What Language is Used to Develop iOS Apps?

This article will explore Objective-C and Swift that are the two languages used for iOS development.

The two largest mobile platforms in the world today are Android and iOS. Both app platform offers valuable tools for performing daily computing tasks.

However, iOS commands a unique niche of users makes it a lucrative platform for developers. That is why mobile app developers often ask what language is used to develop iOS apps. This article explains the two main technologies used for creating apps for the iOS platform.

The two main programming languages for developing native iOS apps are Swift and Objective-C. While these two languages can be used to create apps for all Apple products, there are not the same.

Swift and Objective-C have different syntaxes and the available APIs for the two platforms are different.

Overview of Swift and Objective-C

Let’s take a look at the two programming languages used for developing iOS apps.

  • Swift

Apple announced the development of the Swift programming language at the Apple WWDC event in 2014. The language was touted as an advancement on the Objective -C programming language.  Truly, the new language introduces several enhancements in performance and user experience. 

Today, Swift is well-established as the dominant programming language for iOS development. More often than not, Apple prioritizes Swift for new features and improvements. However, many apps and development tools are still using Objective-C, which is a more mature programming language. 

  • Objective-C

Objective-C is commonly described as a superset of C with object-oriented coding features. After Apple acquired NeXT before the turn of the last century, the company took over ownership of Objective-C and integrated it into the XCode and the Mac OS X. Essentially, Objective C became the standard language for creating apps for MacOS and iOS.

Objective-C vs Swift: A brief comparison

In this section, we shall be comparing and contrasting the features of Swift and Objective-C programming languages.

The Development Environment

The support for XCode on both programming languages is excellent. However, Swift boasts of newer and more powerful tools like the Swift Playgrounds. This tool teaches Swift programming to new developers, allowing them to create a functional iOS app.

The Development experience

Given the previous programming experience, the development experience does vary from one developer to another. People who have been programming with Objective-C would still love the platform despite the many improvements in Swift. 

Swift code is more concise and easily readable. See these examples that show Swift’s significant reduction in coding volume compared to Objective-C. Since the two programming languages and interoperable, developers can migrate Objective-C apps to Swift without any hassles.

Swift does not have pointers, uses static type, offers superior memory management, and supports namespaces, and other functional patterns.

The UI Tools

The UI framework of both languages is similar. For instance, both languages support AppKit. However, the additional SwiftUI which is exclusive to Swift gives it an edge. The SwiftUI is integrated with XCode, supports all Apple products, and offers real-time feedback. All these features make development tasks in Swift easier.  

The Ecosystem & Community

The overall ecosphere of the two programming languages is similar. After all, both platforms belong to the same company.  

While Objective-C is more mature, the inactivity in continuous development makes the language docile, and the tools old-fashioned. However, the language is still used to compliment Swift, especially in extensive development projects.

Swift is less mature,  but the development of the platform is dynamic with new features added periodically, Therefore, the documentations are getting updated consistently.

These are vital reasons why developers are migrating from Objective-C to Swift. Going by the present trend, Swift will eventually emerge as the undisputed superior iOS development tool.

A Final Note

Given the comparison of Swift and Objective-C programming language above, it is evident that Swift offers more value to developers. This fact does not render Objective-C irrelevant though.  

The two programming languages are interoperable. So, you may decide to migrate your Objective-C code to Swift or use both languages to complement each other in your development projects.


What languages can be used to build iOS apps?

Swift and Objective-C are the languages for developing iOS applications.

What factors differentiate Swift from Objective-C?

– The Language’s ecosystem
– UI Tools
– The development experience
– The development environment

What programming language is the best for building modern apps for iOS

The Swift programming language offers several benefits when building apps for any Apple products.

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