Starting with Android 5.0 the webview has been separated from the OS and is now itself an app that will receive updates like any other app. The implication here is that from Android 5.0 and up users won’t have to receive an OS update to get better webviews for PhoneGap apps to use, they can now download and install WebView updates separate from the OS.

All fine and good – in the meantime older Android versions still have the webviews that shipped with the OS / device. OS updates don’t happen very often, typically only occurring when someone gets a new phone or until the device manufacturer decides to issue an update. In even rarer instances a device might be updated if it is rooted and a custom ROM is applied.

Until recently this meant that PhoneGap developers would still have to deal with the various webkits that their apps may encounter and whatever features might be lacking (The most infamous example of a lacking feature that comes to mind was the completely missing toDataURL() canvas method a few years ago.)

Given all the different Android devices in the wild it is sometimes quite a task for developers to be able to create hybrid apps that behave predictably in all the different webkit flavors. The Crosswalk plugin addresses this issue by embedding a web runtime in your Android apps (Android 4 and up) meaning that you don’t need to worry about the version of webkit on older Android OS’s as you now have an modern embedded Chromium under the hood giving you a consistent environment for your apps to execute within.

Today I’m trying to update an older app of mine so that it will use Crosswalk and I hit an issue that prevented me from installing it. The error:

“Plugin doesn’t support this project’s cordova-android version. Cordova-android: 3.6.3, failed requirement: >=4”

corsswalk_1

The first thing to be aware of is that the CrossWalk plugin requires Android 4. While searching online revealed some hacks to force Crosswalk to install that wasn’t something that I wanted to do.

My first instinct was to edit the manifest.xml since I recall from having previously used Eclipse to compile my apps that that would be the course of action to take. Unfortunately as you may know the Eclipse ADT no longer works with Eclipse and the latest SDK’s so thats not something I want to try and get working since the Cordoca CLI makes compiling a lot easier.

Anyway, editing the manifest.xml didn’t seem to have an effect as rebuilding did nothing and trying to re-add the platform resulted in the “Platform android already added” error message. Searching online revealed a few hacks that could be done and seems to have worked for some people but I didn’t want to pursue any hacky methods so I stopped bothering with trying to use my current project files.

In the end I decided to rebuild my PhoneGap project and target a specific version of Android so as to meet Crosswalk’s requirements. The takeaway is that yes, you’ll have to rebuild and wont be able to install CrossWalk for apps targeting pre Android 4 devices.

The easiest way to rebuild the project to target more recent versions of Android is to simply delete the Android folder out of the project and then rebuild it. While a wholesale delete works a cleaner method (presumably) is to issue the CLI command to remove the platform. Either way you don’t have to worry about reinstalling all of your plugins as Cordova will detect their prior installation and install them all for you when the new target platform is created.

So then, I deleted the Android folder using the CLI via this command…

  • cordova platform remove android

…and then reinstalled Android making sure to target a specific version using this syntax:

  • cordova platform add android@x.x.x

Where the @x.x.x represents the desired version of the OS.

An easy way to see what version numbers will work is to try to create an Android project with a version that doesn’t exist. Try Android 4.2 and Cordova will of course fail the attempted platform add but also show you the valid version numbers / install targets that it expects.

corsswalk_2

That’s a nice reference – I decided to go for Android 4.1.1 JellyBean.

  • cordova platform add android@4.1.1

In the image below you can see the result of the install followed by a list of all the installed plugins – note that it happened on its own since if you were to look in the project folder all the plugins are there – all we did was delete the platform so Cordova still knows what plugins to install.

corsswalk_3

A quick build showed my app working – all done!