When it comes to software development, choosing which language to use can be a real minefield. There are a huge number of languages supporting multiple programming styles, each with its own complexities. Then there is frontend (UI) development and the backend (serverside) environment to consider. To make matters worse, every year the list gets bigger. Whereas some languages have proven to be popular over a long period of time, new ones are quickly catching up, often being more concise and consistent than their predecessors.
Over the coming year, no doubt we’ll see some languages become outdated, some become overshadowed and others leap into the spotlight. Whether you are developing an app in-house or hiring an app development company, it pays to be in the know as to what programming languages your team might need to know.
What are the Different Types of Mobile Apps?
When it comes to app development, the first thing that any developer needs to consider is the type of mobile app in question:
- Native apps – these are written in a language that is natively supported by the device’s operating system (OS).
- Cross-platform apps – these are written in one language that can run across multiple platforms. The language may not be native to the underlying OS.
- Mobile/React web apps – These are a lightweight alternative to an app where a URL within your mobile browser leads to a site that looks and feels like a regular app.
Of course, one of the main considerations will be which platform(s) an application needs to be supported on: iOS, Android, Windows or all three.
Top Development Languages for iOS
The iOS platform is made by Apple and consists of iPhones and iPads. Apps can be developed for iOS and then targeted to both types of devices, although the relative constraints need to be considered during development. The most popular native languages include:
As the primary development language for iOS applications, Objective-C probably isn’t going anywhere soon. Apples uses it to create healthy and scalable apps. In essence, it’s an enhanced version of the C programming language with extra capabilities. (developed by Apple). Common criticisms are that the syntax seems clunky; however, it’s mature and stable with several years of use.
Hot on the heels of Objective-C comes Swift. Swift is a general-purpose next-generation programming language developed by Apple and the open-source community. The language is more concise and easier to read than Objective-C, with fewer lines of code needed to create the same end result. What’s more, instead of having to worry about the memory requirements of individual objects, its memory management approach allows developers to concentrate on the application’s logic. Swift is friendly to new programmers and is expanding quickly thanks to its community support. While Swift and Objective-C can coexist, Apple is making it obvious that Swift is the new default choice for iOS app development in 2022 and beyond.
Top Development Languages for Android
The Android platform is an open-source platform that is primarily developed and promoted by Google. Devices come in many forms, such as phones and tablets, from a variety of manufacturers. The most popular native Android programming languages include:
Java is the default language for Android applications and is similar to native machine languages such as C++. It was initially intended specifically for the development of android apps; however, it can also be used to develop iOS apps. In fact, it has become one of the most well-known languages used to develop applications with cross-platform compatibility. The language is dynamic and extensible, which helps to make coding easier.
Another new kid on the block, Kotlin looks set to replace Java in the future. It’s fantastic for developing Android applications as it offers a huge volume of features. Google announced in 2017 that it would support Kotlin as an alternative first-class language for Android programming. It is interoperable with Java and the learning curve is smooth between the two. However, the small development community could stand in the way of further growth.
Top Cross-Platform Development Frameworks
Of course, with native app programming languages, you need to maintain a code base for each platform. This can be time-consuming not to mention budget-constraining. If your business needs an app to work for both iOS and Android, cross-platform technologies allow you to write in one language or framework and then target the app for both platforms. There are many open source communities and companies that have frameworks that are based on cross-platform development. The most popular include:
Xamarin is an open-source development framework that allows developers to program in C# on .NET. It gained early popularity for its high performance and has been a popular choice for cross-platform development ever since. Xamarin is hugely popular and has been maintained well as it is Microsoft-owned. Xamarin provides a visual design-based platform and integrated applications that can compete with native application development standards. However, as one of the oldest cross-platform technologies, it’s coming under some serious competition.
Which Development Language Should You Choose?
When it comes to mobile app development, there is no universal one-size-fits-all solution. IT all depends on what you’re trying to build and the platforms you are building for. The most important thing you can do is to research your target market and audience; you need to know what sort of features you need and what platforms you need it to work on. You’ll then want to look for flexibility, security and a relatively short development period. To be able to select the best programming language, your development team needs to keep abreast with changes in tools, platforms, frameworks and languages. After all, when it comes to mobile app development, the only thing that is certain is that it will continue to evolve.