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Is Sencha Touch Still a Strong Choice for HTML5 Mobile Development?

Originally published February 02, 2015 Time 8 mins

TL;DR: At an enterprise level or if you plan on being employed as a Sencha Touch developer, absolutely yes. If you’re a single freelance developer, yes although there is some uncertainty around the support for single developers. Sencha Touch is currently free to use commercially and it seems unlikely that will change, but it is possible. The CEO of Sencha has openly stated that support for the Sencha Touch framework will be a priority moving forward.

Is Sencha Touch dying, stagnating or growing?

I’ve noticed that a few people seem worried about the future of Sencha Touch and whether it is a good choice for developing HTML5 or hybrid mobile applications. I was recently contacted through my blog by someone who had these concerns, to paraphrase what they said:

Our company uses Sencha Touch heavily for our product development, I wanted to know your thoughts on future of Sencha Touch. I want to understand the general feeling of hard core Sencha Touch developers, on the moves being made by Sencha in terms of their plans to merge their JavaScript frameworks.

Understandably, developers are wary about investing their time into learning a framework. It’s a big commitment with potentially big rewards, but also great risk. Like any good relationship, a breakup can be messy and devastating. The email above was actually the first I had heard about Sencha’s plan for merging their frameworks – I’ll talk a little more on that point in just a bit.

In the Sencha Touch Facebook Group a new Sencha Touch developer shared his concerns that it seemed Sencha Touch was dying:

Is it my impression or is Sencha Touch dying? I see less and less people using Sencha Touch 2. I see less and less fresh content about new apps done with Sencha Touch 2.

There’s certainly a lack of Sencha Touch bloggers and content creators but I think this is true of most HTML5 frameworks, even Ionic which is perhaps the most popular alternative to Sencha Touch. Although the Ionic team puts a lot more effort into keeping their blog active and showcasing apps created with Ionic. I don’t think the problem is that nobody is using Sencha Touch, it is arguably the most powerful and advanced framework available, it’s that not many people are talking about it.

I’d like to see more effort by the Sencha team to showcase applications made with Sencha Touch (hey, I’d even be happy to run a showcase series for them), but I’d also like to see more effort being put in by the community. It’s easy to set up a free blog, or post on the forums about how you made your app or some interesting challenge you faced and solved. Start creating content and giving back to the community, then send me a link to wherever you’re doing it and I’ll add it to the gigantic list of Sencha Touch resources.

I think we’ll see the community involvement grow around all frameworks in the future as HTML5 mobile application development becomes more and more mainstream.

Does Sencha care about single developers?

Perhaps the most concerning issue is Sencha Touch turning a blind eye to this thread:

Is Sencha screwing single developers?

Granted this thread is related to a different framework, not Touch, but it’s a drastic decision that has been made by Sencha and is worth taking into consideration.

If you’ve been keeping up with Sencha news you may have seen the pricing change for their EXT JS framework which sparked significant outrage in the community. Previously you could buy a single developer license to use EXT JS, but now you’re forced to buy a 5 developer pack, even as a single developer, which costs a massive $3,225. For a lot of freelance developers this is simply not an option.

It is understandable that employees not reply to this thread, it’s a sensitive issue that should receive a considered response from the higher ups. But it is perhaps the most active thread to ever appear on the forums, with over 700 replies and 132,000 views, and there has been no official response from Sencha.

EXT JS is, and always has been, a paid framework and Touch has always been free for commercial use (and still is). The only thing I’m slightly concerned about regarding the future of Sencha Touch is the vagueness of this statement by the newly appointed Sencha CEO, Art Landro, which the email I included at the start of this post was referring to:

We will be merging our SDKs into single frameworks for either Java or JavaScript web application development. And based on our customer's feedback, we will also be adding tooling and testing capability to our suite of products. Art Landro, Sencha CEO

This sounds like, most likely, that they will be merging the EXT JS and Sencha Touch frameworks.

He stated further in the comments that:

We are fully committed to supporting our JavaScript (Ext JS and Touch) frameworks as well as the GXT framework and will continue to drive innovation through them. Our roadmap includes adding more sophisticated touch and mobile capabilities to both our frameworks. We will be providing more details and demoing these new capabilities and other exciting product developments at SenchaCon in Santa Clara, California, 7-9 April 2015 and we hope to see you there. Art Landro, Sencha CEO

It’s great to see an open statement of support for the Touch framework from the CEO, but it still doesn’t clarify the previous statement very well. My concern is that if EXT JS and Touch are merged, will we need to start paying these same huge prices for Touch? I highly doubt they would make a change from free to several thousand dollars, that would kill uptake of their framework, but that’s not really clear at this stage.

It’s a little frustrating that it looks like we’ll have to wait until April to get all of our answers, but I don’t really see any cause for concern at this stage. Sencha Touch is a great choice of framework for simple or complex mobile applications and it seems like it will continue to be going into the future. When Sencha Con finally comes around I’ll be listening to every word they have to say, and I’ll be sure to make an update to this post.

P.S. If any Sencha guys are reading this and want to make a response, please feel free to get in touch – I’d be happy to include a response in this post to clarify anything I’ve mentioned.

I’d also like to hear your thoughts readers: are you a veteran developer concerned about the future of Sencha Touch? a new developer wondering if it is the right framework for you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE: It’s official, the Sencha Touch and EXT JS frameworks will be merging. We will have to wait for details on exactly what this looks like but it seems as though Touch will retain the same free licensing options:

the current licensing approach for Sencha Touch will remain the same (free for both GPL and Commercial use). All current Touch developers will remain unaffected. Arthur Kay, Sencha Employee
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