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How Developing an App Works. From plain text to the Android Market and Apple App Store

After speaking with a client recently and explaining the whole “frameworks make apps shiny” thing, I thought a diagram would explain the process a little bit better.

 

Sencha Touch and jQuery Mobile are frameworks which will take your text, format it (often with built-in themes) to “look like an app.” They also will have things available like formatted form fields for different kinds of data. An example of this I just love is the date picker in Sencha Touch. It spins up and down until you find the date. It’s fun to play around with, makes your mobile Web site or app look sleek, and it’s useful at the same time.

HTML5 to the rescue:

It used to be that developing an app would require using/learning Java, downloading an SDK and an Android emulator (which tends to be very slow) to create Android Apps. Developing iPhone/iPad apps was even more work. It would require developing on a Mac and learning a sort of archaic programming language called Objective-C.

But HTML5 is changing all of that. You can create an app using HTML and Javascript, along with one of the frameworks above (there are others, too), and then wrap it using a tool such as the ones we’ll mention in the next section. They will take your app and make it available to Androids, iPhones, iPads, etc.

And since it’s uses the functionality of HTML5, they also allow you to set up internal databases (we’ll talk about thati n a future article) and use all kinds of other features.

Then come the wrappers:

There are tools that will wrap around your app, letting you access some features and data specific to the hardware you’re working with. For example, placing a call, accessing the contacts list or using the phone’s camera to take a picture.

I know, you’re thinking… “Cool!” But that’s not where these wrappers end. Actually, their most useful feature has nothing to do with that. They will make your HTML5 app function and work just like a native app. What does that mean? You can sell your app in Apple’s App Store or the Android Market. That means when people are looking for apps, they will find yours in the list. They will also be able to download and install them.

Of course, there are limitations. One is that you can’t use PHP within the app (though there are ways around that with HTTP requests). Though in native apps, you can’t either so it’s a limitation to what would be an ideal world, not really as a comparison to native apps.

We’ll look at a lot of these things in more detail as time goes. But as a start, have a look at the diagram to “wrap”" your head around the whole thing.

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