Mobile Development Frameworks Overview. Understand the pros and cons of using different mobile development frameworks for mobile projects.

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1 Mobile Development Frameworks Overview Understand the pros and cons of using different mobile development frameworks for mobile projects.

2 Mobile Solution Frameworks One of the biggest technological decisions that any company much face when investing in mobile is deciding which technological base to use. There is no clear silver bullet, but a set of technologies that have their pros and cons. With this in mind, the decision then has to become which technology can offer the best solution. That solution is very often dependent on the context: how many platforms need to be supported, how many users, how demanding are those users and what budget is available. This e-book gives an overview of the different frameworks that are available and summarizes their different pros and cons based upon Digital Possibilities experience and that of the wider mobile development community.

3 Overview of Different Frameworks that can Create Mobile Solutions ii

4 Development Philosophy Comparison Each different approach has pros and cons that are typical of that approach more than the particular frameworks themselves. We give that overview here Web Frameworks Converters Leverage existing HTML, CSS and JavaScript knowledge, so easier to begin with. Good for smaller projects. Several different frameworks available. Can be accessed from within an application or a mobile browser. Can be accessed across multiple devices. Provides closer to native performance than Web Frameworks. Good for small to medium-sized projects. Leverage know languages such as JavaScript. Compiles to many platforms. Performance is often perceptively worse than native. Each device needs to have some UI tweaking to provide a nearer native feel. Application complexity drives costs due to device and platform fragmentation. Reliant on Converter supplier for API updates and bug-fixes. Complex applications become harder to maintain. UI tweaking required for different devices. Native Best possible performance. Direct access to the latest UIs. Well designed IDEs and Frameworks. Solid Object Oriented and UI Frameworks speed development. Best option for code maintainability with larger and more complex applications. Very little code re-usage between platforms. Makes supporting multiple platforms costly. Can require platform vendor to give access to customers for application distribution. iii

5 Chapter 1 Web Frameworks Web frameworks are often very attractive to organizations that desire creating a mobile presence. The perception is that they allow a multi-platform mobile solution with a high-degree of code reuse in technologies that the organization may be very familiar with. For many projects, these advantages are clearly sufficient to make the choice of a web framework clearly a better one. However, web is not a panacea and comes complete with its own set of disadvantages. Web technologies were created to display information on a computer screen in a browser, and have been adapted rather successfully to provide applications through that same browser. This section gives an overview of the different major mobile frameworks available for the web, with the different advantages and disadvantages they present. However, when applied to mobile, web platforms have disadvantages. One is the amount of data that needs to be delivered over often congested networks. Then the device needs to interpret both application and UI/visualization data at runtime. This can lead to a perceptible lag for users. Indeed, such technological giants as Facebook are currently rewriting their web-based mobile applications in native code to meet their users demand for a much faster, smoother and more reliable experience. Yet Facebook is also a poster-child for what can be achieved within the mobile browser. Web frameworks are generally best adapted for simpler applications that require a presence on multiple device types or in both a webbrowser linked from social networking sites and as a standalone application.

6 jquery has gained a lot of popularity on the web an is used in many websites and web applications. Its functions have been extended with a mobile framework designed to enable easier implementation of touch-enabled interfaces. Movie 1 Example jquery Application Based on ios interface concepts, so very familiar to users Web is slower at reacting than native Design is very focused on categorized data, so use of the built in models is limited. Requires HTML. jquery and jquerymobile libraries need to be downloaded. Slower than native for every page loaded. CSS styling has limited options, so sites can look similar. Applies jquery mobile tags to existing HTML. Easier to enhance HTML code with specific mobile mark-up. Easier to implement than Sencha, poorer performance. Requires cross-platform testing to account for idiosyncrasies between platforms. Platform fragmentation and validation drives costs. Video Sourced from jquery.com 5

