Appcelerator's Titanium: A truncated review

Like any self respecting entrepreneurial geek, I've got my eye on mobile applications.  Recently receiving my sweet sweet Nexus One (seriously, drool worthy phone), I wanted to see what I could break.

I used one of my very precious Sundays about a month ago to dig in.

What is Titanium 

As far as I can tell (this review is truncated) Titanium is basically an API and runtime which allows you to build a web application and deploy it to a mobile device, or run it on the desktop.  The differentiator is that while your app is just running in a webkit browser, you can add controls and utilize APIs on the host machine using Titanium's custom JavaScript APIs.  I guess they accomplish this via a plugin for webkit which renders them in the browser?  I don't know, but anyway, that's the gist.  It's supposed to be better than Phonegap (which is now my only other option for x-platform mobile development) because it uses these native controls instead of the ugly browser based ones.  So your app doesn't look like a web app (even though it kinda is).

The company's website has been nicely lacquered with Web 2.0 spray and they are venture backed.

Great idea, doesn't work.

Getting the desktop runtime working and building a sample app from the docs was pretty easy and straight forward.   But that's not what I came for.  The desktop is so 2009.  I wanted to get something working on Android.  Sadly, while the website claims everywhere that Titanium works for Android (and I'm sure it once did), I just couldn't get it to work.  No errors, just silent failure.  Then I found this thread:

Android is completely borked.  It just doesn't work.

Amazing: 5 weeks later, still no resolution.  Barely a peep from customer service too over that time.  BTW, there are another dozen similar threads.  We're not talking about an edge case or training, we're talking about the product being fundamentally broken.  If I paid for it, I would certainly take legal action.  This company is venture backed and sells support services. 

Developers are willing to struggle, but only to a point

If you're a technology company making something for developers, or something developers will have to integrate, please pay attention.  Developers these days have a huge sway in I.T. decision making.  Sure, a great board and savvy marketing will help it slip past the VP or CEO, but developers will feel your product, touch it, they will test your support, they will try to hack it, and they will try to fix it.  And then, if you didn't waste too much of their time, and responded to them quickly and completely, they might make a recommendation.

So please, stop the product design meetings, skip that next conference, cancel the management offsite and have all hands support your product.  The idea is great, but unless you are fanatical about having me as a customer, I can't trust that you'll be fanatical about serving me later.




Here's a little more on how

Anonymous's picture

Here's a little more on how it works. I don't think the answer that it's basically a webpage is completely correct.

But I agree completely that this software is broken. I've been trying for a week now to make a simple calculator for android. Maybe the iPhone functionality is better, but now I've just about given up on this cross-platform idea and will probably just use the android-sdk directly.

fine one.

Jaisalmer's picture

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No company response? Really?

Anonymous's picture

It's amazing to me that when you Google "appcelerator review" this blog ranks #2 yet no one from the company has commented.

When someone calls out your product as fundamentally broken on a high ranking page, you need to respond - this is taught in Internet public relations 101.

How are they supposed to know when some random person posts? Easy - lots of services can alert you to this. Too much noise to track you say? How about just tracking the ones that rank in Googles top ten for review.

Here is a clue - when developers find something interesting, before they even bother reading the entire company website they look for adhoc discussions around the web to measure the true customer reactions.

If I were an investor and found this page without a proper response I'd be livid and on the phone pretty quickly.

Google has always guarded its

Google has always guarded its search ranking algorithms like a popular restaurant guards its secret sauce recipe. Whether or not Googles computers try to figure out the sentiment surrounding an outbound link, and use that sentiment to decide whether or not to give the linked website additional weight in searches.

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Specific usability functions

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the review.I haven't tested so far, but could you tell me if Appcelerator is capable to integrate specific mobile devices functionalities like shaking event for example?

good tuts on how to get it to work

Hey Jacob,
Here a good tuts on how to get android working on titanium developer.

also, I agree with you. Titanium developer is hard to get working.

Titanium Developer still very broken and unstable

Korky Kathman's picture

I have to agree with most here. This thread was mostly started last year. It's now January, 2011, and the Titanium Platform basically is a major failure. I have to guess this is because it's trying to be all things to all platforms.

I've been in the industry for over 20 years. I'm familiar with most every technical platform from a conceptual point of view, and in many cases, from a coding/day-to-day kind of view also. The Titanium Platform is EXTREMELY unstable.
I'll give some examples, but please keep in mind that I'm on a MAC OSX Snow Leopard with 8GB. That's probably right smack where they are targeting.

