Apache Cordova or Adobe PhoneGap? Know the Real Difference

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Posted: May 25, 2016


While the two cross-platform mobile application terms are used as‘Cordova/PhoneGap,’have you ever heard of any differences between them?

You may not know but PhoneGap is a distribution of Apache Cordova. So Apache Cordova serves as the engine to power PhoneGap just like WebKit – an engine that powers Chrome and Safari (iOS browser). Nonetheless, as an app developer or as an organization, you don’t have to worry about the differences between these two. The story is like this:

  • PhoneGap was previously a product of Adobe.
  • To keep it open-source always and follow standards, PhoneGap codebase was handed over to Apache.
  • At Apache, it got a name change as Cordova.
  • And now it’s better known as Apache Cordova.

Is PhoneGap equal to Cordova?

So, they are same cross-platform frameworks with different names. The most important to understand here is that PhoneGap is powered by apache Cordova. PhoneGap is Cordova plus some extra Adobe stuff. If you are developing a hybrid mobile app, you can either create it using proper Cordova or choose Adobe’s ecosystem for using PhoneGap distribution of Cordova.

Notably, for added values on open-source framework, you may have to pay. The open-source Cordova/PhoneGap will be always free and delivered by Apache. Over time, Adobe may add values to this (current) codebase that consists of other Adobe services and that will be named as PhoneGap, which will be chargeable.

An example of this paid service by Adobe is PhoneGap Build Service. It is a service provided by Adobe allowing developers to build apps in the cloud, without installing an additional local SDK.

Cordova will always remain open source and lets you create apps that are native to Android, iOS and Windows using web technologies like HTML, CSS, JavaScript. And PhoneGap offers the same cross-platform environment as Cordova. So, currently the difference lies in the names of the same framework, with a catch that PhoneGap services are owned by Adobe and many not always be open-source and free-to-use.

Furthermore, Ionic (an advanced HTM5 hybrid mobile framework) is also a distribution of Apache Cordova, along with a number of Ionic services. Cordova can perform almost anything a native app can do; it just requires right plugins to send the right data to the web-based code. Though Cordova has a high-quality plugin API, Ionic provides a broader set of more generic plugins available in Cordova. To create more scalable and custom apps, Ionic (with Cordova) is a preferred cross-platform framework lately.

To learn more about Ionic as hybrid app framework, read here.


All in all, there are no codebase differences between Cordova and PhoneGap as most of the commands are similar. In some cases, there are differences like PhoneGap Build Comes with a remote build functionality whereas Cordova build only supports local builds.

As the demand for developing cross-platform mobile applications increases, Cordova (PhoneGap) is one of the bets solutions to consider.

We hope you got some clarity on difference and similarity between PhoneGap and Cordova. We’d love to read your suggestions and opinions in the comments section below. Please help our readers improve their understanding of Apache Cordova and Adobe PhoneGap as a cross-platform framework.