Can you provide a brief description of your company?
Our company, Eleks, provides software development in the spaces of mobile, data-driven, and digital products. We do custom software development, but mostly full-cycle development with UX [user experience], QA [quality assurance], business analysis, and support. We've been doing this for about 20 years, and we have about 1,000 employees at the moment.
What role do you play at Eleks?
I am the product manager of mobile and wearable technology.
What was the business challenge your company was facing that incited the need for this platform?
We do most of our projects native, so it's either an iOS or Android environment. We've done research on both Xamarin and PhoneGap. We've tried their commercial products, so we can share our insights. But, to be honest, after using both of these platforms, we still prefer the native environment.
We are always looking for the best way to develop the app based on its requirements. From our research, there are cases when cross-platform tools are more efficient either in terms of budget or efforts for a specific application. With PhoneGap, we did some research to form an opinion on what the platform can do and what it can't.
About a year ago, we had a customer who came to us with a specific need – they decided that they wanted PhoneGap as a platform for developing their system. We evaluated their decision, and we agreed with them because the application had to support two platforms, on both mobile and tablet, and they were shorter on budget. PhoneGap was sufficient in their case, but still we faced some hurdles.
How does your company implement this platform or software?
Before starting the project, there is always the question of which platform should we use for building this app. In most cases, native is simply the easiest and most straightforward choice for long-term projects. In some cases, Xamarin and PhoneGap may be a better option. I can elaborate on our thought process we use when we choose between platforms.
Was your company considering other platforms? Why this platform?
We also took a look at Appcelerator Titanium. We performed our research, we tried to build a test application and see if it was more productive than with native or other approaches. We were quite disappointed. The research was performed in mid-2014, and our conclusion was that, at that time, Appcelerator was immature for our needs. The amount of effort it took to build custom applications with custom needs, for multiple platforms, was just too much of a struggle for the result.
We sometimes look at different platforms but, as we see it, regarding the techniques and how the mobile platforms work, it's usually a similar approach either to PhoneGap or to Xamarin, whether it's a web-view inside an app or it's cross compiling. We tend to focus on the platforms that are the most popular.
In our case, when we build apps for our customers, we want to make sure the platform is reliable. Reliability is the minimum requirement. Platforms must also have a strong community, we want to know that other reliable companies or partners have used this technology successfully. Once we build products they will usually be live for a couple of years, and it's a very painful to change platforms midway through a project.
On an annual or monthly basis, how much does your company spend to utilize the platform?
With PhoneGap, pricing is easy, it was free, and we used the Ionic Framework [an open source front-end software development kit] on top of PhoneGap. I don't know if it's still free or if there is a license for it, but it was not an issue for us.
Can you share any success, metrics, or overall results of your implementation of this platform?
In the instances we've used PhoneGap, I think it always turned out to be an OK choice, although we always had some issues with the platform and with its peculiarities. We faced some challenges, which forced us to spend more than we had planned to, but the result for our customers fit their expectations.
Were there any software features or tools that really impressed you?
With PhoneGap, I can't think of anything specific. It works. I think Ionic is a good framework to use in tandem with PhoneGap. It's quite fast.
Looking back, are there any areas of the software upon which you feel could be added or improved?
For PhoneGap, I think it will help others to share an experience we had, to give an impression of what type of issues we had and what could be improved.
For an app, we needed to create a login screen with a four-button lock screen. Once the users input the pin code, the app would unlock. We ran into lag time and response time issues when users were to put their code in very fast, say "1111," the time it took to switch from one input to another was way too long, making for an overall really negative user experience.
That's one type of issue that we have had with PhoneGap, that's a type of risk we expect with PhoneGap, and that's why we never use PhoneGap as a platform for nontrivial work, only for prototypes or products with low requirements for the UI [user interface]/UX and response time. We don't recommend PhoneGap for important projects. There are risks with PhoneGap.
Have you had to interact with the platform's support team or reference their support resources?
I've personally used PhoneGap and their website and documentation was poor.
We have a few quick questions and, for each question, we ask you to rate the software on a scale of one to five, with five being the best. What would you give the software for functionality of the features available?
Three and a half.
What would you give the software for ease of use or ease of implementation into your business?
Three and a half.
For support, as in responsiveness of the team or helpfulness of the resources available?
Three and a half.
For overall satisfaction with the platform?
Three and a half.
How likely are you to recommend the software to a colleague or similar business?
Two and a half. I would recommend it in very rare cases like prototyping or for an application that doesn't have UX requirements and which is not consumer facing. For consumer-facing apps, PhoneGap is prohibitive. For employee-based applications, it could be OK. But, in general, I would say there are better options. For the type of businesses I work with, it would be two and a half out of five.