[cordova] Xamarin 2.0 vs Appcelerator Titanium vs PhoneGap

After all IDE evolutions (all platforms on topic are changed) of this year, i'm looking to understand what is the state of technology for those platforms.

What are strengths and weaknesses of each ones? There are some limitations of one of those approach?

I have a good experience on C# and Javascript, than there are no programmatic language influence that could lean to one side.

This question is related to cordova xamarin titanium

The answer is


As reported by Tim Anderson

Cross-platform development is a big deal, and will continue to be so until a day comes when everyone uses the same platform. Android? HTML? WebKit? iOS? Windows? Xamarin? Titanum? PhoneGap? Corona? ecc.

Sometimes I hear it said that there are essentially two approaches to cross-platform mobile apps. You can either use an embedded browser control and write a web app wrapped as a native app, as in Adobe PhoneGap/Cordova or the similar approach taken by Sencha, or you can use a cross-platform tool that creates native apps, such as Xamarin Studio, Appcelerator Titanium, or Embarcardero FireMonkey.

Within the second category though, there is diversity. In particular, they vary concerning the extent to which they abstract the user interface.

Here is the trade-off. If you design your cross-platform framework you can have your application work almost the same way on every platform. If you are sharing the UI design across all platforms, it is hard to make your design feel equally right in all cases. It might be better to take the approach adopted by most games, using a design that is distinctive to your app and make a virtue of its consistency across platforms, even though it does not have the native look and feel on any platform.

edit Xamarin v3 in 2014 started offering choice of Xamarin.Forms as well as pure native that still follows the philosophy mentioned here (took liberty of inline edit because such a great answer)

Xamarin Studio on the other hand makes no attempt to provide a shared GUI framework:

We don’t try to provide a user interface abstraction layer that works across all the platforms. We think that’s a bad approach that leads to lowest common denominator user interfaces. (Nat Friedman to Tim Anderson)

This is right; but the downside is the effort involved in maintaining two or more user interface designs for your app.

Comparison about PhoneGap and Titanium it's well reported in Kevin Whinnery blog.


The purpose of PhoneGap is to allow HTML-based web applications to be deployed and installed as native applications. PhoneGap web applications are wrapped in a native application shell, and can be installed via the native app stores for multiple platforms. Additionally, PhoneGap strives to provide a common native API set which is typically unavailable to web applications, such as basic camera access, device contacts, and sensors not already exposed in the browser.

To develop PhoneGap applications, developers will create HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files in a local directory, much like developing a static website. Approaching native-quality UI performance in the browser is a non-trivial task - Sencha employs a large team of web programming experts dedicated full-time to solving this problem. Even so, on most platforms, in most browsers today, reaching native-quality UI performance and responsiveness is simply not possible, even with a framework as advanced as Sencha Touch. Is the browser already “good enough” though? It depends on your requirements and sensibilities, but it is unquestionably less good than native UI. Sometimes much worse, depending on the browser.

PhoneGap is not as truly cross-platform as one might believe, not all features are equally supported on all platforms.

  • Javascript is not an application scale programming language, too many global scope interactions, different libraries don't often co-exist nicely. We spent many hours trying to get knockout.js and jQuery.mobile play well together, and we still have problems.

  • Fragmented landscape for frameworks and libraries. Too many choices, and too many are not mature enough.

  • Strangely enough, for the needs of our app, decent performance could be achieved (not with jQuery.Mobile, though). We tried jqMobi (not very mature, but fast).

  • Very limited capability for interaction with other apps or cdevice capabilities, and this would not be cross-platform anyway, as there aren't any standards in HTML5 except for a few, like geolocation, camera and local databases.

by Karl Waclawek

Appcelerator Titanium

The goal of Titanium Mobile is to provide a high level, cross-platform JavaScript runtime and API for mobile development (today we support iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Titanium actually has more in common with MacRuby/Hot Cocoa, PHP, or node.js than it does with PhoneGap, Adobe AIR, Corona, or Rhomobile. Titanium is built on two assertions about mobile development: - There is a core of mobile development APIs which can be normalized across platforms. These areas should be targeted for code reuse. - There are platform-specific APIs, UI conventions, and features which developers should incorporate when developing for that platform. Platform-specific code should exist for these use cases to provide the best possible experience.

