Are you looking to build the next great iOS app but need help figuring out where to start? That’s awesome! Grab a cup of coffee and get comfy because we’re here to break it all down for you.
Before diving into development, an essential first step is deciding what programming language to build your app with. There are a few options when it comes to iOS app development, but Swift and Objective-C are the two main languages used.
Learning to code can feel daunting at first, but trust me, you so got this! In this blog, we’ll be tackling everything you need to know about the different programming languages available, the pros and cons of each, and how to decide which one is right for you. Let’s start with programming languages.
The fastest, safest, and most expressive language for iOS mobile application programming is Swift, which has garnered several recommendations.
Apple introduced Swift in 2014 as a successor to Objective-C. Currently, it is open source language for all the iOS, OS X, watchOS, and tvOS platforms of Apple.
Therefore, Swift is a compact, clear language with support for different paradigms such as object-oriented, functional, or protocol-oriented programming; in addition, it provides many new features, including generic types, options, closures, tuples, or extensions. Swift also features strong typing with automatic memory management and provides excellent support for bug control, resulting in fewer bugs and crash problems.
The swift code is compiled beforehand, making it quicker and more efficient when running it on an IOS device. It offers Swift a vast and engaged developer community together with a bunch of valuable libraries like, for example, SwiftUI, Combine, or CoreML – all of them provide ease to create beautiful and efficient iOS apps.
iOS applications are developed in Objective-C, which remains vital for maintaining old code and integrating it with existing frameworks. A superset implies that objective-c incorporates all the aspects and shortcomings of c, including pointers, memory management, and low-level operations.
In particular, it adds objective-oriented features such as classes, inherits, polymorphisms, and dynamic bonds and supports message passing, categories, protocols, and blockage.
Objective-C uses a model of just-time compilation that interprets code during run time, making it very adaptable. Nevertheless, Objective-C suffers from many drawbacks, including the fact that it is written in rather voluminous and complexly structured syntax, needs more innovative options like generics, optional, or tuples, and increases the probability of programming faults like memory leaks and null po. Lastly, objective C also has fewer resources, a poor learning curve, and is more difficult to use by a new developer than Swift.
Powerful and multi-purpose C# programming language may be applied for building iOS apps with the help of Xamarin, Unity, and .NET MAUI frameworks.
It is a compiled, strongly typed, fast, secure, expressive language known as C#. It has several sophisticated qualities like delegates, events, exceptions, and generics, among others.
Also, it is a multiphase language supporting various paradigms like objection-oriented programming, among others. C# has rich and consistent syntax, a comprehensive and well-documented standard library, and a robust development environment like Visual Studio, .Net, and Azure. There are also plenty of developer communities in C# on the World Wide Web, with a considerable number of resources and courses devoted to this language.
Nevertheless, C# also has some limitations; it has a high learning curve, large file size, and inferior compatibility with native code. Running C# code on iOS requires a runtime engine like Mono and IL2CPP. As a result, memory and performance may be affected.
C# provides lower accessibility and control of native elements (i.e., UI, animation, or gesture), which might cause compatibility and performance problems with various devices and versions.
Flutter is an emerging platform that allows the development of iOS apps with the help of Dart, the present-day and precise language. Flutter provides a user interface (UI) toolkit for developing elegant and flexible iOS applications through widgets.
Flutter also offers hot load and hot restart capability whereby developers can view changes on their codes immediately without resetting the program or destroying the app’s state. Similarly, flutter also uses a quick render engine known as Skia, which is also effective in that it draws the user interface directly onto the screens, thus making the animations smooth and ensuring high performance.
Just like with Swift programming language, flutter also comes together with rich and growing sets of libraries and plugins like Flutter Fire, provider, and Bloc, which enable quick linking to diverse services or capabilities like ones provided by Firebase, state management, and navigation. An involved and enthusiastic developer’s community also supports it with a lot of resources on the net and plenty of tutorials.
However, Flutter experiences different issues, such as a fragile code base, failure to provide a native look and feel, and limited support for native features and APIs like Siri, ARKit, or HealthKit.
Compiling flutter code ahead of time slows the building and deployment process and also generates bigger files. Flutter has a lesser amount of documents and examples compared to native code, making it hard to debug and test.
IOS application development language comparison:
When developing for iOS, you’ll want to use a programming language that plays nicely with Apple’s ecosystem. The good news is that Swift and Objective-C have the highest compatibility with iOS, given their official support by Apple.
- These languages can tap directly into all the native features that make iOS apps so powerful – things
- like sleek UI design, fun animations, multi-touch gestures, the camera, GPS sensor, push notifications, and more. As Apple continues expanding its iOS capabilities, Swift and Objective-C will have full access.
- For the smoothest iOS development experience, Swift and Objective-C remain the top choices. Their tight integration with Apple’s platforms means you can use the full power and polish of iOS capabilities. If you’re building an iOS app from scratch and want seamless access to all the latest features, Swift or Objective-C is the way to go.
