Cross platform development tools for mobile apps

Developing web apps for mobile devices can be often be time consuming and complicated given the number of different platforms used on smartphones and tablets. At one time cross platform development was seen as a viable, yet somewhat undesirable solution, to the problem of developing apps for different platforms.

Applications developed with the early cross platform development tools were often clunky and clumsy since the developer had to limit the sophistication of the features in order for the app to work on different platforms. As cross platform development tools have become more sophisticated, the apps can now work as seamlessly as those developed solely for use on a single platform.

Following overview of powerful cross development include these three popular tools:

Sencha Touch is a powerful mobile app development tool that uses HTML5. This cross platform development tool can be used to create mobile apps for iPhones, Android devices, Kindle fire, and BlackBerry.

Some of the features include:

  • Automatic selection of the best scrolling mechanism for a particular device that ensures smooth scrolling for lists and other components
  • The layout engine uses HTML5 so sophisticated applications have layouts that respond, load, and layout quickly
  • The developer can wrap the app in the native shell of the device
  • The navigation view allows the creation of eye catching transitions between screens

Some of the architectural improvements implemented with Sencha Touch 2.0 include:

  • Class system from Ext JS4 that allows features like dynamic loading and mix-ins
  • History, back button, and deep link capability
  • The infinite carousel allows for multiple screens in a confined space

PhoneGap is a free open source framework for cross platform mobile application developments. It supports apps for iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Phone Web OS, Bada, and Symbian. Phone Gap uses HTML, Java, and CSS. Additionally, Phone Gap offers a free cross platform simulator and online training for web developers using their tool.

The features supported by the Phone Gap API include:

Accelerometer             Camera                        File                  Geolocation

Compass                      Media                          Contacts          Network

Appcelerator Titanium leverages the flexibility of open source standards with cloud services to develop mobile web applications for devices that use iOS, Android, or HTML5, which prevents operating system and device fragmentation. This platform allows cross platform application development more 70 percent quickly than using Java or Objective C. Its open standards allows the web app developer maximum flexibility.

Appcelerator Titanium’s Cloud services functions as Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS), so the developer only has to focus on developing their applications. The cloud services include push notifications, check ins, social media integration, and sharing. The platform provides access to more than 300 social APIs and locations. Additionally, Appcelerator Titanium also includes metric that can be customized for both actions and events. Developers who use this cross platform mobile web application development tool also can collaborate with more than 350,000 developers throughout the world that use Appcelerator Titanium.

The advances in cross platform development tools provide developers greater latitude for creativity with higher levels of functionality along with the ability to get their apps to market more quickly.

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5 Dec 2012, 1:22 p.m.

These are all fairly lightweight JS libraries, some aren't even really cross-platform. There are also great mature tools for serious development like MoSync, where you can use both JS and C++ when the going gets heavy.