As an experienced mobile app developer, there is always one question hitting you back and forth; What should I suggest to a passionate beginner in this industry? Where to start, or which suitable programming languages are there to learn for android and iOS app development?

Well! Being a developer, I can only begin with a few things for recent college graduates. Or the ones who have developed an interest in mobile app development, or perhaps have experience while working on a project with mobile engineers, or those who are already in this industry and looking to expand expertise on other platforms.

So, let’s begin!

Mobile app development has been a niche for a few decades 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’ companies and MNCs shifting their business models to engage billions of smartphone users worldwide, being a mobile app development engineer can be lucrative and satisfying. 

But, should you choose to accept it?

Keep scrolling down! 

Before you even jump in or think of heading in the wrong direction, you must have or gather essential information and knowledge on in-demand programming languages and upgrade your skill set to at least have an edge in the market. Because most experienced app developers across the globe recommend the languages, I’m mentioning them here. And I hope, if you master a few of them, you’ll be unstoppable!!

So, here are the top 5 programming languages to learn in 2022 to jumpstart your journey in mobile app development. This article also explains why you should choose a particular language and its pros and cons. 

The first language that comes to my head is Dart. So, let’s begin with Dart, and then we’ll pick Java, Swift, Kotlin, etc. 

Dart Programming Language

Dart is the programming language developed by the tech giant Google for mobile app development in Flutter, a new cross-platform Mobile App development framework. 

Google developed this software development kit (SDK) and officially released it in 2017. Flutter is fantastic when you want to create dynamic and futuristic mobile apps for both iOS and Android with a single codebase.

Flutter is presumably the perfect choice for those who want to quickly enter the software application development industry and acquire some UI skills to showcase their work.

Reasons to learn the Dart language 

  • Dart effortlessly fulfills Flutter’s goal – developing and deploying cross-platform apps quickly. 
  • Flutter uses two methodologies to speed up app development – JIT (Just-In-Time) and AOT (Ahead-of-time) compilations. It’s a whole new discussion, but Dart is an AOT and JIT-compiled programming language. It makes, making apps get compiled exceptionally with fast speeds and reduces reducing the runtime for execution while making app development cycles more rapid than the native languages.
  • You can create flexible and custom UI in comparatively less time, plus custom animations are smooth and less junky. The learning curve is pretty short. Even our new intern could build a whole app with open API integration in just seven days.
  • Dart doesn’t use a separate layout language to build UI. And 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.

Pros of using Dart programming language

The learning curve is easy with Dart

Dart programming language is pretty easy to learn since developers at Google have put serious efforts into making the documentation easy with an excellent introduction and excellent documentation.

Apps developed in Dart have high performance

Apps that run in Dart run faster on any mobile device than those developed in other programming languages because of JIT and AOT compilation features. 

Dart has a clean and easy-to-grasp syntax. 

Dart programming language is similar to Java if judged based on its clean syntax.

Incredible support for various tools

Dart has excellent tooling support for faster app development. 

Developers can write the first program without configuration or installation

Dart has an inbuilt web-based IDE known as DartPad, a straightforward interface for any beginner to start coding. DartPad eliminates the need for any installation or configuration to write your first code. 

Brilliant support for developers

If programmers do want to deal with type systems at all, they can treat Dart as an ordinary and dynamically typed language.  

Dart is more type-safe than its competitor JavaScript

Dart has an advantage over JavaScript in certain aspects, e.g., JavaScript is not type-safe. 

Dart is a portable language

It is the first and one-of-a-kind language that needs no specific hardware configurations or architecture since it can function on any OS and in all web browsers. 

Cons of using Dart programming language

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. Not every functionality you need is 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 for a service-based app development company.

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

You can integrate the following tools to Dart:

  • Dart WebDev — An excellent web app building framework.
  • Angular Dart — It is an alternative to WebDev.
  • Aqueduct — If you are looking for a multi-threaded server-side framework, the Aqueduct is the one you need.
  • Flutter — A top-level cross-platform mobile app development UI framework from the tech giant Google. 

Java – an OOP language

Java is one of the most popular programming languages.

Developing apps for the Android platform lets you have the potential from over a billion users of the entire Indian subcontinent and millions of users worldwide.

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

Reasons to learn Java for Android development

  • Java has been the oldest, most 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 throughout your learning curve.
  • Various IDEs like Eclipse and IntelliJ IDEA can help you practice your Java learning.
  • Countless open-source apps are available on Github to read 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 suit almost every pocket’s size, you can quickly get started with Android and give you an entry into the software development world.
  • Advanced apps using technologies like Augmented Reality and Machine Learning can now be built on Android 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 architecture and Java design patterns at the top of their to-learn list.

Pros of Java in Android Development

Easy to use and learn 

The primary reason for choosing Java for Android app development is its steep learning curve for beginners building mobile apps. 

Java is an open-source and Object-Oriented Programming language

It is an open-source, object-oriented programming (OOP) language with a great collection of open-source libraries, reducing the net cost of developing mobile apps and speeding up the overall procedure.

Java has powerful tools for app development 

Java comes with excellent programming tools that make it much easier for app developers to work and construct highly efficient and secure apps. 

Builds secure and robust mobile apps 

Helps in developing highly secure and robust mobile applications with low cost and overall investments. 

Support from the global community of android app developers

Java has an independent and compatible programming language platform with a worldwide community of developers making it more advance and usable each day. Java is a different programming language platform for multiple OS, making it ideal for creating apps for Android-based smartphones. 

Cons of using Java in Android app development

Performance

Although Java is the best choice for android app development (of course, after Kotlin), it is a memory-consuming programming language and is significantly slower than C or C++.

