Best Programming Languages for Android and iOS Apps

Picking up the right programming language for Android, iOS, or cross-platform mobile applications matters a lot nowadays. According to DataReportal, 5.22 billion individuals are utilizing mobile phones globally. Among these individuals, 4.66 billion have internet access.

These smartphone users spend lots of their time on mobile applications. That is why building effective Android and iOS apps has become crucial for coders and businesses. 

However, because of the availability of massive programming languages, it is also becoming challenging for developers, startups and enterprises to choose the right language.

Hence, this guide is going to describe the best programming languages for Android & iOS apps in detail. 

Key Takeaways

  • Swift is the newest programming language for iOS
  • React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin are great cross-platform options

Android Vs iOS: Which Smartphone Platform is the Best for App Development?

The use of mobile applications for using social media networks, studying, shopping, and several other daily tasks is enhancing. However, mobile applications are usually divided into two categories.

One is Android and the second is iOS. According to the report of Statista Research Department, Google Play Store owns 3.48 million Android applications, and 2.22 million iOS applications are available on Apple Store. 

Though the number of Android applications is higher than the iOS ones globally but we are comparing both platforms in terms of mobile app development. 

AndroidiOS
If the target audience of your mobile application is global then Android could be a better choice. Mainly, if your targeted audience belongs to countries like China, India, Brazil & Africa.If your target audience is from Europe and countries like the US, UK, and Japan, building iOS applications could be better.  
Post-launch maintenance expenses of Android apps are higher because most of the Android devices are using old operating systems. Post-launch maintenance of iOS applications is cheaper because Apple devices are limited in number and use updated systems.
Android apps are difficult to handle by developers because of the high range of available Android devices. It is less complex to build applications for iOS devices. It is also uncomplicated to test apps for iOS because of limited iOS devices. 
The user base of Android applications is much higher than the iOS ones. iOS owns a small market share because of its small user base. Usually, more educated people from the high class buy iOS devices. 
The Android applications are considered less secure, but it is quick to approve an app at Google Play Store. Apple Store is considered more secure because of strict moderation and other features. However, it takes more time to approve an application. 

Best Programming Languages for Android and iOS Apps

Let’s explore each programming technology individually.

1. Java (Android Native)

Java is considered an elementary programming language for Android app development. James Gosling developed this simple, secure, general-purpose and multithreaded programming language in 1995. Although it is one of the pioneer Android programming languages but because of its appealing properties, it is still popular among coders. 

A recent survey of Developer Economics shares that 9.4 million developers are using Java to build mobile, web and cloud applications. This survey also represents 2.5 million coders who have adopted Java in the past three years. These stats show the rapid adoption of this programming language among developers and businesses. 

Core Features

Platform-Independent – Though Java is considered an ideal language for Android OS, but it is famous among users because of its platform-independent property. Indeed, with Java, you just need to write the script once and can use it anywhere. 

Multithreaded – Multithreading is another appealing feature of Java. This characteristic of Java allows the developers to perform various tasks at once by handling the same resources and memory. 

Upgraded Polyglot Programming – This is an advanced feature of Java that is a part of Java 8. Polyglot basically permits the users to script the code in distinct programming languages. 

Secure – With library level security and compile-time checking, Java is one of the safest Android programming languages. JVM, tamper-free system, Sandbox, cryptographic protection and ClassLoader also make Java an invulnerable language. 

Drawbacks of Using Java Programming Language

  • App developers don’t like Java because of its slow code attributes. It also consumes more memory compared to the advanced app development languages.
  • It is hard to build a complicated UI with Java. 

2. Swift (iOS Native)

Swift is a fast and powerful general-purpose programming language for iOS app development. Apple Inc. launched this language in 2014. This modern iOS app development language is 2.6x quicker than Objective-C and 8.4x faster than Python 2.7. Developer Economics shares 2.5 million developers are using Swift for iOS app development. 

