Ionic vs. PhoneGap: which is the better Hybrid App Framework

Hybrid app development is perhaps the most favoured app development scenario chosen by developers, where both the elements of native and web applications are combined . Not only would the developers be able to provide a unique and superior level UI experience to the users, but they would also be able to quickly download content and graphics too. The adaptability of the hybrid apps is what attracts this type of app development to businesses. And it is the answer to all the negatives associated with native app development. With hybrid apps, businesses can leverage multiple platforms with just a single solution.

So once you have decided to make hybrid app development, you have many options in the framework chosen. Two of the most popular ones are PhoneGap and Ionic. Both the frameworks have a dedicated community of passionate developers, and both are used commonly in large enterprises. 

Let’s explore the differences between the two:


Ionic is an HTML 5 mobile app development framework, and an open source UI toolkit that’s more suited to building hybrid mobile apps. Ionic comes with a library of mobile-optimised UI components, gestures and tools to help developers build fast, highly interactive apps. Ionic comes with developer-friendly tooling to help create, build, test and deploy the app with Ionic CLI. Additional features include Live Reload, deployments, integrations and JS framework’s CLI. 


PhoneGap, also known as Apache Cordova is an open source framework perfect for building cross-platform mobile apps. PhoneGap was initially known as Nitobi, and changed its name to Apache Cordova after Adobe Systems purchased it in 201..  It is a good choice when you need to build a simple mobile web app with a hint of native app, and its Foreign Function Interfaces is an added advantage.  The framework offers excellent support of JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS3.  The framework is supported by all the common platforms like iOS, Blackberry, Android and Windows OS. With the PhoneGap system, you can create and deploy mobile apps on various platforms without restating the code. 

Popularity level of Ionic and PhoneGap 

Both platforms are popular, but PhoneGap is perhaps slightly more popular than Ionic in cross platform app development. The high level of performance and rich user experience makes it an obvious choice. 


Ionic has a faster development process, while PhoneGap is slower as it contains a lot of graphic elements in the mobile app. Ionic’s framework overcomes any performance issues that it might have. 

Ease of use

Ionic has TypeScript components which makes the tasks a bit slower than using native API. Ionic isn’t a good choice while building high-end apps and graphic games. Ionic is perfect for individual developers who prefer to work with free, open source products, but has enough knowledge to work with Angular JS. PhoneGap is perfect for businesses and with developers who aren’t familiar with HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript. 

Cost effectiveness

Both Ionic and PhoneGap are cost-effective options. Small businesses can know the cost estimation in advance, so they can easily develop an app that fits their budget. The development time is less, resulting in lower development cost. For big enterprises on a tight budget, PhoneGap is the perfect tool because developers can write a single program and run it on multiple platforms. This is a cost effective option for enterprises.  


Ionic framework makes it possible to have a better experience and feel, so users can enjoy interactive mobile apps. There is access to native APIs and plugins that allows the applications to have a native user experience. Developers can use up to 120 native device functionalities like Finger Print AUTH, Bluetooth and so on with Cordova plugins. 

PhoneGap is a web based UI, so there is a degree of difficulty in delivering that look and feel for mobile applications. 

Tools Integration

The tools of integration for Ionic are Atatus, Readymag, Backand, JScrambler and StackBlitz. 

The tools of integration for PhoneGap are LokiJS, Backand, JScrambler, TestFair and HelpShift. 

Responsive design

Ionic has UI components with built-in responsive design, so the app would be responsive across many form factors.

PhoneGap will come in handy if you want to build a mobile application that’s more responsive than web applications. With thousands of devices available in the market today, it is a relief to be able to build apps with responsive design.

Community support

Ionic boasts of excellent community support. PhoneGap doesn’t offer such good support. 

Easy testing

With the Ionic framework, mobile app testing is very simple on mobile browsers and in Safari and iOS devices. Programmers can test the app on the work area program and use the Cordova commands in dress test system for iOS and Android .

PhoneGap has a PhoneGap Developer App for testing apps during development. This bypasses the whole SDK and avoids the need for compiling or signing the code. 

Pros and Cons of the two framework

Pros of Ionic

  • Its free and open source
  • Excellent UX/UI Design
  • Perfectly as cross platform framework
  • Full utilisation of Cordova plugins
  • Easy mobile app testing
  • Utilises Angular JS to made codes more manageable
  • Creation of widgets possible

Major negatives of Ionic

  • The framework is not suitable for high performance apps or for UI intensive apps.
  • Not a native app
  • Not meant for game development
  • Native plugins aren’t stable and can contradict each other
  • Debugging of application built on the framework can be challenging

Pros of PhoneGap

  • Easier deployment of apps
  • Maintains uniformity in app developed apps
  • No need of expert developers; developers with knowledge in CSS3, HTML and Javascript would be sufficient
  • Powerful backing and support by Apache Cordova
  • Easy to work plugins
  • Is open source, so free

Major negatives of PhoneGap

  • Originally meant for web pages, not for complex apps
  • The user experience is not as highly rated as other frameworks
  • Performance is also not fully up to the mark
  • Not as good as native app
  • Not suitable for gaming application as it’s more suited for building simple applications
  • Does Not support plugins containing hooks
  • Not possible to develop an app without iOS SDK
  • In certain situations, the developer may be faced with outdated plugins  


Ionic is a pioneer in cross-platform app, powered by the web. It lets you build interactive apps quickly. When viewing an Ionic app on an iOS device, it will automatically style itself on the iOS theme, but for an Android device, it will be done with the Material Design theme. When the app is viewed at PWA or Progressive Web App from a browser, by default it will be viewed as Material Design Theme. 

PhoneGap has the power and capability to permit the web code to run when embedded into a native app shell and also the accessibility of native device features like camera, Bluetooth etc. using Javascript. But the main thing that’s missing from PhoneGap is the rest of the UI infrastructure and SDK that developers need to build a native-like app with high performance. PhoneGap doesn’t offer scrolling features or built navigation capabilities. The developer has to build all that by himself or use a UI toolkit. 

PhoneGap is the perfect choice for developers looking to design a simple mobile web application with a hint of native app. The framework can access native APIs but may not be a wise choice when you want to build a robust native application. On the other hand, if you are looking to build a simple web application with native apps then the framework would be a nice option. It is also a cost-effective option, so if you are looking to save a few bucks, then go for it. 

Interesting Links:

More information about Ionic and PhoneGap

Which cross platform development framework is the best?

Pictures: Canva

The author: Sascha Thattil works at which is a part of the YUHIRO Group. YUHIRO is a German-Indian enterprise which provides programmers to IT companies, agencies and IT departments.

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