Mobile HTML5 Reviews: PhoneGap vs Appcelerator Titanium

PhoneGap and Appcelerator Titanium are both very popular open-source JavaScript frameworks for packaging and deploying mobile applications. At Universal Mind, we have clients that leverage both and clearly both frameworks have countless successful implementations on numerous platforms. However, there are enough significant differences between the two products that it doesn’t really make that much sense to compare them directly. The fundamental difference is that PhoneGap is a web-based solution where Appcelerator Titanium is a pure JavaScript API that creates native code. At the core, they serve different functions for an organization.

At this stage we see many more PhoneGap implementations than Appcelerator Titanum for a few simple reasons. Appcelerator allows developers to utilize JavaScript to write a mobile application and compile down to native code for deployment. PhoneGap allows you to utilize HTML5 standards to write your mobile applications while also providing a JavaScript SDK to access native device capabilities. This clear differentiator is not one to be taken lightly. Simply put, if you want to re-use the same code that you deploy with your HTML5 enterprise desktop apps across other tablet, mobile and connected TV platforms, PhoneGap is the right choice.

PhoneGap is a web app that runs in a native web browser view. It lets you utilize HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript, as well as all of the frameworks, like jQuery Mobile, Sencha, etc. described above. Appcelerator is pure JavaScript that compiles to Native Code. PhoneGap supports more platforms but Appcelerator may give you better performance in specific instances.

I have dropped literally 30+ HTML5/CSS/JavaScript applications into PhoneGap, which run without issue on the desktop, and deployed them to Android, iOS, and Google TV without changing one line of code. PhoneGap clearly promotes the most re-use and provides the easiest transition from desktop to mobile.

Appcelerator is like writing a native application with JavaScript and the Titanium SDK. Thus, if your goal is to re-use your HTML5 code base across mobile, tablet, desktop and TV then PhoneGap has to be the natural choice. Appcelerator touts improved performance because they compile to native code but truthfully we don’t see many use cases where this is a differentiating factor. Organizations usually choose Native iOS or Native Android over a “Native JavaScript” option. PhoneGap also supports deployments to more device platforms than Titanium because it doesn’t need to compile to a native form. It is probably a more natural analysis to compare Native Platform development to Appcelerator.

PhoneGap:

  • JavaScript API that provides access to Native Functions
  • Supports HTML5/CSS3
  • Supports Web Standards & Re-use Across Enterprise Apps
  • Supports DOM based JavaScript Libraries/Frameworks
  • Supports the most platforms

Appcelerator Titanium:

  • JavaScript API that provides access to Native Functions
  • Compiles to Native Code
  • Could provide better performance.

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