PhoneGap, the Mobile Platform Democratizer

Phonegap is an opensource development framework for mobile platforms. It allows developers to build native apps in HTML and JavaScript. Currently PhoneGap works for the iPhone and Android, but Blackberry and other OSs are on the way. You can get PhoneGap from Github or Google Code.

There are eighteen iPhone apps listed on the PhoneGap site. Though the apps are created with web technologies PhoneGap provides access to the phone’s client APIs and run in Objective-C. I tested both Roadtrippr and the fun Blok-Buster Lite. As promised the apps are able to use my phone’s location, accelerometer and multi-touch controls. Though the functionality was there both apps seemed a bit flat. This could have been related to their design, but I suspect that it is a PhoneGap issue.

Nitobi, the Vancouver-based company behind Phonegap, intends to make money via future services. Developers will be able to upload their HTML and JavaScript and get back a URL for a tested, compiled app for each platform. Nitobi won the People’s Choice award last week at the Web 2.0 Expo SF during our Launchpad event where they launched a desktop emulator for their supported patforms. Both Techcrunch and ReadWriteWeb covered the event.

PhoneGap still has a ways to go before it is the one framework to rule them all. Their Roadmap is below and they would be thrilled if any of you wanted to assist them. In the feature-platform matrix below green means done, yellow means in-progress and red means not currently possible (they’ll have to update the redblock in the Copy/Paste column of the iPhone for when 3.0 comes out).

phonegap roadmap

Though the Palm Pre isn’t listed it is definitely on Nitobi’s mind, but don’t expect them to support regular mobiles or even earlier smart phones. Only the latest generation of smartphones will be targeted.

There’s a gold-rush happening right now in mobile marketplaces. However not everyone is able to participate and not all platforms are receiving equal attention. PhoneGap has the potential to be a great democratizer. It lowers the bar for developers to create powerful applications out of very familiar web technologies. It also enables sites to support versions of their apps for mobile platforms other than the iPhone. If you don’t have an iPhone (or even if you do) you should be cheering this project along.

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topic: Programming
  • forever4now

    The BONDI guys should work with Nitobi, to ensure that the PhoneGap Javascript interfaces are compatible with the BONDI Javascript interfaces. That way, any PhoneGap-based apps developed now will theoretically run on any future BONDI-supporting smartphones.

    In other words, PhoneGap could potentially be viewed as the initial phase of a full BONDI implementation.

  • http://www.opengardensblog.futuretext.com Ajit Jaokar

    Interesting .. when I first read this I also thought of BONDI .. i.e. I am not sure if PhoneGap has a security framework for access to APIs. I will be interested to know more and cover on OpenGardens. kind rgds Ajit

  • http://bondi.omtp.org Nick Allott

    Yes – we have already spoken (BONDI and PhoneGap people). We need to work on the detail, but there is motivation both side to see these initiatives aligned.

    Nick
    CTO – OMTP:BONDI

  • Todd

    Don’t forget the much more powerful ANdroid equivilant called Oil Can!

    “OilCan: Greasemonkey on steroids for Android

    OilCan lets you customize any website by inserting JavaScript to change the website and help it reach into the Android world using intents. OilCan inserts some powerful buttons into normal websites, and that power comes from Android intents. We didn’t write a barcode scanner or the radar app into OilCan, but using intents we can launch those apps with parameters. We can request the Barcode Scanner app to scan something and return the code to us, or launch the Radar app with a specific lat/lon.”

    http://oilcan.jsharkey.org

    Also, it’s fairly trivial to convert the millions of existing Grease Monkey scripts into Oil Can!

  • http://www.5o9inc.com Peter Cranstone

    Interesting. We also have a Mobile Application generator – Maggie. Generates full binary code for Windows Mobile Pocket PC and Smartphone and Blackberry. It gives you full access to the mobile device API’s.

    Also we’re coming out with a new browser plugin for Windows Mobile. With this plugin installed you can now use JavaScript to access the device location api’s from within the browser. This means there is NO mobile programming required.

    To see a sample web page go to http://www.5o9mm.com/5o9JS/jsapi.htm – do a right click and view source. It’s JavaScript that reads battery life on a Windows Mobile phone without the need for a mobile app.

    Cheers,

    Peter
    5o9 Inc.

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    I agree with mobile marketplace opening the potential to making lots of money. Application that are created are useful but has technology continues to evolve apps will only get better.

    corbett gilliam
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    Desige size is no problem it can fit cell-phon
    Please let me to know you opinion
    Sincerely
    Shoshana Barlevav

  • http://MadeBySquad.com Jordan Dobson

    I’d imagine that most of the apps aren’t leveraging the capabilities of WebKit which might be why they are felt a bit flat.

    There are some great JavaScript libraries out there that run web apps smoother using WebKit than some traditional iPhone apps.

    From what I’ve seen of PhoneGap, it looks like the design is the issue and not PhoneGap itself.

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    I clicked through, and came to a page on construction – how strange, I thought! Construction has nothing to do with the subject I saw in my news alert.

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    I agree with mobile marketplace opening the potential to making lots of money.

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    Yes – we have already spoken (BONDI and PhoneGap people). We need to work on the detail, but there is motivation both side to see these initiatives aligned…

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    Interesting .. when I first read this I also thought of BONDI…

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    We need to work on the detail, but there is motivation both side to see these initiatives aligned.

  • http://www.mobilyadekorasyon.gen.tr dekorasyon

    Also we’re coming out with a new browser plugin for Windows Mobile. With this plugin installed you can now use JavaScript to access the device location api’s from within the browser. This means there is NO mobile programming required

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  • Son Nguyen

    For any visitors, the roadmap image on this page is old. Click on the link to see the most up-to-date one! PhoneGap fills a great need for single web-service provider like our ad management solution, AdSpeed.com, to port into a native app on different platforms. See my analysis on these gaps http://blog.trungson.com/2009/12/phonegap-fills-mobile-world-gap.html