Its simple scripting nature is attracting more and more developers towards it. Even educational institutes such as universities and schools are adding Swift in their courses. On the contrary, coders can’t only build completely new mobile applications with Swift but also utilize its code in existing apps. Top apps including Lyft, Clear, Khan Academy, LinkedIn and Eventbrite are using Swift. 

Core Features

Fast – The best thing about Swift is its fast-coding properties. Yes, compared to the C languages, Swift is speedy and comes with good performance characteristics.

Safe – If you are willing to build an iOS application with superb safety features, Swift is the best option. In the case of perilous code, it eliminates the entire script. You can also not nil its objects. 

Simple Syntax – The syntax of Swift is also seamless to use for developers. It plays a significant role in the provision of security features. 

Drawbacks of Using Swift Programming Language

  • It provides limited support for prior iOS versions.
  • Swift is still a new language compared to the other programming language. It is also challenging to find Swift developers for building apps.
  • It is not good when it comes to interoperability and cooperation with other development environments. 

3. Kotlin (Android Native)

Kotlin is a fast, lightweight and powerful programming language to create Android applications. This modern programming language is also taking the place of Java because of its advanced features. Yes, Kotlin is considered better than Java because of its intelligent compiler, higher-order and extension functionalities. 

Similarly, if we talk about the adoption trends, then Kotlin’s growth is 2x in the last 3 years, according to the 2021 survey report of Developer Economics. This survey also reveals around 2.6 million developers are consuming Kotlin globally for app development. Major applications that use Kotlin are Trello, Evernote and Pinterest. 

Core Features

Smart Cast – Smart Cast works to recognize the function type. It also aids the compiler and makes it intelligent to script efficiently.

Easy to Learn & Code – It is not easy to learn Kotlin because of the delicate syntax and small codes. But it is also convenient to code Android applications with Kotlin because of its short scripts. Yes, the codes in Kotlin are 20% more concise than the JavaScript.

Extension Functions – This function allows the developers to include new features without acquiring any class. In other words, we can also say it is seamless to add new functionalities without altering the entire code. It can definitely help developers to build an application in less time. 

Secure & Inexpensive – It is secured to create Android applications with Kotlin. Mainly, features like ‘Null Safe Function’ overcomes the error and bugging chances. In the same token, developers don’t need to pay for a license for Kotlin. This is an open-source community where you can use numerous resources free of cost.

Drawbacks of Using Kotlin Programming Language

  • Kotlin is comparatively new in the programming world. That’s why the majority of coders are not familiar with Kotlin. Its community is also tiny compared to Java.
  • Scripting readability with Kotlin is challenging, particularly in the early stages.
  • It is hard to find Kotlin experts when it comes to learning this programming language. 

4. Objective-C (iOS Native)

Objective-C was one of the most practiced programming languages for iOS Native development till 2014. Yes, Objective-C was a common language to use among iOS developers before the arrival of Swift. Undoubtedly, companies like Uber are still using Objective-C, but various sources expose that major tech giants are moving their apps from Objective-C to Swift. 

However, it is still considered a leading iOS app development language because of its dynamic coding, legacy backing and time-tested libraries. According to PayScale, the average yearly salary of an Objective-C senior developer is from $95k – $182k. 

Core Features

Introspection – This is one of the most incredible features of building an app with Objective-C. Indeed, it is easy to find any object’s class by using introspection. 

Easy to Approach All Apple Technologies – Objective-C also permits the coders to access all macOS, iPhone OS, etc. technologies. It is very convenient to create an iOS application by using Objective-C.

Dynamic Typing – It is another exciting feature of Objective-C that allows this language to examine the type during runtime. By the way, it is very simple to benefit from dynamic typing with Objective-C.

By Choice Static Typing – If you love to inspect the type while compiling, then you should also be happy with Objective-C. Yes, you can also pick static typing as an option here. 

Drawbacks of Using Objective-C Programming Language

  • Objective-C is a very old programming language, and its future in the app development world is ambiguous. Hence, the apps that have used Objective-C are adopting Swift.
  • It is challenging to debug while using Objective-C.
  • Objective-C doesn’t back namespace. It only uses a global namespace that is a significant disadvantage of using it. 

