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.
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.
- 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
- 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
- Extremely fast and fluid on mobile devices, all in all, much better feel than jQuery Mobile
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- In house native app wrapper support
- Support for themes
- Unfortunately IDE is a paid application
- 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