in my test notebook.
On my regular Linux notebook, I
configured the Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE) with the
Android SDK and PhoneGap's Android-specific wrapper code, and was able to use
the same basic HTML and associated files from my WP7 project with Android's
For both platforms, setting up a
development environment was easy enough, but for an even simpler development
path, I tried PhoneGap Build, a Web-based service that provides developers with
a one-stop location for building and hosting PhoneGap applications. I created
an account on the service and uploaded the code for a test application that
would show off PhoneGap's integration with smartphone-native location services.
For my Android device, the process
couldn't have gone more smoothly. After I uploaded my code, the service kicked
off builds for Android, BlackBerry, WebOS and Symbian. The service does not yet
support WP7, and iOS builds, even for testing, require a signing key from
Apple. The service includes facilities for uploading signing keys for Android
and BlackBerry as well, although these aren't required for test builds.
When the builds were complete, I downloaded
the Android and BlackBerry files the service generated, and emailed them to my
devices. The Android build installed without a hitch. (I'd previously enabled
installation of unsigned binaries on this device.) However, the BlackBerry
installer threw an error. It turns out that I had to download the BlackBerry
installer directly from my test application's public page on the service, and
the application installed.
PhoneGap Build is free for a single
developer with one private application and unlimited public applications. The
service offers three paid pricing tiers, which range from $12 to $90 a month,
and allow for more private applications and project collaborators. The PhoneGap
provides additional price information.