One question definitely comes to even the most experienced minds of the mobile app development world – What should they suggest passionate beginners in this industry? – Where to start or which programming languages to learn for android and iOS app development?

Maybe you are a recent pass-out who has developed an interest in mobile app development, or maybe you are an experienced mobile engineer looking to expand your expertise to other platforms.

Mobile app development has been a niche and is one of the most sought-after skills since the boom of smartphones and the rise of mobile operating systems like Android and iOS.

With so many startups declaring themselves as ‘Mobile-Only’ and MNCs shifting their business models to engage with the billions of smartphone users worldwide, being a mobile software development engineer can be both lucrative and satisfying job, should you choose to accept it?

But, before you can jump in, you must have basic to intermediate knowledge of the programming languages in which you are going to code as recommended by most of the experienced app developers across the globe.

Here are the top 5 programming languages to learn in 2020 which can jumpstart your career in mobile (ios & android) app development –

1. Dart

Dart is the programming language used for development in Flutter, a new Mobile App SDK developed by Google and officially released in 2017, which can develop mobile apps for both iOS and Android platforms with a single codebase.

It is presumably the perfect choice for those who want to enter the development field quickly and want to acquire some UI as well as creative skills to showcase to the world.

Why Learn Dart?

  • Dart language supports the goal of Flutter – developing and deploying cross-platform apps faster. Flutter uses two processes to speed up development – JIT(Just-In-Time) and AOT(Ahead-of-time) compilations, which is a topic for a whole another discussion. But to suffice, Dart is an AOT and JIT-compiled programming language, which makes apps get compiled with exceptionally fast speeds, execution at runtime is reduced and development cycles are faster even than the native languages.
  • You can create flexible and custom UI in comparatively less time and even custom animations are smooth and less janky. The learning curve is pretty short, such that our new intern, Deepak, was able to build a whole app with open API integration in just seven days.
  • Dart doesn’t use a separate layout language to build UI. So, experienced app developers may feel uncomfortable with the declarative layout design at first. But various app developers who have jumped into the dart world, have confessed that the ‘Hot Reload’ feature helps quickly see the changes in the app itself, making it faster and easier to visualize the dynamically coded layout.

Cons of Using Dart

Libraries & support are impressive, but still not as rich as the support for native app development.

While there’s a library for all functionalities possible in Java and other native programming languages, Flutter is still new and not every functionality that you need, can be found in these libraries.

This means that you and your team would need to build them by themselves, which can be very time-consuming and not an ideal situation if you work for a service based app development company.

However, the Flutter team is working hard to provide support to every Flutter developer by organizing frequent dev summits, recognizing apps and developers, building a new army of Flutter GDEs to help fellow developers.

2. Java

Developing apps for the Android platform lets you have the potential of developing for a billion users of the entire Indian sub-continent and millions of users around the world.

Java is one of the most popular programming languages.

Android uses DVM i.e. Dalvik Virtual Machine to run apps on it. Your Java code is converted to a machine-readable bytecode format for the DVM.

Why Learn Java?

  • Java has been the oldest, tried-and-tested and most native programming language for Android after ‘C’. You will find countless online developer communities, forums, and experienced developer blogs to help you through the learning.
  • Various IDEs like Eclipse, IntelliJ Idea where you can practice your Java learning.
  • Countless of open-source apps available on Github to read from and learn how to build Apps for Android.
  • With Android Studio (the official IDE for Android Development maintained by Google) available for all operating systems unlike XCode and various Android smartphones in the market which suits almost every pocket’s size, you can easily get started with Android and give you the entry into the software development world.
  • Advanced apps using technologies like Augmented Reality and Machine Learning can be built on Android now using Java and Kotlin (language discussed later).

Building apps for Android will be enjoyable at first, but as the type and size of your app increases, the need for learning and implementing code architecture becomes necessary.

So, developers jumping onto the Android world must keep ‘learning App Architectures and Java design patterns’ at the top of their to-learn list.

3. Swift

Swift is an object-oriented programming language which is used for developing native iOS apps.

About every person in Australia and the United States uses more than two Apple products every day and Swift lets you build for all of such devices, like iPhones, iPads, Apple watches, Apple TV, etc.

An example of Swift - coding language you should learn

Swift is more concise, has cleaner syntax and maintainable coding language than Java.

It is interoperable with all the legacy code written in Objective-C, another programming language used for iOS app development.

With fewer developers available in the market building for iOS comparing to Android devs and that too with certain experience, learning Swift can be a great push to your career and rewarding too.

Why Learn Swift?