To know more about Objective-C and Swift, please read the article Native iOS development languages.

5. React Native (Cross-Platform)

Are you missing a cross-platform programming language in our list? If yes, then it is time to consider React Native. This is an open-source and tested cross-platform app development programming language. Both iOS and Android Native mobile applications are using React Native to build interactive apps. 

Developers can’t only build new iOS and Android applications with React Native but can also benefit from its unique tools and properties for their existing projects. Facebook, Uber Eats and Airbnb are the known apps that are utilizing React Native.

Core Features

Convenient Cross-Platform – It is seamless to share a single codebase of React Native on various platforms. This feature makes it one of the best cross-platform programming languages as well. 

Native Development – If you are willing to build entirely native mobile applications with great UI, React Native is the best choice. In this regard, you can use units like View, Image and Text. 

Quick Refresh – With the backing of JavaScript, it is spontaneous to witness your code changes when you use React Native. Undoubtedly, this fast refresh property of React Native is very beneficial for businesses and developers.

Native Modules – It offers native modules for both the iOS and Android development processes. These JavaScript functionalities link as a matter of course for both platforms. 

Open-Source – Like other top app programming languages, React Native is also open-source and owns a big community. Developers can find resources here and learn a lot from the existing React Native community experts. 

Drawbacks of Using React Native Mobile App Framework

  • It is complicated to debug with React Native.
  • Regular React Native updates bring too many changes every time. It becomes challenging for coders to deal with these new changes. 
  • React Native developers must have a complete grip on both native and web technologies. Therefore, it is tough to make a React Native team because of the unavailability of such professionals.

6. C# (Android Native)

Microsoft Corporation introduced C# with programmers in 2002, and it basically belongs to C family programming languages. C# is a multi-paradigm Android native programming language that is known because of its strong typing, object-oriented and declarative programming practices. 

This well-established Android native programming language is famous for building games, VR and AR applications. A 2021 Programming Languages Adoption Trends survey of Developer Economics discloses that 6.5 million developers are using C# worldwide. 

Core Features

Type Safe – The best thing about C# in terms of security is its ‘Type Safe’ feature. This property doesn’t aid the developers in scripting the correct code but also avoids data loss. 

Fast & Scalable – The duration of execution and compilation is short when you develop apps with C#. In the same token, C# is rich in scalability characteristics, and you can easily extend your app’s operations. 

Simple & Advanced – It is seamless to create native applications with C#. It is object-oriented, interoperable and component-oriented. 

Drawbacks of Using C# Programming Language

  • C# generally rely upon .NET that makes it less adaptable.
  • It needs Windows to deal with an application.

7. Flutter (Cross-Platform)

If you are willing to build delicate native applications within a short period of time, then Flutter is the right option. This user interface toolkit of Google aids the developers to build, deploy and launch their desktop, mobile and web applications quickly. 

CapitalOne, BMW, eBay and Google are the leading companies that are utilizing this fantastic app development toolkit. 

Core Features 

Business Logic & UI – Flutter paints apps to life and supports both Android and iOS platforms. In this regard, it uses the same user interface and business logic to create applications for cross-platform. 

Quick Development – Fully customized widgets and Stateful Hot Reload aid developers to make applications in less time.

Easy to Use – Flutter is not a complicated platform to develop applications. You can even use it in your browser. Similarly, many online tutorials are also available to build apps with Flutter.

To better understand the differences between Flutter and React Native, please read the article Flutter vs. React Native.

Drawbacks of Using Flutter 

  • Flutter uses the dart programming language that is still not much familiar among developers.
  • It is a new platform that is why only a few resources are available.
  • Flutter doesn’t support a lot in making lightweight applications.

8. C++ (Android Native)

C++ is another powerful and one of the pioneer programming languages that was released in 1985. This Android programming language is typically practiced for graphics-heavy applications. Definitely, developers can use C++ to build gaming, browsing, video or photo editing applications. 

Mozilla Firefox, YouTube and Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator are the leading applications that are benefitting from C++.

