What's Next? The Mobile Ecosystem and What You Need to Know

Written by Nick Van Weerdenburg


PhoneGapDay 2016 happened in Salt Lake City last week and it was great to see how the mobile ecosystem is evolving. For me, it was a perfect start to 2016 and offered an opportunity to ponder 2015's many innovations (such as Angular 2, Ionic 2, Native Script, and React Native) and what that means for mobile strategy in 2016.

2015 Recap

2015 was an interesting year for mobile (though what year wasn't!) and it offered a new category rising to prominence: native hybrid apps that mix web technologies and native components.

Other solutions have attempted this over the years, but those were generally overshadowed by PhoneGap / Cordova and in 2014, Ionic.

Rise of the Native Hybrid

That changed in 2015. React Native drew significant attention and offered an interesting mobile hybrid option. Generally, I feel a deeper appreciation of different application needs that created a demand for a solution that balanced the two models.

Telerik's Native Script is a native hybrid solution for the Angular 2 community with a few innovations that make it a more attractive cross-platform solution than React Native while offering an interesting take on native code integration. Look for more on NativeScript and React Native in future blog posts.

Revenge of the Web Views

On the pure website front, exciting changes from 2015 included Isomorphic JavaScript to improve mobile web load times, new versions of Angular and Ionic, and a clear path for development for companies with a strong omnichannel market demand that want to simultaneously develop for mobile web and multiple phone applications.

A Compelling Ecosystem

At PhoneGap day, we interviewed key players in the JavaScript mobile ecosystem including Adobe, Telerik, and Ionic. Press play for their insights.

Adobe on Cordova

Telerik on NativeScript

Ionic on Ionic

2016 Mobile Strategy Points to Consider

With React Native and Native Script, the definition of native versus hybrid is also blurred, but the single code-base promise and performance of Ionic 2 make a compelling case for enterprise applications and applications with a strong omnichannel requirement (frequent updates to apps and mobile web across all devices made possible by a single codebase).

  1. PhoneGap/Cordova is still going strong, and Adobe has a passionate team of developers and evangelists moving it forward.
  2. Ionic and Telerik both add substantially to the Cordova ecosystem, creating solutions for a wide variety of developers.
  3. Technologies like Crosswalk enable new approaches to feature parity across mobile devices.
  4. The definition of Hybrid apps is evolving with frameworks like Native Script and React Native.

Phones keep getting better and it's important to not forget how disruptive technologies work. Almost as good becomes as good, and when you consider the importance of Lean UX and DevOps to effective app development and finding your product/marketing fit, cross-platform hybrid is the right choice for an increasing number of applications, markets and teams.

Conclusion

At Rangle, we work in Ionic, "pure Cordova", React Native and NativeScript and we recommend them all.

Fundamentally, we've seen a further significant closing of remaining gaps compared with native application development with Objective-C, Swift and Java.

Coupled with improving phones and a deeper understanding of the importance of Lean UX and Lean Startup practices to get to market, it's more compelling than ever to use a hybrid application development technology.

But which one?

That can't be answered in a short blog post, but here are some considerations.

If you have a strong web team, want to actively maintain your application yourself, and have a strong omnichannel market demand (e.g. mobile web in addition to applications) we generally recommend Cordova-based solution such as Ionic unless your application requirements have performance, usability, or integration requirements that leverage the hybrid Native mobile frameworks.

If mobile web isn't that important, and your market is all about the app, then a hybrid native application is probably a better choice since 1) you get most of the benefits of hybrid web, 2) it is accessible to web developers and uses JavaScript, and 3) extra learning for development and maintenance is very acceptable since this is your primary focus and product.

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