A lot of people are asking me this question, which framework is better Sencha Touch or jQuery Mobile.
Let me first tell you, talking about Sencha Touch and jQuery Mobile is like asking which one is better for server side web development, PHP or Java. While both of them can be used for same purposes in reality they are used for completely different purposes.
Where Sencha Touch is optimized and built to run exclusively on web-kit mobile browsers jQuery Mobile is built to work globally all around on any available HTML browsers. This is more praise for Sencha Touch then jQuery Mobile; it may sound different, but Sencha Touch’s optimization is probably this single best thing that makes it shine that much useful. Hybrid mobile applications made from Sencha Touch will run extremely fast and fluid almost native-like.
At the same time, jQuery Mobile covers entirely different market segment. Unlike Sencha Touch, which is built to work only on web kit browsers, jQuery Mobile will run on almost anything as long it supports HTML5 standard. It doesn’t matter are you running it on a Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS it will run just fine, and that makes it appealing to a broader specter of users.

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This article is a part of a series where I am trying to explain differences between different HTML5 application frameworks. Original article is talking about broad differences between 7 most popular HTML5 mobile frameworks. Follow previous link if you want to find out more about them.

Sencha Touch vs jQuery Mobile

I will try to match them as best as I can, this will be told from my experience so don’t expect fully objective thoughts. Personally I do not prefer one over another – and I will never promote one over another. Next chapter will be segmented into groups, and each group will have a winner.

Match 1 – Marketing and platform support

Both Sencha Touch and jQuery Mobile are HTML5 mobile frameworks, and they promote themselves like that. jQuery Mobile humbly promotes itself as a system built for all popular mobile device platforms. On the other hand, Sencha Touch goes over the top promoting itself as a only framework that enables developers to build powerful apps that work on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and more. Personally and subjectively I give them a negative point for puffery and false marketing. I don’t see the point in overpraising something that is already that good; it is borderline narcissistic.
Sencha Touch
  • Usable only one web kit browsers (this is no longer the case)
  • There are much more available mobile frameworks then Sencha Touch developers would want you to know
jQuery Mobile
  • Large number of available platforms, though not optimized for specific platforms (allegedly should be better optimized from version 1.4
Verdict: jQuery Mobile wins

Match 2 – UI and visual impression

Look and feel. As you will see, Sencha Touch and jQuery Mobile are entirely different frameworks from UI point of view. The first one is javascript driven, where the other one is HTML driven. Both of them have a great UI feeling, but Sencha offer more native-like feeling (in case you are creating a hybrid mobile application). Unfortunately, both of them will perform miserably if complex UI is used, jQuery Mobile more than Sencha Touch.
Sencha Touch
  • Extremely fast and fluid on mobile devices, all in all, much better feel than jQuery Mobile
  • It follows MVC philosophy. You don’t need to write any HTML; JavaScript will do everything for you
  • Currently it offers more UI elements/widgets, for example carousel implementation
  • SVG support – making it great for games
  • This is not directly related to UI, but Sencha Touch IDE is premium product
jQuery Mobile
  • Unlike Sencha Touch, jQuery Mobile UI works much like classic web UI
  • Everything is done through HTML where final UI is wrapped with a custom jQuery Mobile styles, just like jQuery UI
  • UI is easily extendable and morphable, with a little bit of CSS you can change any existing widget, even create new ones. From version 1.4, UI should be extendable to jQuery UI.
  • Ajax driven navigation can be confusing to some developers + page transitions, and animations don’t feel ‘native’ enough and can be sluggish sometimes
  • CSS usage that makes it great also makes it looking like a clone, one application looks just like another, it requires a lot of time to make it look unique. Excellent example is mobile version of SongMeanings.com.
  • Unlike Sencha Touch here you need to worry about page architecture, it can be problematic sometimes. Everything is tied together, which is good and bad at the same time. Version 1.4 should remedy a lot of this concerns.
Verdict:Sencha Touch wins

