Today we’re releasing Sencha Touch 2 Beta 3 with expanded device and browser support. Beta 3 is expected to be the final beta release and a drop-in replacement for Beta 2. While everything is detailed in the release notes, the most notable changes in b3 are improvements in application dependency management and a host of performance improvements.
*UPDATE*: Sencha Touch 2 RC is now available. Go download that instead!
h3. Android Chrome and Kindle Fire Support
We’re thrilled to be able to add support for 2 new platforms today. The first is Android Chrome, which Google released in beta last week for Android 4.x (Ice Cream Sandwich) devices. While there are still relatively few ICS devices out there (only around 1% of all Android devices carry that version currently), Chrome for Android is already providing a much improved experience compared to the stock browser (see our Chrome HTML5 scorecard).
The second is the Kindle Fire, which we think is one of the best Android tablets out there. While earlier versions of the Fire’s browser had some performance and rendering issues, the recent 6.2.2 update brings much more speed and rendering correctness to the device, which allows us to officially support it. The browser improvements, in addition to some tweaks of our own, have combined to provide a great Kindle Fire experience with Sencha Touch 2.
We were so happy with the performance of both platforms that we recorded a short video on real hardware to show you what you can do with the new support. The first device is an Asus Transformer Prime, running smoothly at a whopping 1280 x 800 resolution, and the second is a Kindle Fire, which displays impressive performance for a device costing under $200:
Amazon hasn’t officially released the sales numbers for the Kindle Fire but they are estimated to have shipped several million in Q4 alone, which means your Sencha Touch 2 applications can now be deployed to millions more devices, most of which will receive the 6.2.2 update automatically.
On the Android side of things, we’ve recently been asking for your help in escalating crippling problems with ICS’s default browser. We’ll continue seeking improvement there but Chrome for Android is providing a great alternative for ICS device owners in the meantime.
h3. Performance Improvements
As well as adding support for more devices, we’ve also spent time further refining the experience on all supported platforms. This release contains several performance tweaks, mostly centered around optimizing CSS selectors and styles.
Some of the more apparent improvements include faster button tap feedback and smoother card transitions, especially to and from forms. Previously these actions might have felt a little slow but as of B3 it feels much snappier. When we investigated why these things were feeling sluggish we found it was caused by certain innocuous-looking CSS rules and were able to improve performance dramatically by using alternative styling to achieve the same look and feel.
Finally, we’ve polished other parts of the framework to give better perceived performance. For example, carousel indicators now update immediately when you swipe instead of after the animation has finished. It still takes as much time as before, but makes your app feel faster to the user. Performance has been a major objective of Sencha Touch 2 and we’re very pleased with the improvements so far.
h3. The Path to GA
This beta is the seventh public release of Sencha Touch 2. We’re very happy with the performance and stability of beta 3, we think we’re in the home stretch toward GA.
Beta 3 is expected to be the final beta version before we ship a Release Candidate. With its API frozen we have no hesitation in recommending that you start building your apps using B3 if you’re keen to get a head start on your app.
As always, we’d like to thank you for all of your support in getting to this stage, and hope you’ll share your thoughts with us in the comments.