Choosing the best Mobile Cross Platform solution: Why Sencha? (Part 1)

Choosing the best Mobile Cross Platform solution: Why Sencha? (Part 1)

I’ve been mobile app architect since 2008, back when iOS 2.x was first released and over the years I’ve had a chance to work with almost all major Native/cross platform mobile development solutions. Since I’ve had a chance to work with all these cross platform solutions, I thought I’d publish my thoughts on each of them and the differences between them, in case that information proves useful to other mobile app developers.

This is the first part of that blog series. In this first post, I’m just going to compare the two broad categories of cross platform mobile solutions that are currently available. Typically, all cross platform mobile solutions can be divided into following two categories:

HTML5 based cross platform mobile solutions. Some of the more popular development tools/frameworks in this category include:

Cross-platform mobile solutions that generate native code. The more popular development tools/frameworks in this category include:

The former group makes use of the device browser’s HTML5 capabilities while the second group generates native device code and runs the app just like a native application (since the code is running directly on the device). Apps developed using tools/frameworks from this second group therefore, provide the best user experience and performance.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that apps developed using HTML5 based cross platform mobile solutions fail to provide a smooth user experience and performance. That is just a myth that most people seem to believe. One that was surprisingly supported by Mark Zuckerberg, as Facebook had initially developed its mobile app in HTML5 but later on moved to native development.

In response to the Facebook CEO’s comments about HTML5, Sencha (one of the most popular HTML5 cross platform mobile solutions) developers responded by creating a fastbook app written in HTML5 that mocked the Facebook app’s features, since their app was five times faster than the actual Facebook HTML5 mobile app. These Sencha developers also wrote a blog on the official Sencha website explaining the reasons why most HTML5 mobile apps fail in performance (

The key reason they explained, is that most teams take adopt a “website” like development approach for HTML5 based apps rather than using mobile development approach. Below is the excerpt from their blog post that explains this problem.

“So, when Mark Zuckerberg said HTML5 wasn’t ready, we took a little offense to the comment. When a team has problems with HTML5, it usually stems from the fact that they take a “website” development approach to building an app, and often don’t use the right tools and architectures for application development. This is what we suspected about the Facebook HTML5 app. The way that app performed — slow loading, choppy user experience in the News Feed, low frame rate — exhibited the usual symptoms.”

My own personal experience working with HTML 5 based cross platform mobile development tools is in line with what the Sencha devs have shared above. We’ve developed a number of cross-platform mobile apps based on the HTML5 Sencha Touch framework that perform phenomenally well, so much so that people actually think they’re native apps rather than ones built on HTML5. And the mobile solutions that we’ve developed in Sencha Touch comprise of both enterprise and consumer apps. Below are a few examples of these apps:

Progressive Beef (an enterprise app for Zoetis, Pfizer’s animal health division, a cross platform solution that works on both iOS and Android)

PACP (a cross platform consumer guide app developed for the Oman Government’s Consumer Protection Authority. This app was awarded the Best Government App for Consumers award at the 2014 World Summit Awards)

The key factor behind the success of the above apps was that we didn’t adopt a “website” development like approach for them. Instead we designed and architected the apps and their user experience keeping the devices they were going to be used on (and their limitations) in mind.

I won’t say that HTML5 based mobile apps are a 100% equal in terms of performance and user experience to native apps, but I will say that they can deliver nearly 80 to 90% of that performance and user experience, if the architecture of the app is properly designed. I demonstrated this fact at the Sencha Developer Conference that was held at Santa Clara earlier this year. I showed a few folks the above two HTML5 based apps that we had developed and asked them to guess whether they were built natively or on Sencha. Most of them were unable to guess that they were HTML5 apps at first glance.

That’s the end of this post. In my next post I’m going to compare the tools/frameworks (mentioned above) in each category in more detail.

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