Match 3 – Availability, ease of use

Again this is an entirely different story. jQuery Mobile is markup driven, and its dependency on jQuery makes it extremely easy to master unless you prefer MVC architecture where Sencha Touch simply shines. Of course, that comes with a price of alien syntax, at least foreign to those who have distanced them self from a vanilla javascript. In the end, this ease of use will decide this match.
Sencha Touch
  • It is all javascript, can be confusing for new developers
  • Very hard to impossible to debug and fix errors in the framework
  • Steep learning curve – at the same time worth of every hour spent on it
jQuery Mobile
  • If you like jQuery (like a lot of people do) you will also like jQuery Mobile
  • Easy syntax
  • Unfortunately out of box MVC is not supported, it can be fixed with Backbone.js or Knockout.js
  • Great theme roller support + everything can be easily manipulated through CSS
  • Basically any IDE can be used to develop jQuery Mobile application.
Verdict: jQuery Mobile wins

Match 4 – Documentation

This is the point where even an excellent products can fall and become forgotten. Both frameworks have more or less good documentation background. Where Sencha Touch has probably bigger and better official documentation and jQuery Mobile has an excellent 3rd party information coverage. But, in the end, exceptional Sencha Touch official documentation wins over jQuery Mobile.
Sencha Touch
  • Simply better official documentation the jQuery Mobile, large and not confusing, unless its syntax is not confusing all along to you
  • Not that much 3rd party support or forums
  • Official support is not free, not to mention official IDE platform
jQuery Mobile
  • Good official documentation but not on a level of Sencha Touch
  • Excellent 3rd party support, blogs, articles, forums, Stackoverflow….
  • Better book coverage
Verdict: Sencha Touch wins

Match 5 – Tools, Plugins, 3rd party support

This is also an important topic. What kind of tools or plugins can be used to make my developer life easier.
Sencha Touch
  • In house native app wrapper support
  • Support for themes
  • Unfortunately IDE is a paid application
jQuery Mobile
  • Phonegap is used as a native app wrapper, also while PhoneGap is an excellent tool it can behave weirdly when used with jQuery Mobile
  • Support for themes, unfortunately, this is not a full support because some core elements CSS can not be changed like this, for example, active element glow
  • Large number of 3rd party plugins is available, not to mention compatibility with jQuery plugins
  • Can be extended much more easily than Sencha touch
Verdict: Tie, still this round slightly favors jQuery Mobile
Continue Reading
  • Peter

    Sencha Touch has been supporting IE devices since at least April 2013. We have our app running on desktops, iPhones, iPads, Android Phones+Tablets, Blackberry 10, Windows Phone, and Windows Surface! The only thing it doesn’t do is Firefox and pre-IE10 browsers. People who have OOP backgrounds (like Java) feel VERY much at home with javascript MVC (writing methods and subclassing) and have no trouble moving into it. They actually find it MUCH harder to learn HTML tag editing like JQuery.

  • s_48k

    Hi, good article.
    About Sencha, no it works on Windows Phone IE

  • s_48k

    Sorry, NOW it works on Windows Phone IE 😛

  • Michael

    Thank you for sharing your insights. Up to now i can confirm all of your points.

  • KC

    Thank you. This article is very helpful.

    • http://www.dragan-gaic.info Gajotres

      Thank you for noticing it

  • marwan

    Sencha touch is better for big projects

    • http://www.gajotres.net Dragan Gaić

      I couldn’t agree more

  • http://foo.com ed

    Great article .. should really get more hits..

  • Browser

    Excellent article. As ‘ed’ said, should really get more hits!

  • Tejas Trivedi

    Really Useful. Please update your blog as these frameworks comes with new versions. Thanks.

  • Zahir

    Excellent! Thank you for sharing the knowledge.

  • Mukesh

    really helpful.

  • abdul

    Excellent article.everything is explain very nicely

  • http://downthesofa.ie Elias Junior

    Great Article, I’ve been working with JQM and never tried Sencha, Really good comparison!

  • Mukesh Sharma

    Thanks for this such an informative post.
    keep posting solid stuff…..
    Here jQuery Mobile Versus DHTMLX Touch-Battle Between Declarative Versus Programmatic Frameworks

  • Aarti

    Really helpful..!!

  • Bin

    Very useful article, thanks for sharing.

  • Matthew

    Very clear explanation.. and helpful.. really appreciate it..

  • Lisa Johnson

    Really very informative article. Why jQuery mobile is suitable for mobile web app development!
    Read more at: http://www.htmlpanda.com/blog/why-jquery-mobile-is-suitable-for-mobile-web-app-development/

  • Dilip

    Excellent Article….Thanks for Sharing :)

  • Prodsign design company

    Very useful and informative article…thanks for sharing it…Keep updating…