Technical Perspectives: PhoneGap
Technical Perspectives

Technical Perspectives: PhoneGap

Written by Bhartendu Sharma Posted July 7, 2015 by Carolina
Dave Wood

Bhartendu Sharma

Mobile application usage is at an all-time high. According to some reports, users spend an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes interacting with a mobile application per day. For the savvy business owner, this represents a prime opportunity to get in front of the customer through entertaining, useful, high quality applications.Given the wide range of available devices and operating systems on the market, it is no surprise that entrepreneurs and businesses looking to enter the mobile application market are interested in building apps that function on any device. In the early days of mobile application development, programs were built for each operating system separately. Although this method produced applications that functioned well on the target device, it also increased the time and costs associated with creating the application to the point that targeting every operating system became prohibitively expensive.

Business owners seeking to enter the mobile app market without breaking the bank were forced to limit themselves to one or two operating systems which effectively limited the potential profitability of the application by eliminating anyone who did not use the chosen operating system. Luckily, the technology used to build mobile applications has progressed to the point where it is possible to use one programming framework to create an application that functions well on all operating systems. One of the more popular frameworks available is PhoneGap.

What is PhoneGap?

PhoneGap, also known as Apache Cordova, is an open source development framework used by programmers to build cross platform mobile applications. PhoneGap employs a wrapper function to extend HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code to work natively on iOS, Windows, and Android mobile operating systems. The outcome is a hybrid web based application with a native feel. The HTML, CSS, and JS code is rendered through the mobile devices web browser creating an application that can mimic native User Interfaces (UI). Additionally, the mobile web browser does gain access to native device APIs, combining native and hybrid code fragments to render an application with a native User Experience (UE).


Using HTML and CSS coding, developers make mobile applications that look like regular mobile websites. Programing different CSS themes makes the web content look similar to native applications on specific operating systems. Using numerous UI frameworks like JQuery UI, Kendo UI, and Sencha simplifies the UI groundwork further. PhoneGap is browser based and performs precisely how a web browser is expected to behave, making UI programming a bit easier.

PhoneGap is able to be extended with native plug-ins that allow for developers to add functionality that can be called from JavaScript, allowing for direct communication between the native layer and the HTML page. The nucleus of the PhoneGap engine relies on the Open Source Apache Cordova platform. This platform allows for app developers to program hybrid applications that have access to a devices API. These APIs include accelerometer, camera, compass, contacts, geolocation, notifications, and storage functions that applications use to enhance the experience. When using Apache Cordova, apps can be built without using native coding. Cordova uses JS libraries to invoke device and operating system specific actions.

Supported Platforms

  • Iphone 3GS and newer
  • Android
  • Blackberry OS 6.0+
  • Blackberry 10
  • Windows Phone 8
  • Ubuntu
  • Firefox OS


Regardless of a developer's niche competency in a certain programming language, most software engineers do have some experience with HTML, JS, and CSS. They can leverage theses common skills to build an app that installs like a native application without having to know multiple native coding languages. Mobile devices and browsers are becoming much more compatible with JavaScript. Thus, PhoneGap is a great application to create and syndicate a hybrid app across multiple operating systems.


Unfortunately, using a wrapper and web-based technologies tends to produce heavier applications making them run slower than native applications with similar functionality. Some reseller stores may reject mobile apps whose functionality plus UI and UX feel is not at par with their native counterparts. Applications must be programmed to have consistent functionality and appearance if they are to be successful on a certain platform.

The inherent benefits of using PhoneGap to develop hybrid applications strongly outweigh the drawbacks. To overcome the obstacle of having multiple developers for each native platform PhoneGap allows mobile app proprietors to cut down on time and money to bring to fruition a successful application. Contacting a professional mobile and tablet software development specialist will help make the decision easier. They can suggest the applicable standards and efficient practices needed to develop a mobile application for any device. This depends on the intended use, audience, and functionality needed for your business, rather than simply suggesting the use of the newest coding tools available.

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