Look and Feel

Apps developed in Java using the Swing toolkit have a very different look and feel in their GUI (Graphic User Interface) than those from native applications.

Memory Management

Java manages memory through garbage collection, affecting an app’s performance whenever the garbage collector runs. The garbage collector thread needs all other threads to be stopped to let it work.

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”         

                                                            – Rikki Rogers

Swift – an OOP language

Swift is an object-oriented programming (OOP) language used for developing iOS mobile 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 and 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 apps for iOS compared to Android devs, and that too with particular experience, learning Swift can be a great push to your career; I promise, it will be rewarding too!

Pros of using SWIFT programming language 

  • The official IDE used for iOS development, Xcode, is only installable for macOS, rendering it only operable through Apple machines.
  • Being a 5-year-old programming language now, Swift is comparatively a younger language than Java. So, new software developers may have to seldom jump onto the objective – C code to understand unsupported libraries, and Objective-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, and backend development communities, apple iOS is considered the 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. However, they are still desirable to have a physical test device, an iPhone with you, for testing.
  • The build and deployment process for Swift is slower than for 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.

Cons of Swift language 

Swift is still a young language

Apple introduced Swift to iOS developers in 2014. It may seem quite a long ago, but it’s only 7 years old, compared to its sister language Objective-C since the good old days of the 1980s. 

However, the introduction of ABI stability across Apple’s platforms, renewed documentation, and backward compatibility to all of its versions make Swift a more mature language.

But, all such steps and frequent changes often make developers doubt whether today’s code will be compatible with previous versions tomorrow.  

Limited talent pool or global community of iOS app developers

The Swift community is growing at a rapid pace. Despite that, its worldwide community is significantly smaller than all other open-source language communities. 

Based on the recent Developer Survey run by Stack Overflow, only 5.1 percent use Swift out of the 83,053 respondents. It means you might struggle to find developers who are experienced enough with Swift to work on your project.

Developer Survey-2021 From Stack Overflow 

Poor interoperability

Because of the frequent updates, it is often difficult to find the right tools to find a solution for a specific problem, making Swift poor at interoperability with third-party tools and IDEs. 

E.g., The official Apple IDE, the Xcode, lags in terms of tooling support for Swift. 

Moreover, iOS developers often report issues about Swift’s syntax highlighting – auto-complete, compilers, and refactoring tools. 

Improper cross-platform support

Although Swift was initially created and worked best for native iOS development and supports all major platforms for app development like Apple, Linux, and Windows, it has incomplete cross-platform support, leaving this market to Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin.

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

Kotlin – a language that you’ll love working with

Kotlin made its debut in 2011 and was made an official programming language for Android app development. Later, the tech giant Google, a global leader in app development and tech support,  declared Kotlin a preferred coding language. Thus, any Android development and SDK APIs will use Kotlin. 

Kotlin serves as an alternative to Java language for Android app development and is considered a more straightforward 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.

Popular features of Kotlin programming language that made it more interesting than Java: 

  • Null safety, 
  • Data classes, 
  • Extension functions, and 
  • Co-routines.  

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

Companies like Airbnb, Slack, Pinterest, Square, etc. have already crossed the list and the ad, and this programming language’s adoption is recreating the buzz!

Pros of learning Kotlin for Android app development

  • Kotlin complements java if not replace it. A lot of legacy code and essential libraries are not yet ported, so while learning Kotlin, you must be able to understand Java to build practical and useful apps.
  • With every new coding language/framework comes an overhead in ‌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 asynchronous IO operations using co-routines is still being optimized to match various options in Java.
  • Kotlin can serve as an absolute 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, its TIOBE rankings, and Stack Overflow Developer survey shows otherwise. It is majorly because Android is the only market share. 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.

Cons of using Kotlin in app development

  • There are a few Kotlin developers, and hence developers find it challenging to solve problems without global support from a smaller community of developers.
  • Kotlin complements Java, but it’s not Java.
  • Kotlin compiles at a slower compilation speed.
  • There are limited resources for developers to learn Kotlin.

React Native – a cross-platform app development framework

It is 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 familiar benefits of a single codebase, such as reduced execution and testing time and faster deployment, React Native has gained its fair share of popularity among developers.

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

Popular apps developed with React Native 

  • Airbnb, 
  • Pinterest, 
  • Skype, 
  • Facebook (Now, Meta), 
  • Instagram, 
  • Tesla, 
  • Uber, and many more.

Pros of learning 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 enormous developer community; it makes the app development process 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 Web-View. It can mimic the scroll accelerations, keyboard behavior, and animations for both platforms for you.
  • Optimistic developers’ experience says it allows the modifications and implementations to occur while the app is running, eliminating the need to restart. Hot reloading refreshes the user interface when changes are made to a file. Consequently, it simplifies the iteration cycle by removing the tedious re-building and deploying steps.
  • Experienced mobile developers may initially struggle with the JavaScript learning curve, but high readability and easy language fundamentals ease it.
  • When dynamic languages (like JavaScript) need to inter-operate with native code on the platform, they have to communicate over a bridge, which causes context switches to save a massive amount of state. This context switch 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.

Cons of using React Native for app development

  • For every new solution, no 100 percent testing is guaranteed.
  • To work on an open-source UI cross-platform framework like React Native, you need a developer with a background in React.Js and who has developed apps for iOS and Android. 
  • With React Native, you would probably have to spend more time fixing minor issues, costing you more. 

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 app development with a new language, be it newbies or experienced ones.

Remember, the best way to learn to program is “Patience” and “Persistence no matter what you choose.” Keep a tight hold on both!

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

Moreover, if you can be a student of life, everything becomes easy to learn!

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