Codova vs Phonegap

Cordova vs. PhoneGap: An update

I see a lot of confusion still about the difference and relationship between Cordova and PhoneGap.

TL;DR: If you don’t need to use the cloud build service at PhoneGap Build, just use the Cordova CLI tools, not the PhoneGap ones.

Lemme see if I can start with the penny tour.

In the beginning, there was PhoneGap. It was an amazing project by a little company called Nitobi in Canada. It was open source, and it was good.

Then the little company and the name PhoneGap was bought by Adobe. Adobe did notbuy the actual PhoneGap codebase, just the people that worked on it, and the name. The actual open source project was donated to the Apache Software Foundation.

So now the open source project needed a new name. After a couple of false starts, eventually they came up with “Cordova” – the name of the street the Nitobi offices had originally been on in Vancouver.

For a bit over a year, “PhoneGap” was just the Adobe binary distribution of the Apache open source project “Cordova” – you could think of PhoneGap as Safari to Cordova’s WebKit.

Now, all of this has been better documented in a couple of other posts by smarter people. The problem lies in what’s happened since then.

In version 3.x of Cordova – and therefore PhoneGap – a shift was made towards heavy use of a Node-based command line interface (CLI). It handles everything from creation of the project, installing plugins, and finally building and even running the app. It’s awesome, by the way, and if you haven’t made the switch away from the shackles of IDEs like Xcode and Eclipse, I heartily encourage you to give it a try.

Anyway… at the PhoneGap Day US conference, back in July of 2013 in Portland, we released the 3.0.0 version of Cordova. At the same conference, a variation of the Cordova CLI was launched called the PhoneGap CLI. The first split in actual functionality between the two had finally arrived.

The PhoneGap CLI is a similar-but-different variation on the Cordova CLI. It does much of the same things and even uses the Cordova CLI under the hood. The biggest difference lies in its connection to Adobe’s cloud build service called PhoneGap Build. The PhoneGap CLI allows you to – from the command line – create and build apps using that service. You don’t need the SDKs for the various platforms installed on your machine.

However, aside from some small syntax differences – and a couple missing features, if I am to be honest – the use of PhoneGap Build is the only difference at the time of this article. So as I said in the TL;DR above, my advice is that if you don’t need to use the cloud build service at PhoneGap Build, just use the Cordova CLI tools, not the PhoneGap ones.

More importantly, whatever you do, do not “mix and match” in a single project. This will only make a big mess.

I hope that clears it up a bit… if not, please feel free to send me an email, or come and hit me up me in the #phonegap channel on Freenode IRC.


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