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The Truth about Cross-Platform App Frameworks Part II: Ionic and Appcelerator

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Last time we talked, the discussion was all about covering the finer points of IBM Worklight, PhoneGap, and Xamarin – and for good reason. These cross-platform frameworks offer a wide range of powerful and flexible assets for organizations that are looking to develop a branded app. (Read more here if you missed part one of this series.)

However, these are far from the only framework options on the market. This week, we’ll cover the pros and cons of two other leading members of the community – Ionic and Appcelerator. This way, you’ll have all the information you need to make a smart and informed decision regarding which framework is right for your app needs and goals.

Understanding the Ionic Platform

ionic

“Since its release, [Ionic] has gained a lot of respect in the hybrid and mobile development community.” – Tal Gleichger, Full-Stack Web Developer

In terms of embodying the sentiment surrounding the Ionic framework, these words from industry expert and full-stack web developer Tal Gleichger – a contributor on the AirPair developer community site – hit the mark in a big way. As one of the newest players in the industry, Ionic aims to “wow” users with a variety of impressive features; both within the framework and as part of a community support movement.

Specifically Ionic is known for the following positive attributes:

  • Provides users with full access to tools and UI components including Pull-to-Refresh, Infinite Scroll, and assorted tabs.
  • Relies upon an efficient and performance-driven framework, thereby creating a low learning curve and ensuring that development time isn’t bloated or excessive.
  • Strong community and feedback via the official Ionic forums.

Gleichger goes on to point out that this last benefit truly sets Ionic apart from the competition; potentially even rivaling the community of the Stack Overflow forum despite the framework’s youthful stance in the app development industry.

“[Ionic’s] Git repo has more than 10,000 stars, it is updated almost daily, and the Ionic Forum is fairly active – even better for asking questions than Stack Overflow.” – Tal Gleichger, Full-Stack Web Developer

Unfortunately, just because Ionic has quite a bit of positives going for it, that doesn’t mean that there’s not also plenty of concerns that come with this platform as well. Some of Ionic’s issues that you need to be aware of, according to IBM developer advocate Raymond Camden’s personal site, include:

  • Recently moved from beta to release candidate status, making Ionic one of the least tested platforms on the market.
  • Ultimately requires an intimate knowledge of Angular in addition to Ionic, as this framework relies heavily upon Angular coding and processes.
  • Prone to occasional bugs and hiccups, as with any framework still in its infancy.

As far as apps that make great use of the Ionic framework go, there are two stand out from the crowd: Moodle Mobile and JustWatch.

Moodle Mobile – the official app for Moodle – lets users build and share educational lessons, as well as connect with students who need additional interaction with an educator. The intuitive user interface also helps keep things consistent between the app and desktop experience.

Moodle Mobile

While Moodle Mobile is all about learning and hitting the books, JustWatch focuses on helping mobile users let off a little steam. Designed via the aforementioned Angular integration, this app offers listings of what’s trending and available on Netflix, HBO NOW, Amazon Prime Instant Video, and a plethora of other streaming services.

Just Watch

Accelerating Your App Development Schedule with Appcelerator

appcelerator

The other major framework showcased in this post – Appcelerator – also has plenty to offer for those who are in the market for a branded or original app. Primarily, the team behind the Maniac Dev blog point out that Appcelerator offers up a “native” style experience for the end user.

“…This creates apps that look, feel, and perform just like native apps coded in pure Objective-C because you are using native UI components.” – The Maniac Dev Blog Team

Specifically, if you select Appcelerator as your framework of choice, you can expect these benefits:

  • Creates a native experience for app users across multiple platforms.
  • Offers the ability to extend and cover virtually any native app feature via the Appcelerator cross-platform framework.
  • Similar performance to programming the app in Objective-C, all without having to learn this coding language.

With these undoubtedly powerful perks leading the way, it’s no surprise that Ricardo Alcocer of the official Appcelerator blog reports that this framework is one of the pillars of the development community, with over 600,000 developers around the world currently utilizing this platform.

However, Appcelerator – just like Ionic – is far from flawless. Via a post on his personal blog, industry expert Enrico Angelini explains that working with Appcelerator means overcoming a few important hurdles.

“Just as in everything else, in every design approach, in every technological decision, there are advantages and disadvantages [to using Appcelerator.]” – Enrico Angelini, App Development Thought Leader

Angelini highlights these primary concerns for those considering the Appcelerator framework:

  • Pricing requirements can be an issue; Appcelerator lacks access to “freemium” packages.
  • Appcelerator stands as one of the most complex and skill-intensive frameworks on the market.
  • Reliance upon the Titanium API creates flexibility limitations and a sometimes unintuitive development experience.

If you’re looking for a little more insight into the final product of an Appcelerator project, you won’t have to look beyond the respective branded apps of PayPal and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Both of these offerings provide a unique and engaging consumer experience that stands as worthy examples of Appcelerator’s potential.

As far as the PayPal app goes, this management platform allows users to handle virtually any facet of their private PayPal wallet or credit accounts. From paying bills to sending money to friends, family members, and businesses, this app covers the complete PayPal experience via a friendly and intuitive user experience.

paypal mobile app

With over 100,000 items for sale, the Bed, Bath and Beyond app brings the in-store shopping experience to customers on the go. For those who are actually shopping in a brick-and-mortar location, the app also allows users to scan items for more information and create or manage gift and wedding registries.

bed_bath_beyond

How Ionic and Appcelerator Stack Up to the Competition

Just like in our last discussion, the truth of the matter is that there is no singular “best” framework for developing your enterprise-level app. To achieve your goals on this front, you’ll need to decide which option is right for your interests and needs. With this in mind, we’ve expanded the handy chart from part one of this series to cover all five major app frameworks: Ionic, Appcelerator, IBM Worklight, PhoneGap, and Xamarin.

 

platform comparison

As always, it’s never a bad idea to take this information and combine it with the trusted advice of an expert team of app development professionals. This way, you won’t leave any questions, comments, or concerns on the table as you lay the foundation for a vibrant and successful foray into the world of branded apps.

About the Author
Kapil Khanna
Kapil Khanna is the Chief Technology Officer at Net Solutions responsible for driving technology vision, strategy, innovation and bleeding-edge solutions. His Expertise is in delivering complex and large scale projects, consumer and enterprise grade business solutions using next gen web frameworks, ESBs, SOA best practices, Cloud computing (AWS/SaaS), APIs( REST/SOAP service), leveraging industry best practices.

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