7 Sencha Touch has been designed from the ground up to enable the creation of mobile applications using web technologies, specifically JavaScript. It was initially designed for the iphone and Android operating systems, but has since been extended to the BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Movie 2 Example Sencha Touch Application Based on ios interface concepts, so very familiar to users. Can produce good categorize data applications. Web is slower at reacting than native Feels like a poorer quality application Design is very focused on categorized data, so use of the built in models is limited. Based upon JavaScript libraries with some HTML. jquery and jquerymobile libraries need to be downloaded. Slower than native for every page loaded. Better performance than jquery, harder to implement. JavaScript is a complex language which may require adaptations across different platforms. Hard to make the design fit into Sencha s patterns, particularly with JavaScript limiting this. Video Provided by Digital Possibilities 6

8 Dojo has been used and supported by IBM for its Enterprise application business. This provides support to the framework and some functionality that can be useful when implementing enterprise functionality; such as graphical functions. Movie 3 Example Dojo Application Adapts look and feel to the device that is being used, with different concepts for ios and BlackBerry for example. Can produce good categorize data applications. RIM Blackberry applications made in dojo are relatively popular. Based HTML tags added to class tags. Web is slower at reacting than native Design is very focused on categorized data, so use of the built in models is limited. Some of the graphics are more bling than useful. Provided graphics are very basic, which may be fine for enterprise applications but not for B2B apps. Javascript libraries need to be downloaded for each page. Slower than native for every page loaded. HTML and different look and feel across devices will require some tweeking. Video Provided by Digital Possibilities 7

9 PhoneGap supports all HTML web-based mobile applications, including those from frameworks. It enables such applications to be packaged as native applications and to access some of the hardware features of devices such as the camera and gyroscopes. Movie 4 Example PhoneGap Application Allows mobile oriented web-based applications to be made available as native applications. User can access some hardware features from a web application. JavaScript-based APIs can be used to access hardware functionality. PhoneGap comes with its own packager of native applications. Distributes to: ios, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. Web is slower at reacting than native Some of the graphics are more bling than useful. Provided graphics are very basic, which may be fine for enterprise applications but not for B2B apps. Doesn t have access to all hardware functionality. Won t have access to latest functionalities until PhoneGap implements them. Additional time to package apps as native applications and potential complications. Video Provided by Digital Possibilities 8

10 Chapter 2 Converters The promise of converters is that they can produce native code for many platforms hence making development cheaper, but providing excellent performance. To some extent, converters today do permit this ideal solution, and can generate native applications from a core code base. However, as are certain drawbacks and converters tend to be more applicable in a given set of circumstances. Converters are more popular for game development, particularly for complicated 3D games. Games do generally tend to be more platform independent in that they have their own interface look at feel that is very different from those of the standard mobiles. Converters allow developers to create applications in a language that is non-platform specific, and then convert the code into native applications for different targeted platforms. It is a promise of write once, use anywhere. For non-game projects, converters can also work for simpler applications and can be good for prototyping and proofs of concepts.

11 Titanium is a commercial mobile application development platform that allows developers to write mobile applications in JavaScript and then convert them into native binaries for distribution to devices. Movie 5 Example PhoneGap Application Similar to native experience. Lack of tuning of applications to ios and Android specific interface conventions, so applications may seem strange. Apps can experience more lag, especially in Android, than with native applications. Javascript-based within an Eclipse-style IDE In-app purchasing buggy. Lower overall cost when targeting both Android and ios applications. Don t need to maintain MVC pattern. UI difficult to customize. Code maintainability suffers with increasing app complexity. Complex applications require more complex bug-fixing, driving costs. Strong JavaScript skills required. Video Provided by Digital Possibilities 10

12 Adobe Flashbuilder was arguably one of the first multi-device converter frameworks available; and was temporarily disallowed by Apple. Flashbuilder complies to native, providing a more responsive experience than web frameworks. Build graphically attractive UIs across multiple platforms. UIs libraries are not similar to the natively provided libraries, so a lot of work required to replicate that looks and feel. Apps may feel very alien to each platform. Complies a native application from within the IDE that can be packaged for app stores. More suited to game or promotional applications. Lots of developers with Flex and ActionScript knowledge. Strong Adobe development tools. UI building may take more time if a native look and feel is required on each platform. Debugging flash apps can be challenging. 11