C++ Features

Machine Independent – With a slight change in the script or without any change, developers can use C++ on any machine. 

Structured – Indeed, C++ is a structured programming language where coders can divide the application into distinct sections according to their roles. 

Compiler-Based – C++ depends on the compiler, and you can’t code any application here without a compiler.

Drawbacks of C++ Programming Language

  • It is complex to use Pointers in C++. Any small mistake while using pointers can lead to big crashes.
  • C++ doesn’t offer a built-in thread and garbage collector.

9. Xamarin (Cross-Platform)

Xamarin is another open-source and free cross-platform application development platform that Microsoft released in 2011. Moreover, Xamarin hinges on .NET, that is why it uses C# as a programming language. Its advanced libraries and toolkit aids programming in making native macOS, iOS, Android, Windows and tvOS applications. 

The Postage, Alaska Airlines and HCL are the top customers of Xamarin.

Core Features

Hardware Support – It is painless to test various applications on different devices using the Xamarin platform with particular plugins and APIs.

Simple Maintenance – It is again seamless to maintain applications with Xamarin. You just need to share these changes on file, and it will be updated for both iOS and Android platforms. 

Drawbacks of Using Xamarin

  • It is a new platform that is why it owns a limited community.
  • Although it is a free platform but it costs you in case you need to use Microsoft Visual Studio.

10. Lua (Android Native)

The developers or enterprises that are looking for a high-level but lightweight programming language for Android apps should go with Lua. This quick and powerful programming language is considered best for building video game applications. 

However, these are not only video games that consume Lua, but apps like Avito, Shopify, and Venmo also use it. Around 345 companies claimed on StackShare that they are benefitting from Lua. 

Core Features

Free & Open-Source – To use Lua, you don’t need to pay any royalty. Yes, it is an entirely free and open-source programming language.

Fast & Small in Size – Compared to other programming languages, Lua is quick. Its compiler LuaJIT also plays a significant role in this regard. On the other hand, it is also smaller in size. 

Drawbacks of Lua Programming Language

  • It is tough to find Lua developers mainly with core expertise.
  • The Lua community is tiny in size. Hence it becomes challenging to find resources when you build apps with Lua.

11. Ionic (Cross-Platform)

Ionic is also a good cross-platform app development program. It confers numerous pre-built tools to give life to your applications. Unluckily, it is not a free platform like the other programming languages. You need to pick any pricing plan or custom quote to proceed with Ionic.

Core Features 

Live Reloads – With Ionic, you can instantly experience what you are coding for by using its live reloads feature.

Angular – It is another Ionic property that makes it an ideal solution to build cross-platform applications. AngularJS also allows coders to build interactive single-page applications.

Drawbacks of Ionic Platform

  • Ionic programs crash at times.
  • Debugging takes more time.
  • The stability of Ionic plugins is still questionable. 

12. Rust (Cross-Platform)

Rust is a popular cross-platform app development programming language that was initially released in 2010. Developers love to learn this language.

Around 86.1% of participants of the Stack Overflow Developer Survey voted in favour of Rust and made it the most loved programming language. Probably, it is its support for memory safety and concurrent computing that makes it famous among coders.

Core Features

Memory Safety – Rust guarantees memory safety, and to confer this feature, it doesn’t only depend on the garbage collector but also acquires memory space from variables.

Improved Code Quality – Rust also improves the code quality by using distinct abstractions. 

Drawbacks of Rust Programming Language

  • It is not as fast to script with Rust as it is with Ruby or Python.
  • Users usually complain about its syntax. 

Conclusion

This article discusses one of the top programming languages for Android, iOS and cross-platform applications. With features, it also shared the limitations of using this app development programming language.

Hopefully, this detailed guide would assist SMEs, developers and big companies in picking the right language for their applications. 

FAQ

Which is the best programming language for Android development?

Which is the best programming language for iOS development?

Swift is the newest programming language for iOS

Which is the best programming language for cross-platform development?

React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin are great cross-platform development options


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