The language is a superset of C, inheriting many of its syntax and coding rules while adding modern object-oriented programming mechanisms.
Because of the longevity of Objective-C, it’s a relatively stable and reliable programming language.
It has a strong community with an extensive repository of libraries, documentation, and tutorials to help you in any situation.
Objective C key features
Original iOS language
Stable and reliable programming language
Strong developer community and documentation
Has complex syntax that is more difficult to learn
However, there is a legit reason why Swift is quickly overtaking Objective-C. The latter has a steep learning curve, with complex syntax rules and memory management, that can deter new developers from learning the language.
The language is stable and reliable, with a long history of mobile development since the early 2000s. That means developers can access plenty of resources, vast third-party libraries, and experience from other Java programmers.
Java itself is robust and secure, part of the reason why it’s a popular platform for enterprise software.
Still, the big reason to still use Java is its tight integration with Android. In fact, parts of that OS, like the UI and specific core libraries, are written in the language.
Java key features
Robust and secure – great for enterprise software
Stable and reliable language
Loved by developers
Object-oriented programming language
Harder to debug
Because of this, Java Android apps tend to have better compatibility, performance, and API integration than other languages.
However, Java still presents several disadvantages to developers.
The language tends to be verbose as a result of its human-readable quality. Hence, programmers end up writing more code that can be harder to debug.
Also, while Java is a common language taught in introductory programming courses, it still carries a steep learning curve.
Addressing these limitations is what spurred the development of another Android programming language – Kotlin.
Kotlin is an open-source programming language that runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).
Pro tip: try the Shake app to manage app crashes and fix bugs faster.
Kotlin has a near 100% compatibility with Java since they both run on the JVM.
They can share the same tools and libraries, making it safe and easy to transition your project from Java to Kotlin and still maintain functionality. You can even mix Kotlin and Java modules in a single app.
With the direction Google is taking with Kotlin, it’s a worthwhile language for future-proofing your next project.
The only drawbacks include a lack of a large community (which Java has) and the learning curve involved for Java developers.
C/C++ is one of the most powerful programming languages ever made, used in everything from operating systems to high-performance 3D applications.
To use C/C++ code, you need to compile it into a native library using the Native Development Kit (NDK).
C++ key features
One of the most powerful programming languages
Needs to use Native Development Kit (NDK)
Great for games or simulations due to its faster performance
There are plenty of C++ libraries
This, in turn, allows your Java code to access C/C++ functions from that native library.
Because of the added complexity, C/C++ code tends to be harder to implement in Android apps. So what’s the point of using it then?
The biggest use case for C/C++ is if you want faster performance for computationally-intensive applications like games or simulations. C/C++ is almost incomparable in terms of execution speed and efficiency.
It’s also closer to the underlying hardware than other languages, giving you complete control over device-specific functions and resources.
The other reason is to use an existing C/C++ code you or other developers have written with your Android app. There are plenty of C/C++ libraries out there, giving you access to functions beyond what the standard Android packages can do.
Still, unless you’re writing high-performance Android apps where latency is critical, it’s best to stick with Java or Kotlin over C/C++.
Programming Frameworks for Hybrid Apps
Hybrid programming languages solve the biggest problem with cross-platform apps: maintaining multiple codebases for each OS.
With hybrid solutions, you deal with only one source code, which automatically gets converted into OS-specific apps.
You also don’t need to maintain multiple codebases. If you want to update your app across all platforms, you just need to change the original RN code.
Flutter is Google’s answer to React Native — a cross-platform app development kit using a proprietary programming language called Dart.
It’s a framework that’s quickly gaining popularity, with over 12,000 apps, including Google and Alibaba, using the platform.
Compared to React Native, Flutter offers several distinct improvements. The most crucial is that it draws UI components directly on each native OS, unlike RN or Xamarin that relies on platform-specific UI libraries.
This means that your app’s look on iOS will be identical on any other Android phone.