When building an iOS app, you’ll want a language that uses resources efficiently so your app feels light and fast. Let’s compare how different languages stack up.
Swift and C# have the highest performance on iOS. They’re compiled languages, meaning the code is converted directly into fast, optimized machine code that iOS devices can execute quickly. Smooth animations make your app snappy. Swift and C# apps also conserve battery life and minimize memory usage.
- Objective-C and Flutter offer moderate performance. Objective-C is compiled, while Flutter uses a just-in-time compiler to optimize the code during execution. Although they perform better than interpreted languages, they cannot match Swift’s and C#’s static compilation speed. You may notice slightly slower loading or animations.
When it comes to reliability, you want an iOS language with solid safeguards against bugs and crashes.
- Swift and C# offer the highest stability. Features like strict type checking, automated memory management, and robust error handling make them less prone to mistakes that lead to app failures. You can have confidence your app will remain solid.
- Flutter has moderate stability. While it does have safeguards like Swift, it’s still new, which means potential undiscovered flaws. The risk of app instability is higher than established languages.
- Swift and Flutter offer the highest productivity for iOS developers. Swift uses clean, readable syntax and has modern features like generics and closures that speed up coding. Flutter offers widgets and hot reload to build UIs and view changes quickly.
- Objective-C ranks lowest in productivity. Its complex syntax is time-consuming to write and read. And it lacks many modern language capabilities that aid productivity.
- Flutter has the smallest community as a newer framework. Resources are growing but still need to be improved compared to other options. Developers need more support available when tackling challenges.
- Flutter and Swift offer the most innovation for iOS coding. Flutter provides hot reload, widgets, and reactive frameworks for sleek modern apps. Swift has new advances like SwiftUI, Combine, and CoreML to enhance development.
- Objective-C ranks lowest in innovation. It needs significant new features that Swift delivers. As an older language, it feels dated next to modern alternatives and is different from where Apple focuses on iOS advancements.
The Future Outlook for iOS Programming Languages
The outlook of the future for the iOS programming languages depends on the likes of Apple, the needs of the developers, and the patterns in the market. Based on these factors, here is a possible projection of how the different programming languages will evolve and compete for iOS app development:
Swift- Will continue rapidly growing in popularity as Apple’s preferred iOS language. Apple is heavily investing in new Swift capabilities like SwiftUI, CoreML, and concurrency features. It will dominate iOS development for the foreseeable future.
Objective-C- Still relevant for maintaining legacy iOS apps but won’t see major new iOS features added. It may eventually fade away as old apps are rewritten in Swift. But will remain in use for some time.
C#- Will expand mobile development reach with Xamarin and .NET MAUI. But Swift remains better for Apple ecosystem integration. C# fits cross-platform scenarios.
Flutter- Expected to keep gaining traction for building cross-platform apps with native-like UIs. Nevertheless, it needs to mature more to match Swift and Objective-C on Apple platforms.
Ultimately, Swift will continue to dominate as Apple’s primary iOS language while Objective-C gradually declines. Alternative cross-platform languages will fill niches but won’t overtake Swift for iOS focus.
A word of caution:
If you’re interested in becoming an iOS developer yourself, I highly recommend checking out our guide on how to become an iOS developer. It covers the essential skills you’ll need to learn, resources for mastering Swift and Xcode, portfolio advice, and more.
Many new iOS developers get started by working as freelancers to build up their skills and portfolio. Getting some experience as a freelance iOS developer can be a great way to learn the ropes before joining a more prominent company team.
FAQ about IOS Programming Language
Q: Which language is best for building iOS apps?
A: Swift is the ideal language for iOS app development today, especially for new projects. It’s fast, secure, easy to learn, and offers tight integration with Apple’s platforms.
Q: Should I learn Objective-C or Swift first?
A: Learn Swift first, as it’s the future of iOS development. But learning Objective-C later can help work with existing codebases.
A: Yes, with tools like Xamarin and React Native. However, these have limitations compared to native iOS languages.
Q: How hard is it to learn Swift?
A: Swift is designed to be beginner-friendly with a clean syntax. Learning the basics is relatively straightforward, especially with Apple’s excellent documentation.
Q: What’s the benefit of using cross-platform tools?
A: They allow code reuse across iOS, Android, and web apps. But lead to compromises vs building platform-optimized UIs.
Q: Is Flutter a good option for iOS?
A: Flutter allows fast cross-platform development. But you lose some control and fluidity vs native Swift apps.
Q: How do the languages work together functionally?
A: Swift code can inherit from Objective-C superclasses and protocols. Delegates and data models can also be shared between them.
Q: What are the benefits of mixing Swift and Objective-C code?
A: You can leverage existing Objective-C code while taking advantage of modern Swift features. For legacy codebases, this allows a gradual transition.
IOS development is just one field within the broader world of programming. For a look at how to get started in programming in general, be sure to read our guide on how to become a programmer. It provides an overview of the main languages, fundamental concepts, and career paths across software development.