What is PhoneGap
PhoneGap currently supports development for the operating systems Apple iOS, BlackBerry, Google Android, LG webOS, Microsoft Windows Phone (7 and 8), Nokia Symbian OS, Tizen, Bada, Firefox OS, and Ubuntu Touch. It supports the philosophy called “develop once deploy everywhere”.
The application in this framework can be developed using virtually any tool supporting web development. However, Adobe Systems integrated support for it in their flag editor called Dreamweaver. They provide also a scaffolding through a set of command line tools allowing for developers to create, configure and build projects for different platforms.
Finally, Adobe offers the PhoneGap Build which is a cloud service that allows developers to quickly build mobile applications and easily compile them without SDKs, compilers and hardware.
The use of web-based technologies leads many PhoneGap applications to run slower than native applications with similar functionality. For that reason Adobe Systems warns that applications built using PhoneGap may be rejected by Apple for being too slow.
Developers have also to consider differences between platforms. “Develop once deploy everywhere” may simply not work for users as much as it works for developers. Simple example, often forgotten by the developers is “Back” button that is not required by Android yet necessary in iOS application. Analyzing UI guidelines for different platforms one can find more differences that have to be considered.
PhoneGap and Education
In education we have to deal with diverse environment and limited resources. Because of the philosophy “develop once deploy everywhere” we can reduce cost of development process. The cost of the entire enterprise is significantly lower than the cost of building two, three or more native applications. At the same time it is a little higher than building a native app for a single platform because some modifications for selected platforms may be required and access to the app store has to be paid for each platform.
With still growing interest in e-learning, there is a temptation to simply take the e-learning content and provide it to the mobile learners using technologies like PhoneGap. It has definitely low cost, however, in most cases the such content will not fit the mobile context. The mobile learning requires smaller “chunks” of the knowledge that can be assimilated in a short time. Simple conversion of the e- into m-learning content may not be possible and is not recommended.
Building applications for each device–iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile and more–requires different frameworks and languages. PhoneGap solves this by using standards-based web technologies to bridge web applications and mobile devices. It allows to reduce cost of development and simplify the development process. Covering all major mobile platforms it allows to address the problem of inclusion and consistency in the diversified educational environment.
As a closing remark we would like to repeat after Atley Hunter that “PhoneGap is only the first step”. If the project is successful, the application should be developed as a native application to improve user experience. This process should be started from the most popular platform.