Flutter key features
Draws UI components directly on each native OS
Allows for faster app performance
Supports hot reloading
The average size of a Flutter APK is bigger than others
Great for building UI-heavy applications
The other is that Flutter is compiled ahead of time instead of using a runtime environment like RN. That leads to faster app performance overall.
Other than that, Flutter and React Native both share similar features that make cross-platform development easier. They both support hot reloading, which allows the UI to update instantly without needing to rebuild the code.
However, be aware of Flutter’s main flaw — file sizes.
Also, because Flutter draws its UI components from scratch, apps will not achieve a true “native” look.
Nevertheless, Flutter is a fantastic platform for building UI-heavy applications across devices with greater visual consistency.
Xamarin is a Microsoft-owned cross-platform development tool tightly integrated into the .NET framework and Visual Studio IDE.
It allows you to create apps using C# and deploy them across platforms, including iOS, Android, and Windows.
The main draw of using Xamarin is if you’re a .NET developer and want to bring your project to mobile. Since you’d be already familiar with both C# and Visual Studio, there’s no need to learn a new language or switch to a new IDE.
This saves you a lot of development time and cost.
Plus, thanks to Xamarin’s tight integration with the .NET framework, you can bring the robust libraries, debugging tools, and UI design features of the .NET developmentenvironment into your app projects.
Xamarin gives developers the flexibility to use either the Forms technology to deploy one codebase to multiple platforms or Xamarin Native to design OS-specific apps separately.
Both approaches allow you to reuse anywhere from 70% to 95% of the codebase.
However, Xamarin has several limitations that make it fall behind React Native and Flutter.
It’s more challenging to create apps with complicated graphics and animation effects in Xamarin, making it unsuitable for most gaming projects.
File sizes also tend to be twice as big as native apps.
Nevertheless, if you’re coming from .NET, Xamarin is your fastest route to mobile app development. Companies that use Xamarin include BBVA, UPS, and Alaska Airlines.
Ionic is an open-source tool that focuses on creating cross-platform UI components quickly and easily.
It does this by leveraging front-end web design technologies like HTML5, CSS, React, and Angular to render apps on a browser called a WebView.
This reliance on universal web platforms allows web developers to use their existing skillset to build cross-OS applications, making it easier than ever to transition to mobile.
Small companies and startups can drastically reduce development costs by leveraging existing talent while bringing their apps to market faster.
Ionic includes a wealth of UI components, including themes, fonts, and interactive elements, that you can use to create highly responsive app interfaces.
It also has several plugins available that give you access to hardware-specific capabilities.
Ionic key features
WebView-based hybrid app platform
Includes a wealth of UI components
Good for basic functions and for creating simple app projects
However, since Ionic is a WebView-based hybrid app platform, it can’t compete with the performance of native apps or cross-platform tools like RN and Flutter that mimic native capabilities.
Any functionality beyond the basics, such as 3D animation or AR, can cause considerable slowdown. Standard features of RN and Flutter like hot reloading are also absent in Ionic.
But if you have a web developer team, Ionic is the best and easiest way to create simple app projects.
To date, Ionic has been used in over 5 million apps and backed by a passionate community. Some examples of Ionic projects include MarketWatch, Target, and NASA.
Picking a suitable programming language is a critical step in any mobile development project – one that will shape countless aspects of your app.
But as this article shows, the choice isn’t really that difficult.
At most, you’ll only ever need to choose between two or three options, depending on your platform.
As long as you understand each language’s nuances and how they fit into your app’s requirements, you can easily make the right decision.
Mario makes every project run smoothly. A firm believer that people are DECODE’s most vital resource, he naturally grew into the role of People Operations Manager. Now, his encyclopaedic knowledge of every DECODEr’s role, and his expertise in all things tech, powers him to manage his huge range of responsibilities as COO.
Part developer, and seemingly part therapist, Mario is always calm under pressure, which helps to maintain the office’s stress-free vibe. In fact, sitting and thinking is his main hobby. What’s more Zen than that?