13 Corona SDK is a cross-device converter that creates a native application. It is more often than not positioned as a game-centric SDK for 2D relatively simple games. It uses a particular game-centric development language called Lua. Creates perfectly acceptable 2D games. Good response times due to native packaging. UIs libraries are not similar to the natively provided libraries, so a lot of work required to replicate that looks and feel. Apps may feel very alien to each platform. Compiles a native application from a scripting language. Corona is a small company. Very dependent on Corona fixing bugs and releasing API updates to keep up with device vendors. Lua scripting language is considered to be easy to learn. Lack of Lua experience on the market. Complex applications may run into code maintainability issues. UI building may take more time if a native look and feel is required on each platform. 12

14 Unity 3D is the preeminent SDK for producing cross-platform 3D games, and is used in some of the largest games development companies in the mobile space. Some of the leading 3D games built using Unity. Generated applications are fast. Not useful (overkill) for enterprise or datadriven applications. Compiles an Objective-C application from JavaScript or C#. Objective-C can be tweaked before submitting to the app store. Selected by Electronic Arts. Stable, solid code. Great IDE environment that works in tandem with Xcode. Apps can be packaged from Unity s IDE. Long learning curve. Platform has a per seat cost, although negligible compared to game development costs. Too expensive for small hackers, more accessible to medium and large development companies. Support community-based, not always very responsive. 13

15 Xamarin has a rather unique approach, where it suggests building all the application logic within a core, which should represent 80% of an application, and then suggests developing the remaining 20% UI functions in native code. This represents the best choice for multiplatform code reuse and user UI. Movie 6 Example Xamarin Application Interface is very fast. Designed with each platforms unique conventions in mind. A C# development environment and IDE. Allows deployment from the IDE. Permits existing Objective-C code to be imported. Dependent on Xamarin for API updates. C# is a relatively fast language to code in. Objective-C experience is good to have. Extra cost to develop multiple UIs for different platforms and devices. Video Provided by Digital Possibilities 14

16 Chapter 3 Native Native development is often the best choice for applications that are focused on one platform. Native frameworks have been developed to allow rapid development of enterprise quality software. Unlike web technologies where a stack of different languages has been evolved from an information display purpose to creating applications, native frameworks have been designed from day one to build applications. In experienced hands, this means that applications can be rapidly built using these frameworks. Native development also gives direct access to platform APIs and features that converters and web frameworks may not have access to; or may not have full control of. Developing with native code, IDEs and frameworks means developing applications in the way that platform vendors intended. This brings a host of benefits including speed, simplicity and access to the latest APIs.

17 Native Code is written within particular coding environments. Apple provides Xcode and Google the Android SDK environment for eclipse. Windows and RIM have their own environments and development platforms too. Each device has its own development language and set of API frameworks. Interface is very fast and smooth. Access to standard interface UI controls and elements. Full access to public platform APIs for the best control over the device. Avoids having to deal with too much fragmentation. Each platform has its own API frameworks and device programing languages that are not inter compatible. Single-platform implementation is generally faster with a native SDK. Code is at its most maintainable with full MVC philosophy underpinning it. Multi-platform implementation can be slightly cheaper with other frameworks. Native developers are scarcer, so can be more costly. 16

18 This guide was brought to you by: Digital Possibilities offers a unique combination of services to help you design, build and launch the app that will enable you to seize the opportunities of the mobile era. For more mobile industry insight, check out our blog: digital-possibilities.com/blog

19 Sources Used to Support Material in this publication: building-for-mobile-jquery-mobile-and-sencha-touch-framework-comparison savagelook.com a-deeper-look-at-appcelerator-and-phonegap ViewTopic.aspx enricoangelini.com 5-pros-and-cons-of-appcelerators-titanium Mobile-Cross-Platform-Decisions To watch stackoverflow.com which-is-better-for-building-a-game-corona-sdk-or-xcode What-are-the-drawbacks-of-the-Corona-SDK nocreativity.com native-development-titanium-corona-unity-phonegap-and-more What-are-the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-using-unity3D-to-create-commercial-games-in-iPhone-or-Android stackoverflow.com appcelerator-vs-monotouch-which-one-is-best-for-a-net-developer

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