10 Excellent Frameworks for Building Mobile Apps

Developers like working with native code, but it doesn’t always work well in a business sense and can be a waste of time and energy. In many cases, developers are continually creating the same mobile app for iOS, windows, android and other platforms.

Like Ionic, HTML5 mobile UI frameworks allow developers to build cross platform hybrid mobile apps with a native look and feel to them. They are using technology they already know, such as HTM5, JavaScript and CSS. Developers, seasoned or new, are discovering hybrid mobile apps development is the best way to build cross platform apps. They are building high-end apps using the same knowledge they already possess.

By using the components in mobile HTML5, you create the app as a normal web app or responsive web app that will fit different screen sizes. The best part of hybrid apps’ increased popularity, you write the hybrid mobile app once and then run it on all platforms.

Access to native hardware components, like Camera, is achieved with native JavaScript APIs, like those offered by Cordova. Your app will be assembled into platform specific native packages, ready to be placed on a mobile device or into an app store.

Trying to analyze all the HTML5 mobile UI/UX frameworks out there would be nearly impossible. Instead, here is a list of what we believe are the best on the marketplace to date:

Ionic

Ionic framework

Ionic, over the past few years, has become an established leader in hybrid mobile apps development. Their team is constantly updating the framework by adapting the latest technology. Unlike their competitors, Ionic is free to use and open source; Its ecosystem has grown in leaps and bounds. You can find tons of development resources from the community to get up and running in no time.

Recently, the Ionic team upgraded the framework by adding out-of-the-box support for material design as well. Ionic has bundled Angular framework which gives the framework incredible power. Like other hybrid app frameworks, Ionic uses Cordova so you can go native for iOS, Windows phones, Android and many other platforms.

Another excellent aspect of Ionic is its maintainable and scalable framework which uses clean and easy to read markup. It’s loaded with a highly mobile-optimized library of CSS, HTML and JS components. Ionic features tools and actions to ensure interactive app development quite easily.

Onsen UI

Although this is a pretty new framework, it’s giving Ionic a run for their money. It is open source and available under an Apache license. Onsen UI uses Angular directives and Topcoat framework for most of its UI components.

For those who like jQuery, Onsen UI comes loaded with jQuery based components. If you prefer to use jQuery to build hybrid apps instead of Angular – go for it! Onsen UI also has a large selection of ready to use components that are responsive right out of the box. You can build versions of your apps for mobile devices, tablets and desktops. You can write in HTML5 and JavaScript or go native with Phonegap and Cordova.

Onsen UI is very impressive with it’s flexibility, easy usage, and excellent performance. Like Ionic, Onsen UI is open source and free to use.

Intel XDK

interl xdk

This is the new guy on the block and just a little bit different from the others. It comes with a large range of tools that support development, testing, emulation, debugging and publishing cross platform HTM5 hybrid apps. Intel XDK also comes with ready to use templates using “app framework”.

App framework is an open source JavaScript framework that is supported by Intel. Their app framework themes support iPhone, iPad, Tizen, Windows phone, Blackberry and Android. Intel XDK also supports jQuery mobile, Bootstrap 3 and Topcoat UI framework.

Intel XDK is quickly becoming a favorite with developers in building cross platform hybrid mobile apps, thanks to its clean work flow and rich feature set. It can be installed on OSX, Windows and Linux and will let you build any platform.

Build apps for iOS, Windows Phone, Tizen, Android and Firefox OS. Intel XDK is used for Facebook, Amazon and Chrome web apps. Intel XDK is proving to be quite impressive and might just change the entire mobile app development world.

Sencha Touch

sencha-large

This is a great product for building cross platform end to end mobile web apps with HTML5 and JavaScript. This is a leading player of mobile application development platforms in commercial areas, mainly enterprises. Sencha offers a large range of products that work with Sencha Touch, but are quite expensive. For individuals and freelancers, Ionic is probably the wiser choice. For enterprises, Sencha Touch is taking the lead.

