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Top 4 Hybrid Mobile App Frameworks

While some developers prefer to work natively to develop apps for specific mobile platforms, this can prove time-consuming, requiring an extensive knowledge of diverse programming languages, and can often not fit the business case in question. That’s why many developers as well as their enterprise clients are now turning to hybrid mobile app frameworks that allow anyone familiar with HTML, CSS, or JavaScript to create apps that work seamlessly across all mobile platforms.

This results in a number of benefits. The app is designed as a regular responsive web app that fits different screen sizes using the components that come with the mobile HTML5 UI frameworks. JavaScript APIs then allow access to native hardware elements such as a camera or accelerometer. Finally, the app is compiled into platform-specific native packages and can then be deployed across devices or released on app stores. The result is a number of increased efficiencies all along the development pipeline.

The question is – which hybrid mobile app framework to use for your mobile development projects? Below is our Top 4 list.

Ionic

The leader in the independent development field is arguably Ionic. Ionic’s development team keeps the framework regularly updated, so it’s generally ahead of the competition. Further, Ionic is free, while its closest rivals are costly. In addition, it’s open source and thus sports a massive environment of resources from the development community.

Other features include out-of-the-box support for material design, a wrapping Angular framework, and Cordova utilization that is native to iOS, Android, Windows phones, and other platforms. What’s more, the framework is maintainable, scalable, clean, easy to read, and comes with a massive mobile-optimized library of CSS (powered by SASS, HTML, and JavaScript components).

With a rich set of features and tools that allow interactive apps development that has never felt easier, Ionic is at the top of its class.

Sencha Touch

Ionic’s biggest competitor is Sencha Touch. This enterprise-level framework gives you everything you need to build cross-platform mobile web apps from start to finish using just HTML5 and JavaScript. In a sense, in the large enterprise commercial space, Sencha Touch is bigger than Ionic and generally more widely used. And while it comes with a large number of products that work in tandem with it, these carry a relatively high cost.

At the heart of the Sencha Touch platform is ExtJS, one of the most popular JavaScript frameworks. It also comes with a plenty of widgets that look and feel native to the leading platforms. Finally, Sencha’s drag-and-drop HTML5 visual application builder has a satisfying array of templates, while custom components are easy to build into the library for future use.

Overall, while Ionic is the preference for indie developers and freelancers, Sencha is preferred by enterprises.

Intel XDK

If you’re looking for something newer and a little different from the established players, you can’t do better than trying Intel XDK. It includes all the regular range of tools for development, emulation, and testing, as well as debugging and cross-platform publishing features based on HTML5. It also comes with an impressive library of ready-to-use app templates using  the “app framework.” This is an open source, Intel-supported JavaScript framework that supports the look and feel of all the major mobile devices. Finally, Intel XDK supports jQuery Mobile, Bootstrap 3, and Topcoat UI frameworks.

Because of its clean workflow and diverse features, as well as the fact that it can be installed on Windows, OS X, and Linux, Intel XDK is increasing in popularity. With the ability to build apps for iOS, Windows Phone, Android, Tizen, and Firefox OS, as well as Amazon, Facebook, and Chrome web apps, it’s a real up-and-comer in the market. And perhaps most importantly, developers are actually reporting that working in Intel XDK is the easiest out of all the hybrid frameworks.

Kendo UI

The main development tool giving Sencha a run for its money in the enterprise market is Kendo UI. Using this framework, you can make any web or hybrid mobile app with just HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. jQuery is a big aspect of Kendo, so it comes with over 70 jQuery widgets. Kendo can also be integrated with Angular and supports Bootstrap.

Kendo comes with a great set of design themes as well as a theme builder for custom themes. The excellence of this feature is one of the things that really sets Kendo apart from the competition. Because it’s maintained and supported by Telerik, Kendo is embedded in a large open-source development community and comes with a number of commercial licensing options. However, given its open-source roots, you are limited in terms of the features and technical support you can get with Kendo.

Major companies use Kendo – Sony, NASA, Microsoft, Volvo, and Toshiba to name a few. So it’s a real competitor and a great option for enterprises.

Conclusion

Choosing a hybrid mobile app framework for developing cross-platform mobile apps depends on three things – who you are, what you want from a development platform, and what you want your app to be in the end.

If you’re an independent developer or a small company, you might want to go with Ionic or Intel XDK. Choosing between these depends on whether you want to develop inside a larger, more established environment and feel comfortable with complexity (then go with Ionic), or you like the thrill of a newcomer and are interested in ease of use (then go with Intel XDK).

If you’re a relatively large enterprise, then you might want to try Sencha Touch or Kendo UI. Both are more expensive, but they come with a huge set of templates, themes, and tools. Sencha Touch is going to have the superior technical support and a wider array of features, but Kendo UI is going to come with the advantages that come with an open-source development community and a better custom theme creation tool.

In short, if you’re looking for a great hybrid mobile app framework, you can’t go wrong with one of these industry leaders.

Adriana Blum