So for those reasons, Titanium is not an attempt at “write once, run everywhere”. Same as Xamarin.

Titanium are going to do a further step in the direction similar to that of Xamarin. In practice, they will do two layers of different depths: the layer Titanium (in JS), which gives you a bee JS-of-Titanium. If you want to go more low-level, have created an additional layer (called Hyperloop), where (always with JS) to call you back directly to native APIs of SO

Xamarin (+ MVVMCross)


Xamarin (originally a division of Novell) in the last 18 months has brought to market its own IDE and snap-in for Visual Studio. The underlining premise of Mono is to create disparate mobile applications using C# while maintaining native UI development strategies.

In addition to creating a visual design platform to develop native applications, they have integrated testing suites, incorporated native library support and a Nuget style component store. Recently they provided iOS visual design through their IDE freeing the developer from opening XCode. In Visual Studio all three platforms are now supported and a cloud testing suite is on the horizon.

From the get go, Xamarin has provided a rich Android visual design experience. I have yet to download or open Eclipse or any other IDE besides Xamarin. What is truly amazing is that I am able to use LINQ to work with collections as well as create custom delegates and events that free me from objective-C and Java limitations. Many of the libraries I have been spoiled with, like Newtonsoft JSON.Net, work perfectly in all three environments.

In my opinion there are several HUGE advantages including

  • native performance
  • easier to read code (IMO)
  • testability
  • shared code between client and server
  • support (although Xam could do better on bugzilla)

Upgrade for me is use Xamarin and MVVMCross combined. It's still quite a new framework, but it's born from experience of several other frameworks (such as MvvmLight and monocross) and it's now been used in at several released cross platform projects.


My choice after knowing all these framwework, was to select development tool based on product needs. In general, however if you start to use a tool with which you feel comfortable (even if it requires a higher initial overhead) after you'll use it forever.

I chose Xamarin + MVVMCross and I must say to be happy with this choice. I'm not afraid of approach Native SDK for software updates or seeing limited functionality of a system or the most trivial thing a feature graphics. Write code fairly structured (DDD + SOA) is very useful to have a core project shared with native C# views implementation.

References and links

Phonegap is pretty slow: clicking a button can take up to 3 sec to display the next screen. iscroll is slow and jumpy.

There other funny bugs and issues that i was able to overcome, but in total - not fully matured.

EDIT: Per Grumpy comment, it is not Phonegap who is actually slow, it is the JS/Browser native engine

I haven't worked much with Appcelerator Titanium, but I'll put my understanding of it at the end.

I can speak a bit more to the differences between PhoneGap and Xamarin, as I work with these two 5 (or more) days a week.

If you are already familiar with C# and JavaScript, then the question I guess is, does the business logic lie in an area more suited to JavaScript or C#?


PhoneGap is designed to allow you to write your applications using JavaScript and HTML, and much of the functionality that they do provide is designed to mimic the current proposed specifications for the functionality that will eventually be available with HTML5. The big benefit of PhoneGap in my opinion is that since you are doing the UI with HTML, it can easily be ported between platforms. The downside is, because you are porting the same UI between platforms, it won't feel quite as at home in any of them. Meaning that, without further tweaking, you can't have an application that feels fully at home in iOS and Android, meaning that it has the iOS and Android styling. The majority of your logic can be written using JavaScript, which means it too can be ported between platforms. If the current PhoneGap API does most of what you want, then it's pretty easy to get up and running. If however, there are things you need from the device that are not in the API, then you get into the fun of Plugin Development, which will be in the native device's development language of choice (with one caveat, but I'll get to that), which means you would likely need to get up to speed quickly in Objective-C, Java, etc. The good thing about this model, is you can usually adapt many different native libraries to serve your purpose, and many libraries already have PhoneGap Plugins. Although you might not have much experience with these languages, there will at least be a plethora of examples to work from.


Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android (also known as MonoTouch and MonoDroid), are designed to allow you to have one library of business logic, and use this within your application, and hook it into your UI. Because it's based on .NET 4.5, you get some awesome lambda notations, LINQ, and a whole bunch of other C# awesomeness, which can make writing your business logic less painful. The downside here is that Xamarin expects that you want to make your applications truly feel native on the device, which means that you will likely end up rewriting your UI for each platform, before hooking it together with the business logic. I have heard about MvvmCross, which is designed to make this easier for you, but I haven't really had an opportunity to look into it yet. If you are familiar with the MVVM system in C#, you may want to have a look at this. When it comes to native libraries, MonoTouch becomes interesting. MonoTouch requires a Binding library to tell your C# code how to link into the underlying Objective-C and Java code. Some of these libraries will already have bindings, but if yours doesn't, creating one can be, interesting. Xamarin has made a tool called Objective Sharpie to help with this process, and for the most part, it will get you 95% of the way there. The remaining 5% will probably take 80% of your time attempting to bind a library.


As noted in the comments below, Xamarin has released Xamarin Forms which is a cross platform abstraction around the platform specific UI components. Definitely worth the look.

PhoneGap / Xamarin Hybrid

Now because I said I would get to it, the caveat mentioned in PhoneGap above, is a Hybrid approach, where you can use PhoneGap for part, and Xamarin for part. I have quite a bit of experience with this, and I would caution you against it. Highly. The problem with this, is it is such a no mans' land that if you ever run into issues, almost no one will have come close to what you're doing, and will question what you're trying to do greatly. It is doable, but it's definitely not fun.

Appcelerator Titanium

As I mentioned before, I haven't worked much with Appcelerator Titanium, So for the differences between them, I will suggest you look at Comparing Titanium and Phonegap or Comparison between Corona, Phonegap, Titanium as it has a very thorough description of the differences. Basically, it appears that though they both use JavaScript, how that JavaScript is interpreted is slightly different. With Titanium, you will be writing your JavaScript to the Titanium SDK, whereas with PhoneGap, you will write your application using the PhoneGap API. As PhoneGap is very HTML5 and JavaScript standards compliant, you can use pretty much any JavaScript libraries you want, such as JQuery. With PhoneGap your user interface will be composed of HTML and CSS. With Titanium, you will benefit from their Cross-platform XML which appears to generate Native components. This means it will definitely have a better native look and feel.

As an alternative you may want to check out BridgeIt at bridgeit.mobi. Open source, it has resolved the browser performance / consistency issue discussed above in that it leverages the standard browser on the device vs. the web-view browser. It also allows you to access the native features without having to worry about app store deployments and/or native containers.

I've used if for simple camera based access and scanner access and it works well for simple apps. Documentation is a bit light. Not sure how it would do on more complex apps.

I have worked with Xamarin. Here are the positives and negatives I have found:


  1. Easy to code, C# makes the job easier
  2. Performance won't be a concern
  3. Native UI
  4. Good IDE, much like Xcode and Visual Studio.
  5. Xamarin Debugger
  6. Xamarin SDK is free and open-source. Wiki


  1. You need to know the API for each platform you want to target (iOS, Android, WP8). However, you do not need to know Objective-C or Java.
  2. Xamarin shares only a few things across platforms (things like databases and web services).
  3. You have to design the UI of each platform separately (this can be a blessing or a curse).

There's also AppGyver Steroids that unites PhoneGap and Native UI nicely.

With Steroids you can add things like native tabs, native navigation bar, native animations and transitions, native modal windows, native drawer/panel (facebooks side menu) etc. to your PhoneGap app.

Here's a demo: http://youtu.be/oXWwDMdoTCk?t=20m17s

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