Last Updated on
April 29, 2024

Capacitor vs Cordova - Which Framework is Better?

Published in
Key takeaways:
  • Cordova has a larger choice of plugins and a mature and established community. However, its WebVIew performance is subpar, it has no naive APIs and you may have some compatibility issues.
  • Capacitor uses modern technologies such as HTML and CSS, has native APIs, and supports progressive web app development. However, it does not have a large community or documentation and it has fewer plugins.
  • If you want to turn your website into a mobile app, consider choosing MobiLoud as the third and the best alternative. It's cheaper, faster and easier to maintain.

If you're looking to start a new app development project, you're probably looking into frameworks that can provide you with native functionality, a modern development workflow and great app performance. Two great mobile development choices are Capacitor and Cordova.

Today, we take a look at both app development frameworks to find their key differences and similarities and determine which one is better for your next mobile app project.

What is Capacitor?

capacitor as a mobile development framework

Developed in 2018, Capacitor is an open-source project for mobile apps that helps devs build native projects on Android, iOS, Electron, and the web (through PWA). Capacitor gives developers native API access, helping them build once and deploy on multiple platforms, allowing them to do true cross-platform development.

What is Cordova?

cordova as a mobile development framework

Apache Cordova is an open-source project that is used to build web apps across different platforms, all with native device features. Cordova was released in 2009 and while it has been the industry standard for many mobile developers, it’s starting to show its age through the lack of modern features.

PS. if you have a website that you want to turn into a mobile app, you may not need Capacitor or Cordova. Simply use MobiLoud instead. See what your app would look like here.

Capacitor vs Cordova - key differences

Apache Cordova is one of the most popular choices for cross-platform mobile applications for years now, but it’s slowly declining in popularity. Capacitor by Ionic is the new alternative that may be a better choice. But let’s compare them in detail and see where they differ.

The native bridge

The Apache Cordova framework uses WebView to render the user interface of the application you’re developing. This is a bridge that communicates between the code you’re writing in Javascript and the native features of the device, through the use of plugins.

On the other hand, Capacitor uses WebView too, but with a few small differences. The native bridge is more modern and as a result, you get better performance and there is more flexibility on how native APIs are accessed.

If you want to mimic native code more quickly and accurately for any device, Capacitor is probably the better choice.

The development environment

Cordova has been around for a while and it’s evident by the multitude of choices of integrated development environments for developers. They can choose from Cordova CLI, Visual Studio and many others.

On the other hand, Capacitor is run by people from Ionic, which means that you’re going to be working in Ionic tools and their development workflow.

Cordova takes the cake here because there is a strong chance that your developer team has worked in some of these IDEs before. On the other hand, only an Ionic team of developers or someone specializing in Capacitor is the kind of person to work in Ionic before.

The plugin ecosystem

Cordova is known for its huge choice of third-party plugins for just about any kind of hybrid app development. If you need to use plugin source code for the camera, geolocation, file system and more, it’s all readily available.

Capacitor can use all of the Cordova plugins but it also has its ecosystem with Capacitor plugins. These provide a seamless integration with the Capacitor bridge, letting you take a modern approach to mobile app development.

It’s hard to pick the better alternative here, but if you’re into modern development practices, the Ionic framework is probably the better choice.

Community support

If you get stuck while building a native application in Apache Cordova, it’s not a huge deal. As it’s been around for a good while, there are many resources out there such as tutorials, guides, forums and more. In general, there is a larger community of long-time Cordova users.

On the flip side, Capacitor is younger and does not have as many materials available online. But it’s not all that bad, Ionic is one of the more popular modern web technologies and you can get help in Ionic communities.

In this category, Apache Cordova wins by a hair.

Javascript and tooling

Being more seasoned is not always an advantage. Cordova does not always support the most recent Javascript features and it may not have the most modern tooling you’d expect from an IDE.

Capacitor is built with support for modern JavaScipt and Typescript, which gets you access to features such as hot reloading, and you can benefit from Typescript support.

In this sense, Capacitor is probably the choice that will get you more love from your development team.

Which one should you choose for your next app?

If you don’t see a major difference between Capacitor and Cordova, let’s break it down for you.

Choose Apache Cordova if:

  • You need access to a large library of plugins
  • You need to troubleshoot often and want to find answers easily online
  • You don’t mind the older WebView and its lackluster performance
  • You don’t need direct native APi access
  • You’re okay with writing some additional code if you have platform-specific issues

Choose Ionic Capacitor if:

  • You need access to the most modern web technologies, including JavaScript, HTML and CSS
  • You need direct access to native APIs, giving you access to custom native features without using plugins
  • You need support for progressive web apps (PWA), allowing you to build both for apps and the web
  • You don’t mind troubleshooting on your own because there is no well-established community
  • You don’t have extensive requirements in terms of plugins

Or simply, choose the third option

Do you already have an existing website that you want to turn into a mobile app? You don’t need to choose Capacitor or Cordova, because there’s a simpler solution to the problem.

With MobilLoud, you can convert your website into a mobile app that automatically updates with your site. Make changes once and have them reflect both on your website and your app, all while keeping all of your unique website features and your design.

No need to spend time debating development frameworks or pay thousands every month to expensive developers.

Preview your app today to see what your website would look like as a mobile application!

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