  • The official IDE used for iOS development, XCode, is only installable for macOS, hence, rendering it only operable through Apple machines.
  • Being a 5-year old programming language now, Swift is comparatively a lot younger language than Java. So, new software developers may have to seldom jump onto the objective – C code to understand unported libraries and Obj-C has been considered confusing and complicated for new developers.
  • Having only iOS developer communities as opposed to the Java communities, which include app development, enterprise solution, backend development communities, apple iOS is considered closed source so developers can’t dive in to learn the internal OS and APIs’ code of their favorite platform.
  • The Simulator in XCode lessens the need for multiple devices for testing and debugging purposes, but still, it’s preferable to have a physical test device, an iPhone with you, for testing.
  • The build and deployment process for Swift is slower than Android. For example, errors in your deployment are reported at the end of the whole compilation – for which you spent the majority of your evenings waiting on your screen, fingers-crossed.

However, no matter how tiring and cumbersome it feels at the beginning to work with Swift, proper dedication and perseverance to learn Swift programming language can bring you a long term satisfaction when it comes to the quality of apps and are offered. 

4. Kotlin

Kotlin was made an official programming language for Android app development and later on, declared a preferred coding language by Google, which means any new development for Android SDK APIs will be done in Kotlin.

Kotlin serves as an alternative to Java language for Android app development and considered easier programming language to learn than Java.

It is a less verbose, more maintainable coding language and lets you code less for the same functionalities than Java for Android development.

Language features like Null safety, Data classes, extension functions, co-routines have made Kotlin interesting than Java.

Most of the major startups are shifting their existing Android source code to Kotlin.

Companies like Airbnb, Slack, Pinterest, Square, etc. have already crossed the list and the adoption rate of this programming language is ever increasing.

Why Learn Kotlin?

  • Kotlin is meant to complement java if not replace it. A lot of legacy code, as well as stable and important libraries, are not yet ported, so while learning Kotlin, you must be able to understand Java to build effective android apps.
  • With every new coding language/framework comes an overhead in a form of latency for companies to trust and adapt it and use it officially for their products. For instance, despite the support of Google, a stable Kotlin version for async IO operations using coroutines is still being optimized to match various options in Java.
  • Kotlin can serve as a real value addition for experienced Android and iOS developers. Having Proficiency in Java or Swift already paces learning this programming language as it has a similar language structure as swift.
  • Despite the aggressive push by Google to make Kotlin a popular coding language for Android development, it’s TIOBE rankings and StackOverflow Developer survey shows otherwise. It is majorly because Android is the only market share. FYI, the TIOBE index is an indicator of programming language popularity and ratings are based on the number of skilled engineers worldwide, courses and third-party vendors.

5. React Native

An open-source cross-platform app development framework introduced by Facebook that uses Javascript as its language.

Built on top of React Javascript Library, incorporating all the common benefits of a single codebase, like reduced execution and testing time, faster deployment, React Native has acquired its fair share of popularity among developers.

Learning this programming language gives developer the power to build multi-platform apps with a single codebase.

Many popular apps have worked with React Native for their apps in the past or presently working like Airbnb, Pinterest, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Tesla, Uber and many more.

Why Learn React Native?

  • Automatic state-management for views
  • Instant Live updates – Unless updates involve Native OS resources’ access, developers have the feasibility of pushing the updates directly to the users’ phones instead of going through the app store update cycle.
  • It has massive support from the massive developer community, it renders app development process much faster.
  • The user interface developed with React Native consists of native widgets that perform flawlessly. React Native along with JavaScript runs the most complex of apps smoothly, outperforming even the native apps, without WebView. It can mimic the scroll accelerations, keyboard behavior and animations for both the platforms for you.
  • Positive developers’ experience as it allows the modifications and implementations to take place while the app is running, eliminating the need to restart. Hot reloading refreshes the user interface when any changes are made to a file. Consequently, it simplifies the iteration cycle by removing the tedious re-building and deploying step.
  • Experienced mobile developers may struggle with the Javascript learning curve initially but high readability and easy language fundamentals ease it.
  • When dynamic languages (like JavaScript) need to interoperate with native code on the platform, they have to communicate over a bridge, which causes context switches to save a particularly large amount of state. These context switches cause apps to slow down, causing serious jank.
  • Native device resources’ access like Bluetooth, USB port access, network, etc. is less accessible than their native counterparts. And even if it’s accessible, mismanaged access due to library issues leads to a bad UX.

The choice and the order of the best programming languages for mobile app development to learn are written specifically for the developers who want to try their hands on mobile development with a new language, be it newbies or experienced ones.

No matter what you choose, remember, the best way to learn programming is Patience and Persistence.

As Confucius baba advised once, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”


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