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Mobile apps with PhoneGap and PayPal

August 12, 2011

I’m currently finishing up a series of articles for the PayPal X Developer Network on building Android apps using Google’s free App Inventor tool.  Click here to read the first article (on getting started with App Inventor) and here for the second article (using web APIs).  Watch for the rest of the articles in that series to publish soon.

As I mention at the beginning of that series, I’m always looking for tools and techniques that make mobile commerce apps simpler and faster to build, debug, and deploy.  App Inventor can take you a very long way for Android apps, especially for building rapid prototypes, but what if you want to build apps for multiple platforms?  And what if you want to build those apps from one codebase, to run natively on all of the major smartphone platforms, with access to device hardware such as sensors and device data such as contacts?  Is that even possible?

Turns out, with PhoneGap (@phonegap) it is.

In the words of PhoneGap’s originators, PhoneGap is an:

HTML5 app platform that allows you to author native applications with web technologies and get access to APIs and app stores. PhoneGap leverages web technologies developers already know best… HTML and JavaScript.

PhoneGap takes your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript based app and wraps it in a chrome-less browser for each supported platform.  As of this writing, PhoneGap supports iOS, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, HP/Palm’s WebOS, and Samsung’s Bada platforms.  You can learn more about the basics of PhoneGap from this introductory video (click here to watch).

PhoneGap enables all this native goodness by providing JavaScript-to-native and native-to-JavaScript hooks so that your app can talk to the native services provided by sensors and other such things.  I’ll leave the details to the PhoneGap Ecosystem presentation included below (click here to watch); suffice it to say that the integration is pretty slick and lets you use one consistent API to build an app that can be packaged up and run on all the previously mentioned platforms.

Important things to note about PhoneGap:

  • It’s open source, and free (as in beer).
  • Getting setup to develop for PhoneGap is pretty straightforward for one platform, but a bit much if you’re targeting several.  Click here for information on targeting each supported platform.
  • Because of the multiplatform packaging complexities, there’s a free “PhoneGap Build” service that will build your apps for all supported platforms in one fell swoop, providing you with downloadable, packaged, native apps suitable for uploading to the various mobile app markets in use across the different platforms.
  • The PhoneGap site provides an API Documentation reference; there’s a lot of additional information including tutorials on the PhoneGap wiki.

Click here to read the complete post on the PayPal X Developer Network including links to PayPal PhoneGap plugin information.


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