The App Cloud Workshop app for iOS and Android is an amazing tool for app developers. It lets you preview your apps in the palm of your hand without the need for complex toolchains like XCode or the Android Developer Tools, and it mimics the web development workflow: Code, Refresh, Repeat.
But there are some subtle differences between how an App Cloud app behaves in development mode and how it behaves in production mode as a compiled binary. Here’s what you should keep in mind:
Your app will load a bit more slowly in development mode because all of its assets—HTML files, scripts, stylesheets, images, etc.—are fetched from an external server. In a compiled app, most or all of these assets will be baked into the binary package and loaded from disk.
In development mode, your app will open without a launch icon or splash screen. These assets are added during the publishing process. When a user opens your published app, they’ll see the launch screen for a few seconds as the app loads.
You might see a blank white screen in the Workshop as you load and refresh each View. In a compiled app, you might only see this happen if a View is “torn down” by the app container in order to reclaim memory, or if your app has Views that live deep inside the “More …” menu.
In the Workshop, a developer can refresh individual Views and even restart an app when it behaves poorly or strangely, but these options aren’t available to users in a published app. (Developers should “stress test” their finished apps for extended periods of time in order to identify issues that might only surface after heavy use.)
Some device functions behave differently in the Workshop. For example, when downloading a file with the File Download API, the downloaded file is inaccessible in the Workshop. This particular quirk and others are explained in the App Cloud API docs.
A few App Cloud services don’t work in development mode, including push notifications and analytics.
The only way to truly test the behavior of your finished app is to publish it and install it on your device before deploying it to the app stores. On iOS, you can create a development certificate or ad hoc certificate for this purpose. On Android, you can side-load your app onto a phone or tablet.
When used properly and in tandem with rigorous testing practices, the Workshop is an invaluable part of the App Cloud experience. Pretty soon you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it!