Rapid prototyping with Phonegap Build

PrototypingRecently I wanted to build a phone app for a new concept I have been thinking about.  I looked at native apps, and while I am pretty experienced with javascript and java, I am completely in the dark on xcode.  In fact, I have only bought 1 apple product – an iPod several years ago – and that’s it.   There is the problem – to develop (at least to what I am aware) anything for Apple, you have to have access to a Mac (note, you still do to sign your apps with phonegap build, but I will get to that in a minute).

With this new app, I decided to try Adobe’s phonegap.build feature.   This is free with my creative cloud membership – something I would recommend using for almost anyone who wants to start a company – and I found it really easy to use to rapidly develop a prototype of my new business idea.   To build the app, all I had to do was simply use an existing web api system, coupled with a javascript front end – I chose jquery.   I also purchased a template from wrap bootstrap – something I have been doing for years to try and get an MVP out there for testing purposes.

The thing about a startup, is that if you are looking for first mover advantage, you have got to move quickly.  If first mover isn’t important, I wouldn’t recommend this approach (again, I will get to this in a minute).  Therefore, since I usually have my website completely built in javascript, this phonegap.build was a very simple option for me, by following their basic instructions and reworking a little bit of code to add file upload and barcode scanner capabilities, I uploaded my app in a zip file, and it built an android and iPhone version in just a few minutes.   After a couple solid days building, testing and debugging, I had an app that I deployed in the Android market, and an app that is ready to be submitted to the Apple marketplace – however, it is still dependent upon Apple’s approval – which I am not sure if I will receive.  I should note here that you can add in Apple IDs for testing purposes – as long as you have an Apple Developer account that is active, and of course, apple devices that you can test on.

The rapid deployment of a prototype of this app was great, it allowed me to get something on my device which could be integral for startups that are looking for an early-stage investor or partners.   With anything that is easy though, there are drawbacks.

While this app could be “production ready” because it runs in a webview.  While this might not really be an issue and just merely my perception, the webview does not appear to be as fast as a native app, and when the page has a lot to load as far as scripts, it takes time – time that I believe would be cut down significantly if it were converted to native code (of course, this can be reduced with script optimization and other tricks).   Additionally, when you launch – and as far as I can tell – the app still shows the webview launch – not a bad thing by any means, but I am a perfectionist, and I don’t like it.   Minus these two concerns though, I do have an app that is now sitting in the Android market – and hopefully in iTunes in the near future.

So, the bottom line is if you are looking to get an idea to market to test, phonegap.build may be a great solution to see if your idea is worth merit before you spend hundreds of hours developing an app for two separate platforms or thousands of dollars to have someone develop your app for you.    In short, with a little bit of javascript and php or .net – you can get your concept to reality in a short period of time,.  While my app that I built in a week may not be scalable or truly market, I have an MVP to test with.   Phonegap.build is great to showcase my concept, and who knows with other libraries, optimization techniques, other refinement strategies and even using other compiling options (actually using eclipse as opposed to phonegap.build), the app may be market ready.   The bottom line is that I believe phonegap.build is a great rapid prototyping tool for the entrepreneur and can save you hundreds of hours and dollars in getting a prototype into your customer’s and investor’s hands.

Posted by: mprictor on January 15, 2015
Posted in: Law