The iphone platform seems the most mature, but the Android side is anything but stable. I went through a regular install of the Android SDK about three times and while it's perfectly workable on the computer, it won't work with Titanium very easily. I say that, but apparently some HAVE got it to install, but the majority of users are experiencing tremendous difficulty.

On the iPhone side, at first everything seemed much more smooth. However, I'm a week into it now, and the instability is maddening. The current version (1.2.2) of the Developer I can start up and when I attempt to run an application that works, allegedly, now I get an "Unsupported Platform SDK" for iPhone. Close the developer, re-open and try errors. Disgraceful.

Load an application and make source code changes that SHOULD cause errors, TD ignores them sometimes, then catches them the next time after you restart. Stop the iPhone simulator, and you repeatedly get python errors in the base Titanium Developer that show up in its console. Again, disgraceful.

The real sad part is the total arrogance of the Appcelerator team. They are very lightly involved in the community boards, and there is absolutely MINIMAL documentation to help you decipher the new makes for LOTS of trial and error testing. There are lots of questions on the boards, but anything but a few (having rudimentary errors) have answers. As far as I can tell, there is no help from the company itself.

They then promote a $300 package to LEARN their tool! Can you imagine ANY company inventing a new technology and then CHARGING that kind of money to learn it? They must not want people to use it, unless you can afford the $200/month support (again...ridiculous). It's no wonder that the people at Net Tuts have disowned it and refused to post any more tutorials!

In short, it's a very shoddy platform with holes the size of the Grand Canyon. There is little or NO technical support, except from a very new user base that, like me, is learning by trial and error. The idea is very nice, but the execution sucks. I cannot recommend this to anyone that's seriously developing mobile apps for a living. Stay with the native technologies for now, until, these guys try to get their collective acts together.

Titanium SUCKS

Sandeep's picture

You are absolutely right... Am a iPhone developer from past 1 1/2 years... Its a great experience working with Apple's tools... Very complex apps with greater performance with them.

I wont suggest anybody to use Titanium by having genius Apple iOS SDK. Performance of the app created by Titanium is worse than ever.

Attention to developers: Please use ur native technologies rather than stupid tools!!!

Poor experience with Appcelerator Titanium Mobile

Darren's picture

We tried Appcelerator's Titanium Mobile. We invested $20,000 in creating an iPad application (that we hoped to port to Andriod) for a very high profile client. It was an extensive sales demo of the client's product lines.

We almost had the app complete. However, we were experiencing memory leaks and the app would consistently crash almost half way through, due to being out of memory. Most of the app was written in Javascript.

We had paid several hundred for their Titanium Professional support. And we posted details and code asking for help. Weeks went by with no solution. Others were apparently having similar issue.

I wrote an email to the CTO and CC'd their CEO asking for help and thankfully I was sent a response almost immediately.

Our Support rep admitted verbally that Titanium doesn't necessarily clean up memory properly. And it became clear to us that there was a bug with Titanium as a ticket to resolve it, was posted by our Support rep. But it was not expected to be resolved until May 2011. Needless to say, my client can't wait that long and who knows if it would even be fixed.

I wrote another complaint to our Support contact, stating that I had a choice to abandon Appcelerator and rewrite the app in Objective C - or get this resolved through Appcelerator. Because I cannot risk losing our client and the potential business with their affiliates. I was willing to invest additional Enterprise Support fees if I had to.

A second teleconference was arranged. However, it took a different tone. Despite the ticket being posted by their own staff, and despite our ability to recreate the issue, Appcelerator executives did not admit to having a bug that was causing the issue. They wanted us to pay $375.00 per hour for one of their developers to perform a code walk-through. I am not willing to invest $375 per hour, for what I would guess would at least be another 20 to 40 hours of work for someone else to look through and learn our code, and then possibly provide some sort of alternative work-around due to their bug.

I had complained about excessive fees, and stated that we have already heavily invested in the project and as I see it, we have been helping them debug their own product. They sent me another rather short email stating that they have also invested in helping us without charge - and the lowest they could go is $250.00 per hour.

Needless to say, all of us on my team are extremely disappointed in Appcelerator's response, attitude and treatment - and the fact that we could not get their tools to work as advertised. "If you can dream it, you can build it".

