My views on the Appcelerator platform


Companies eager to get to involved with iPhone apps can be put off by the time to learn, retrain and reskill developers into the Objective C language and syntax. Increasingly, companies are looking at alternatives to Objective C / native code.

Driven by a “time to market” need, or other pressures, developers (even myself) have been looking at alternatives to the native platform.

Of the many non-native frameworks, PhoneGap and Appcelerator Titanium (there are others, including Corona) are increasingly popular to developers.

Both PhoneGap and Appcelerator promise developers the ability to play to their strengths using technologies such as HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript.

Both platforms are open source development frameworks for building cross-platform mobile apps.

Although I won’t be doing a comparison of the two platforms (there is already a great thread on StackOverflow and ManiacDev on this), I’m wanting to cover some issues that I feel the Appcelerator team need to address.

Appcelerator uses a JavaScript API and deploys apps as Native. They look, feel and act like Native iPhone apps.

My problem with Appcelerator really can be summarized in this bullet point list.

  • The API documentation is not informative enough and lacks samples, in addition the video demonstrations cost money.
  • There is no official dedicated technical developer team on the forums.

    There are literally hundreds of questions which could easily be resolved if there was a developer team that actually responded to developer’s questions

  • Can Appcelerator handle large databases? And what is the best practice for handling large databases using Appcelerator?
  • The forum design is really poor. There is a voting system which is never used and seems to have higher prominence than the actual number of replies that a forum thread has garnered
  • The desktop API, the API that allows you to make cross-platform desktop apps has been neglected, so has its video screencasts. But it is something they are addressing.

Is Appcelerator viable? Yes, if your app is reasonable in size; if you’re trying to build a game, or large database heavy application then its possibly not the right option.

Despite my frustrations with Appcelerator, its a very good application. You can build native applications that look, feel, act and deploy as native iPhone applications.

If time to market is important to you, take a look at Phonegap, Appcelerator, Corona, or one of the many other frameworks out there.

When all else fails, break some glass

Jackie Chan’s 1985 hit “Police Story” might be best known to fans, and even to Jackie’s own production team as “Glass story”, but here’s a short clip of “Kung Fu Kids 2“, a Taiwanese movie which seems to be on a mission to insert as much glass into a fight sequence as humanly possible.

One scene in particular gets me to laugh every time is the sequence where one of the Kids promptly kicks a bad guy in the head and he smashes through a pane glassed balcony and then spins into a table.

When ever I watch clips of any of the Kung Fu Kids movies, I’m reminded of the 1992 Hollywood version Three Ninja Kids, although I’m sure most of the stunts you see in Kung Fu Kids (or any of its many sequels and spin-offs) you wouldn’t normally see in a Hollywood production.

Another movie which is well known for its Glass breaking scenes is Benny Chan’s “Invisible Target” (Trailer, Youtube) for which Twitch in its review states, “Invisible Target is … full of breaking glass. Every time someone flies through the air, it’s very likely that somewhere somehow, there will be a pane of glass for his projectile body to shatter. Far from being a nuisance, it’s really rather amusing to watch and anticipate.”