Alpha’s Supercharged PhoneGap Build Integration: HTML5 Hybrid Apps with Native Features
By Bob Moore, VP of Mobility – Alpha Software
PhoneGap, an open source project of Adobe Inc., allows developers to create HTML5 hybrid apps that take advantage of device hardware features. The features include (among many others) barcode scanning, GPS and geolocation, and access to GBs of storage instead of the 5MB typically allowed by the phone browser.
While PhoneGap can save enormous amounts of time and cost compared to native development, it still requires working with native SDKs and consumes time and expertise to set up and use. To shorten the time, Adobe created a service called PhoneGap Build – which handles some of the grunt work for you.
At Alpha, we’ve taken this significantly further by automating PhoneGap Build, and more importantly, tightly integrating it with our development environment (IDE). The result is Alpha Anywhere now offers a very fast and efficient method for building cross platform mobile apps that are true mobile applications with complete access to device hardware.
The Alpha Anywhere integration with PhoneGap Build saves you significant time in some of the following ways:
- Alpha finds the PhoneGap Plugins you need and automatically includes them with your project.
- Alpha gives you quick access to the applications you have created with a built-in manager screen.
- Alpha generates the application icons and splash screens for all of the supported platforms and at all of the required resolutions.
Plugins are native code modules that allow your HTML5 applications to interact with device hardware. Some examples include file access and geolocation access. At the time this document was created, Alpha Anywhere had 72 built in plugins and more are on the way. Instead of hunting down and referencing these plugins yourself, you simply check the box next to the plugins you need.
Access to Your PhoneGap Apps
From within the IDE, the developer can login to their PhoneGap Build account and create a new business app, update an existing app or choose to delete an app on PhoneGap Build.
We’ve also built a PhoneGap App Manager that lists all available PhoneGap Build apps and includes buttons that display the QR codes which allow the business app to be installed on a mobile device for immediate testing.
Splash Screens and Icons
Alpha automatically generates all of the app icons and the splash screens for all of the supported platforms and at all of the required resolutions, handling both retina and non-retina displays. This is typically a day long process in itself, and we’ve boiled it down to picking a few images, taking just minutes.
Pre-written and Tested PhoneGap Code
Alpha Anwyhere includes written and tested code to extend the features of the plugins. Here are just a few examples:
Working with Pictures – Alpha let you access the “exif “data of the pictures on the device, including the where the photo was taken, it’s date time stamp, the orientation of the camera when the image was captured and other data.
Working with The File System – Alpha includes code for working with a large amount of data (in excess of 5MB) when offline – based on a simple or complex nested database query while the device is online. An example use case is a product catalog or a selection of customer accounts for mobile field access when online connectivity may be intermittent or simply not available.
Working with Audio – For applications that need to permit voice dictation and audio capture, Alpha includes code that saves data in a common format that works on iOS, Android, and other platforms. It also allows you to control compression to save storage space, and it allows you to pause and resume audio recording.
With PhoneGap Build Integration, Alpha Anywhere lets you build true mobile apps and saves you enormous amounts of time during initial setup, during initial development, and during iterative development for bug fixes and feature enhancements.