Apache Cordova

Formerly known as PhoneGap and then Apache Callback, this is a mobile application development framework initially created by Nitobi. In 2011, Adobe Systems acquired Nitobi, changed its name to PhoneGap, and released an open source version of the Apache Cordova software. This software allows software programmers build applications using JavaScript, CSS3, and HTML5 instead of platform-specific APIs of Windows, Android, and iOS Phones.

Apache Cordova enables HTML, JavaScript, and CSS code wrapping which depends on the device’s platform and allows the JavaScript and HTML features to work with the device. The resultant applications are hybrid which means they are neither a pure Web-based application (they are not just Web apps but packaged for distribution and access to native device APIs) nor native mobile application (all layout rendering is carried out using Web views in place of the platform’s native UI framework). Since version 1.9, the mixing of hybrid and native code extracts has been possible.

This software was originally created by Rob Ellis, Shazron Abdullah, Joe Bowser, Brock Whitten, Anis Kadri, Eric Oesterle, Michael Brooks, Herman Wong, Dave Johnson, Filip Maj, Jesse MacFadyen, and Brian Leroux, and was released in 2009. The programming languages used were Objective-C, C#, JavaScript, C++, HTML, CSS, and Java. It is compatible with OS X, Android, Electron (software framework), Windows 8.1, iOS, and Phone 8.1 and 10.

PhoneGap is Adobe’s marketable version of Cordova with its accompanying ecosystem. Most tools and frameworks are developed on Cordova including Cocoon, Ionic, Mobiscroll, TACO, Quasar Framework, GapDebug, Telerik Platform, Onsen UI, Evothings Studio, Visual Studio, Monaca, the Intel XDK, and NSB/AppStudio. These tools use Cordova not PhoneGap as a core tool. Contributors to this product is Microsoft, Adobe, Google, Mozilla, IBM, BlackBerry, Intel, etc.


PhoneGap was initially created at a San Francisco iPhoneDevCamp event. It won the People’s Choice Award at O’Reilly Media’s 2009 Web 2.0 Conference, and its framework was used to develop several apps. Apple Incorporated confirmed it approved the product even with the alteration of clause 3.3.1 of the Apple iPhone SDK developer license agreement 4.0 implemented in 2010.

The PhoneGap framework is applied in various mobile application platforms like ViziApps, appMobi, Worklight, Monaca, and Convertigo as the support for their mobile client development engine. Adobe officially publicized the procurement of Nitobi on October 4, 2011. The PhoneGap code was presented to the Apache Software Foundation to begin a new plan known as Apache Cordova. The original name Apache Callback was rejected because of its “nonspecific” nature.

It appears in Adobe Systems as Adobe PhoneGap and Adobe PhoneGap Build. When asked why the name “Cordova” was chosen, the response was “While genesis stories of PhoneGap often vary with the teller, most committers can agree the project was born at Nitobi, when the office was on Cordova street in Vancouver”.

For earlier versions of PhoneGap, an Apple computer was needed for the creation of iOS apps and a Windows computer was needed for the creation of Windows Mobile apps. Adobe’s PhoneGap Build service started letting software programmers upload HTML, JavaScript, and CSS source code to a “cloud compiler” for the generation of apps on supported platforms after September 2012.

Design and Reasoning

The main core of an Apache Cordova application needs HTML5 and CSS3 for interpretation and JavaScript for logic. The HTML5 gives access to inner hardware like the GPS, accelerometer, and camera. However, not all mobile browsers support HTML5-based device access, especially older Android devices. To avoid this problem, Apache Cordova inserts the HTML5 code into the native WebView of the device by using a foreign function interface to access the original resources.

Apache Cordova can be extended using original plugins that allow developers add more functionality from JavaScript and communication between the original layer and the HTML5 page. These plugins grant access to the device’s microphone, accelerometer, compass, camera, file system, and more. With the use of Web-based technologies, most Apache Cordova applications run slower when compared to original applications with the same functions. Adobe Systems cautions on the rejection of applications developed using Apache Cordova for being slow or not having a “native” feel.

Supported Platforms

Version 9 supports the operating system of Apple iOS, Windows 8.1, Google’s Android, Windows 10, and Electron (this software framework runs on macOS, Windows, and Linux). Earlier versions supported Ubuntu Touch, Bada, Nokia Symbian OS, LG webOS, BlackBerry, Microsoft Windows Phone (7 & 8), Firefox OS, and Tizen (SDK 2.x).

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