ExtJS is one of the most popular JavaScript frameworks and is the core of Sencha Touch. It is a big plus for creating high performance apps with a close to native look and feel experience. Sencha comes with “ready to use” gadgets that have a native look and feel for major platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. Sencha Touch also offers a drag and drop HTML5 visual application builder and “ready to use” templates. Their custom components can be built and added to the library for reuse in applications.

Kendo UI

kendoui

Like Sencha Touch, Kendo UI is extremely popular with enterprises. They command a huge customer base including Nasa, Microsoft, Sony and Toshiba. It is another framework for building any kind of web app or hybrid mobile app with HTML5, JavaScript and CSS. It greatly relies on jQuery and offers over 70 jQuery gadgets. Kendo UI allows integration with Angular and supports Bootstrap UI framework.

It comes with a lot of ready to use themes and themes that feature a material design look and feel. Kendo UI has a theme builder for creating custom themes. This feature is considered one of its biggest advantages.

Kendo UI is supported and maintained by Telerick and comes with open source or commercial licensing option. The downside to their open source, you will be limited in features and will not get dedicated technical support.

Framework 7

Framework 7 is the leading contender among hybrid app frameworks in iOS mobile apps development. Unlike Ionic and Onsen UI, it does not provide support for building cross platform hybrid apps. It is, however, the best feature framework for iOS hybrid apps development.

Framework 7 allows developers to build iOS apps with only CSS, JavaScript and HTML, which web developers are already using. Framework 7 is so close to native iOS apps that it offers features like swipe back, directly out of the box. It also has many other UI features including list views, media lists, side panels, etc, that can be used without JavaScript. Framework 7 is a free and open source under MIT license.

JQuery Mobile

jQuery is holding its own against rich hybrid mobile app development frameworks like Ionic, Onsen UI and Framework 7. The community for jQuery has built a minimalist jQuery Mobile package and solid jQuery and jQuery UI foundations.

What jQuery mobile will do, allow developers to create web apps and mobile apps that run seamlessly. It gives a unique user experience across mobiles, tablets and desktops. It does not focus on a native look and feel for individual platforms like iOS and Android.

Mobile Angular UI

If you are a fan of Bootstrap and Angular, this is for you. You will get the best of both worlds to build HTML5 mobile applications. Angular UI is more of an extension to Bootstrap 3 but with out the dependencies of Bootstrap JS or jQuery. It uses Fastclick.JS and Overthrow.JS for a very smooth mobile experience.

Mobile Angular UI offers directives for creating UI components like scrollable areas, sidebars, switches and solidly positioned navbars that will not bounce around. These are features missing with Bootstrap 3 for building mobile apps. It is available as open source and free to use under an MIT license.

Famo.us

This is a very powerful HTML5 apps development framework and focuses on providing a very close native experience in hybrid apps. The biggest difference between this and other hybrid HTML5 frameworks; it leans more toward graphics rendering, 2d and 3d, making it more suitable for game development.

Monaca

Monaca is a commercial mobile app development platform with an enormous list of products for managing end to end app development. Monaco has a cloud based IDE for creating hybrid mobile apps. It will let you assemble and publish to multiple platforms using Cordova. Monaco offers a huge range of modules and products that are way too many to cover at this time.

Trigger.IO

Trigger.IO has a completely different approach and does not use Cordova for native access. It offers its own platform for closing the gap between HTML5 development and native access. At this time, they are claiming to be able to produce hybrid apps that have a much better performance than Cordova based apps.

Trigger.IO utilizes Forge JavaScript API for native functions such as Accelerometer and Camera. This is a framework that you should keep an eye on. It’ll be very interesting to see how it progresses and where it goes.

In Conclusion

The mobile app development field is changing very quickly and developers are moving across many platforms from native to HTML5 based hybrid app development. The best advantage of hybrid mobile apps, you write it once and then use it everywhere else.

Hybrid app development, using JavaScript, is no longer the only alternative to native mobile app development. Today, there are so many other alternative platforms allowing you to write your application in c#, then assemble the application to native code for different mobile platforms. This is a big asset for mobile app development for iOS, Windows and Android.

Even though frameworks such as Xamarin equal native performance, none of them compare to the easier way of building mobile apps with JavaScript, CSS and HTML in the hybrid sense.