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AppGyver Claims Native Performance with Drag-and-Drop Mobile App Tool

AppGyver Inc.'s new mobile development tool offers cross-platform capabilities while claiming native performance and the ability to quickly build fully functional apps without writing code.

Recently put into beta, the company's Composer tool features a drag-and-drop programming model that seeks to put mobile app building in the hands of more people wanting to build iOS and Android apps. The visual app builder "allows those with limited technical knowledge to build high-quality working applications without coding," the company said. This is a growing trend, as developers are in great demand, new computer science classes are springing up in schools of all sizes and numerous efforts are underway to get kids coding at a young age.

Composer is a "freemium" Software as a Service (SaaS) tool integrated with Adobe PhoneGap cross-platform technology. The complete product is available for free use during the beta, expected to last until the third or fourth quarter of this year. After that, the company said, a free tier will remain available, with add-ons available for purchase to provide functionality such as a data proxy or integrations with cloud services.

Drag-and-drop app logic
Drag-and-Drop App Logic (source: AppGyver Inc.)

For more advanced programming with more complicated business logic, AppGyver offers a Steroids command-line interface (CLI) hybrid UI that it said matches native performance.

PhoneGap -- based on the same technology as the open source Apache Cordova project -- lets developers build cross-platform apps targeting multiple OSes via hybrid apps based on HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. These apps are integrated with wrappers that access a device's WebView to provide native functionality such as access to cameras and accelerometers.

Hybrid apps are seen as a compromise between building native apps multiple times for each targeted platform to get the best performance and using strict Web technology to build an app once that runs on any device, without native functionality. Hybrid apps use Web technology but allow access to native functions through wrappers and WebiVews. These apps are usually described as incurring a slight performance hit over truly native apps, but more vendors are claiming their technology allows fully native app performance -- or quite nearly so.

AppGyver is one such vendor, claiming its Steroids product actually improves on the PhoneGap technology as part of its mission goal that HTML5 apps built with its tools must not be distinguishable from native apps. Though it doesn't go into much readily available detail about how it does this, the company said, "Sometimes CSS and JavaScript just don't feel native enough. That's why we created Steroids Hybrid UI. [It] allows you to utilize native UI components in your HTML5 app via a simple JavaScript API."

CEO Marko Lehtimäki provided more details in a blog post last November, in which he discussed the future of PhoneGap and if it would ever achieve native app quality with its "thin-wrapper" approach. Because the Apache Cordova code is completely open source, vendors such as AppGyver are able to improve upon it, he said.

"To bridge the gap between Cordova and real native apps, the wrapper needs to be fatter, not thinner," Lehtimäki said. "This means using native code in areas where browsers simply don't cut it, like native UI features, sophisticated memory management, background processes and advanced data features. For Web developers, it means a few new JavaScript APIs, superior app performance and fewer headaches.

"Our team at AppGyver is betting on the 'fatter wrapper' horse. We believe that native apps will be far superior to Web apps for the foreseeable future. As Web developers who are not satisfied with anything but fully native-quality apps, we decided to extend Cordova, instead of waiting to see what happens. Our new rapid development platform, AppGyver Steroids, comprehensively bridges the gap between HTML5 hybrid apps and native apps."

Although AppGyver claims Composer can create complex app logic with the visual drag-and-drop process, it notes that mobile apps can be quickly "bootstrapped" with the tool and Composer projects can be exported as AppGyver Steroids HTML5 projects for further, more complicated development.

Composer lets developers use REST APIs and add custom back-ends or integrate with third-party cloud services such as Parse and Kimono. It uses the AngularJS JavaScript framework along with the Ionic HTML5 hybrid mobile app framework. The company claims more than 10,000 apps have been built with its existing tools and sees Composer as "the democratization of app development hitting a whole new level."

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