One of the biggest challenges of developing mobile applications
is trying to port the application to multiple platforms. This can lead to
extensive development costs, and the need for multiple skillsets internally in
order to maintain the application. This has led to the development of a number
of technologies that provide a cross-platform solution.

Arguably, the most popular of these technologies is PhoneGap.
The solution allows developers to create applications with a familiar tool set:
HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.


When PhoneGap is combined with a mobile web development
framework, it’s possible to develop
cross-platform mobile applications quickly. One of the most popular frameworks
is jQuery Mobile
due to its simplicity and native look and feel.

I’ll demonstrate how to develop a simple application that uses
PhoneGap APIs with jQuery Mobile to search for a list of contacts by name and
display them (Figure A). Then, I’ll show how to deploy the application to your
Android device with PhoneGap.
Follow along with the step-by-step tutorial, or download and import the project.

Figure A


1. Install
PhoneGap. It’s platform dependent, so I refer you to the PhoneGap documentation.

2. Execute
the following lines in a terminal window to create the application in the
current directory:

$ phonegap create ContactsList
$ cd ContactsList
$ phonegap run android

3. PhoneGap provides a variety of plugins for accessing the native APIs of a
device.  This example will make use
of the PhoneGap Contacts Plugin. To add the Contacts Plugin, execute the
following at the command line:


$ phonegap local plugin add

4. Enable
the plugin within your PhoneGap application by adding this line to the
app/res/xml/config.xml file:


<plugin name=”Contacts” value=”org.apache.cordova.ContactManager” />

5. You
must provide permissions to contacts within the AndroidManifest.xml, so within
the application, add these lines to the app/AndroidManifest.xml file:


<uses-permission android:name=”android.permission.GET_ACCOUNTS” />
<uses-permission android:name=”android.permission.READ_CONTACTS” />
<uses-permission android:name=”android.permission.WRITE_CONTACTS” /&gt

6. Now
you’re ready to start developing the application. The first step is to create a
page that will hold the list of contacts you’re attempting to show. With jQuery
Mobile, this is achieved using the <div data-role=”page”>
element. Copy this code snippet into the www/index.html file of your


<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>Page Title</title>

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″>

<link rel=”stylesheet”
href=”” />
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”phonegap.js”></script>
<script src=””></script>
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”js/index.js”></script>
<div data-role=”page”>
<div data-role=”header”>
<h1>Show My Contacts</h1>
</div><!– /header –>

<div data-role=”content”>
<div id=”contactsList”>
</div><!– /content –>
</div><!– /page –>


We included the jQuery Mobile script and stylesheet in the
<head>; this is all that is needed to use the jQuery Mobile framework.
Within the <div data-role=”page”> element, we define the
<div data-role=”header”> and <div
data-role=”content”> elements. These elements define what content
will be rendered in the page header and the content section, respectively.

7. In the
previous snippet, there was an empty <div id=”contactsList”>; this
<div> element will contain your contacts list. You can use JavaScript to
retrieve the contacts and display them. PhoneGap provides an event to hook into
the moment the application is loaded, and the device is ready. Replace the code
in the www/js/index.js file with the following:


document.addEventListener(“deviceready”, onDeviceReady, false);

function onDeviceReady() {
// find all contacts with ‘Jacob’ in any name field
var options = new ContactFindOptions();
options.filter = “Jacob”;
options.multiple = true;
var fields = [“displayName”, “name”, “phoneNumbers”];
navigator.contacts.find(fields, onSuccess, onError, options);

This code snippet adds a listener that will retrieve all contacts
with “Jacob” anywhere in the name once the device is ready. The data
returned from the retrieval will contain the contact names and phone numbers,
and will be passed to an onSuccess method.


8. After
retrieving the contacts, you need to display them to the user. You can use the jQuery Mobile Collapsible List to display the
contact names and allow them to be expanded to show the phone numbers. Add the
following snippet to the www/js/index.js file:


function onSuccess(contacts) {
for(var i = 0; i < contacts.length; i++) {
var html = ‘<div data-role=”collapsible” data-inset=”false”>’;

html += ‘<h2>’ + contacts[i].displayName + ‘</h2>’;
html += ‘<ul data-role=”listview”>’

var contact = contacts[i];

for(var j = 0; j < contact.phoneNumbers.length; j++) {
html += ‘<li>’ + contact.phoneNumbers[j].type +
“: ” + contact.phoneNumbers[j].value + ‘</li>’;

html += ‘</ul></div>’;



function onError(contactError) {

Notice that we make use of the PhoneGap Contact object here. Be sure to
specify the fields you want to use when finding the contacts list.

9. If
you have your Android device or an emulator set up appropriately, execute this
command to deploy the application:


$ phonegap install android

Keep exploring

Try deploying the application to other
platforms and using additional PhoneGap APIs. It may just convince you to use
the platform for your next app.