I find it hard to believe that the clients in their Showcase, haven't experienced similar issues. But perhaps you need to be a billion dollar company to get appropriate support and priority from Appcelerator.

If you decide to use Titanium Mobile, I wish you the best of luck.

People *do* have success with it.

Alan B's picture

Appcelerator doesn't produce a web application running in the mobile device browser, it uses native platform controls .

To add balance to the discussion, I use it on three separate Windows 7 64-bit machines and it installed and worked on all of them.

Android has definitely been an afterthought until recently but now they have no choice but to throw resources behind that side of it. The recently released Titanium Studio, which offers real debugging and IDE integration will hopefully help too.

Bug infestation

Nigil Vidacaius's picture

No thanks.

Complex SDK has bugs ...

Alan B's picture

... more news at 10.

Compared to RhoMobile or any of the others, or the Android SDK itself?

Don't use appcelerator...

arne's picture

Used it for commercial projects. Bugs. Slow release cycle. Support sucks (reply after 3 weeks, even when prepared to pay 10K for tech-support).

Steer clear.

Yeah, this thing seems half baked at best

Will's picture

I tried this because a potential job is using it and it sounds pretty darn cool, but I can't get it to work and am not going to spend hours just on trying to install it. The first problem I had was it said you had to use Sun's JDK, not one that comes with your system. Problem is, Sun doesn't have an OSX JDK listed on their site. Second problem is, after installing the Android SDK, it claims files aren't there that are there, blah blah. Too many headaches already, and I don't feel like debugging their installation process.

Sounds like it's too good to be true. Maybe another year or two of development for them before it's worth it.

At least their site looks pretty.

The Sun JDK is not produced

Alan B's picture

The Sun JDK is not produced by Titanium, nor is the Android SDK. Criticising Appcelerator Titanium for issues you are having with those two items is unfair.

Yes, it is a complicated toolchain to install and if it doesn't work the first time it can be difficult to identify the problem. Having said that, the number of apps on the Apple App Store produced using it would seem to indicate that people have success with it.

These are Titanium problems

Will's picture

I'm not having issues with the Sun or Android SDK, I'm having issues with the fact that Titanium's installation & documentation appears to be out of date and/or plagued with problems. When I run the tool, it warns me that the adb and android files are not in the tools directory. Well, adb was moved at some point (per note in the tools directory). I put a symbolic link in there to it, but Titanium still gives me the same error. That, and it's been throwing python errors of some sort on the simplest application.

Anon nailed it above, "Here is a clue - when developers find something interesting, before they even bother reading the entire company website they look for adhoc discussions around the web to measure the true customer reactions." That's what I did, and all I found is "fail" "bugs" "terrible support" etc. That they don't even address this review is troubling and reeks of half-assedness.

I'm willing to believe that some people got it to work and made apps with it, but that doesn't address the issues I'm having.

My Personal Titanium experience

Alex V's picture

Based on all the hype I decided to take the plunge in Appcelerator development system. Since I wanted to save time I paid $299 for Appcelerator online course. The course proved to be a disaster, very confusing and quite useless. The so called evangelist presentation was at best confusing. After that I watched 2 small online youtube videos from a music professor (not affiliated with appcelerator) and the guy 10 times more clear and useful.

In the end I realized that there is no debugger on this Appcelerator so I decided to ditch all my efforts in working with this platform. I lost $299 and one week hope this helps others to save their money and time. Few days ago they released a debugger, I do not want to spend another $1000 and 1 month and get to the same conclusion.

It looks like this guys are making money hooking you on the system, then milking you of money with courses and support. I am sorry that I got to this thread only now.

Thank you for this thread, probably you saved me thousands of dollars and months of hard work.

Titanium Android - not good

I found Titanium on iPhone to be a relatively pleasant experience. But on Android it was a different story - it very nearly killed a project for us & cost the company a months worth of wasted development effort.

Titanium Android just isn't a stable platform. We found multiple problems evaluating valid code (see for an example of it failing to report an array length correctly) - and there is no indication from the dev team that they take such issues seriously.

PhoneGap's Good

Umair Ashraf's picture

I have developed many apps using PhoneGap and all works perfect. Although it runs on browser but no worries. It can be optimized too and HTML5 and CSS3 stuff are no exceptions.

I have tested them on IPhone, Android and Blackberry. All works good.

