Swift or Java or Kotlin – Which is Your Favourite Language for iOS Apps
App Technology

Swift or Java or Kotlin – Which is Your Favourite Language for iOS Apps?

Going by Statista figures for July 2020, there are almost 4.4 billion iOS apps that are available in the Apple app store. Plus, around 30,000 new iOS apps are being added to the store every month. 

So, which is the best programming language or tool for creating Apple iOS apps? Before creating your next iOS app, you should consider the best coding language that will serve your app requirements. 

Here is a look at three popular programming languages – Swift, Java, and Kotlin – that are used in creating iOS apps.

Swift for iOS AppsApp

Introduced by Apple in the year 2014, Swift has now emerged as the programming language of choice for most Apple iOS apps. Before Swift, Objective C was primarily used for developing most iOS apps. Among its main strengths, Swift is highly intuitive for most Apple operating systems – and cuts down on app development time and even app crashes that were regular with the previous iOS programming languages.

Among its many use cases, Swift has been widely used for creating apps for Apple platforms like iOS, Apple TV, macOS, and Apple Watch. A few popular iOS apps developed using Swift include Slack, Facebook, and Uber.

Here are some leading pros or reasons for using the Swift language:

  • Easier to code – along with code reusability
  • An open-source language that is compatible with cross platforms including Apple and Linux.
  • Improved code quality that is easier to maintain.
  • Use of high performing LLVM compiler for faster code execution
  • Support for dynamic libraries that prevent memory clogging.
  • Easy integration with third-party tools like Cocoa Touch, Sentry, and Airbrake.

Here are some leading cons or reasons for not using the Swift language:

  • Suitable only for iOS apps with version iOS 7 or later.
  • Known development issues with syntax highlighting and refactoring.
  • Limited pool of experienced Swift developers. 
  • Relatively new programming language for iOS app development.

Java for iOS Apps

Traditionally, the Java programming language has been widely used in developing Android mobile apps. Java is the most native language for Android app development after C language. The question then arises – why should one consider Java for developing iOS apps? The answer lies in whether you want to use different languages for developing your apps for either Android and iOS platform – or just one single cross-platform language.

Yes, technically it is possible to use Java for iOS apps. Some of the instances when you should consider it include:

  • When you want to develop the iOS version of the same Android app created using Java.
  • For mobile app developers who are skilled in using Java as a cross-platform tool for both Android and iOS platforms.
  • For app developers skilled in Java, who don’t want to learn a new language for creating iOS apps.

Here are some leading pros or reasons for using the Java programming language:

  • A reliable programming language that can be used in a variety of applications including mobile apps, web applications, and even large enterprise solutions.
  • Open-source language that is suitable for both native and cross-platform development.
  • Offers the benefits of object-oriented programming with reusable code.
  • Easier to learn and troubleshoot – thanks to its extensive online community and resources.
  • Supported on popular IDEs like Eclipse and IntelliJ Idea.

Here are some leading cons or reasons for not using the Java language:

  • Type-heavy programming requires you to write more code.
  • Higher memory consumption makes Java mobile apps slower than other newer languages.

Kotlin for iOS Apps 

When it comes to the Java Virtual Machine (or JVM) and Android development, Kotlin provides major advantages over Java. Initially developed and released by JetBrains in 2010, Kotlin is a fully open-source programming language that is now also used in iOS and JavaScript development.

How does it rate with respect to iOS app development? Kotlin is packaged with an in-built API framework for the iOS platform that can seamlessly interact with iOS frameworks like Cocoa Touch. Plus, any experienced Kotlin developer can also use their programming skills to work on iOS mobile apps.

How well does Kotlin perform when compared to Swift? On one hand, there are plenty of similarities between these two languages like the concepts of mutability (and immutability), data structures, and arrays. Among the major differences, Swift has both the structs and reference types of values – while Kotlin uses only reference types. Kotlin also allows you to append values to its mutable array list (defined as “val”) – while Swift requires you to declare the mutable array as “var” to append value to it.

Here are some leading pros or reasons for using the Kotlin programming language:

  • Highly intuitive code syntax that requires lesser code lines and deployment time.
  • 100% compatibility with Java – along with related tools and frameworks.
  • Supported on a variety of popular IDEs including Android Studio.
  • Easier to learn – particularly for any Java mobile app developer.

Here are some leading cons or reasons for not using the Kotlin language:

  • Code compilation speed can drop in certain application instances.
  • Smaller Kotlin talent pool to choose from as compared to Java.

Conclusion 

How will the future of iOS app development look like? Will the industry continue to use their native programming language – or move towards cross-platform languages that can be used for both Android and iOS app development? Through this article, we have highlighted the good – and not so good – features of Swift, Java, and Kotlin languages that will help you select the right tool.

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