To add some balance, I have

Alan B's picture

To add some balance, I have installed the Appcelerator tools maybe 5 times, all on 64-bit Windows. Yes there were minor issues, all resolved pretty quickly by a few internet searches. There weren't any more than any other complicated toolchain I've ever installed. The simple fact is that as of mid 2010 there were 4000 apps on the Apple store built using Titanium and they were adding 1000 a month - the Android side is a different story of course. You might not like their pricing, their support, their documentation or whatever but the fact remains that significant numbers of developers are making it work for them. I don't work for them, I don't even use it at the minute, but in the interests of balance ...

It is a total mess

Leonardo's picture

I am pretty upset, we invested 2.5 month developping our application.
1 Month was wasted due to bugs, and finding workarounds.
Still it is unstable, and with every Android Device I get in my hands, other
bugs show up. I am really upset, we burned money developing this stuff, instead
of going the Java way. It would have taken us the same amount of time, and at least you would have a more or less solid application.

I fixed several bugs in the titanium source code myself, and what I saw there is pretty bad code writing at some places. It is obvious to me that Titanium will not be stable in this year or the next.

Keep you fingers of it and save your money.

Is LiveCode an alternative?

Mike's picture

I've heard a lot of good things about LiveCode. I haven't installed it yet but it is suppose to work on a lot of platforms, including iOS, Android, Desktop, Linux, etc.. Does anyone have any experience with it?



After using titanium for iPhone and android for a few months, I ran into a lot of problems. First, every app made with titanium dies after some time due to memory starvation. Next, the titanium environment is far from stable, while stability on android is even worse compared to the iPhone version. Expect random crashes halfway your project. I'm talking titanium mobile 1.7.0 here, their current "open" version.

Apart from the memory problems and random crashes, there are other strange bugs which you need to solve with all kinds of workarounds. For instance, if you load images from an url, it sometimes (randomly) does not work. So you need to write timers to check if the image loading has failed and retry (as there is no onError event)

Then their claim of "open source". It is not. Community fixes are never pulled in, and they only publish older verions. Also a lot of the code looks like it's generated.

And finally, their documentation sucks bigtime. Undocumented arguments, undocumented object properties, undocumented members. I recognise your frustrations: it all looks simple at first, but when you’re halfway your project with titanium, you encounter all kinds of problems which take you hours of googling for answers, mostly to no avail.

It wasted my whole week to set up

AMJ's picture

This thing is a nightmare to setup on Windows. Stay away, save time and massive amounts of frustration.

Appcelerator 1,8.0 on Android

DJ's picture

I have been using appcelerator for the last couple of weeks. My current target platform is android. And I tried the version 1.7.2 which was having a lot of problems. (i am also to using the custom module feature). After using the "TitaniumStudio IDE" i found it to be too slow and had a little bit of trouble using it effectively. So i've completely ditched it, and I am now using just the command line and ant build (on ubuntu)
I also updated to use the 1.8.0 version of the titanium studio api.
Module functionality works great. I was able to test timers,events and event handler (trigger events from the native module, and have handlers in the javascript gui front end app)

Basically my recommendation is stay away from the ide and use the 1.8.0 titanium studio sdk. Android support seems to be pretty good.

Using Appcelerator's Titanium was THE worst mistake I ever made

Bob's picture

Titanium is a piece of art. Never saw a so poor developed commercial solution that could make so much money out of poor developer souls.

Titanium works like this:
1. Are you writing a incredible simple table-based application? It will most likely serve you.
2. Doing anything commercial or usefull? Painfull is the way ahead.

No support. TONS of bugs. No helpfull debug. Every update, million surprises (in the bad sense).

Whant help? Are you despaired? Pay for it. A very expensive help, that may solve your problems.

Are you sane? Please keep it that way and forget this crap company even exists.

I'm writing this after 6 months of hard core app development on this so called platform.

Avoid like pest

lagos Mardc's picture

Avoid appcelerator like the plag

Titanium might work if you

Sfynx's picture

Titanium might work if you stay away from Android

Which would nullify any remaining advantage Titanium has over decent iOS development with the Xcode SDK.

I tried Titanium for a week, and I learned enough to know it would be a business disaster compared to putting specialized Java and Objective-C developers on the respective platforms. At least then I know the end result will be good.

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I tried this framework

David's picture

I tried this framework because a potential job is using it, but I can't get it to work and am not going to spend hours just on trying to install it. This thing is a nightmare to setup on Windows. Stay away, save time.
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