If you want to work as a mobile app developer in 2022 but aren’t sure which programming language to choose, you’ve come to the right place.
As the demand for mobile apps grows every passing day, so is the demand for App developers. People with skills in Android and iOS app development are in great demand as both big and small companies are hiring app developers to build their mobile apps.
While there are many programming languages available, not all of them are suitable for app development. That is why it is critical to understand the options and select the best programming language that will enable you to not only create apps for Android and iOS but also to become a more all-round app developer.
Firstly Let’s know the different types of mobile apps
The Different Types of Mobile Apps
Native, cross-platform, and progressive applications are the three basic categories of mobile apps. You’ll be able to pick your ideal language for app development if you can narrow down what kind of app you want to construct.
Native mobile apps
What are native apps? A native app is an app for a certain mobile device (smartphone, tablet, etc).
Native apps for Android, iOS, and Windows are written in a platform-specific programming language. They are then downloaded from an app shop, such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store, and installed on a user’s mobile device.
Pros of native mobile app development:
- Since they are designed specifically for one platform, native apps are often faster
- They often deliver great user experiences, because they are tailor-made for a specific platform
Cons of native app development:
- The cost and time to build can be higher, because there often needs to be separate versions of the same applications for various platforms (Android vs iOS). You can’t transfer the code from one operating system to another, because it’s written in a completely different language
Best use cases for learning native mobile app languages:
- Native apps, which offer great performance, may be the way to go if you have a little more money and time. If you want your app to work on both Android and iOS, you’ll need to create two unique codebases.
- Best for enterprise-level apps, especially if you just want to launch on one platform
- People who do native mobile app development normally specialize in either Android or iOS, not both
Cross-platform mobile apps
A cross-platform mobile app is one that has one single codebase that works on both Android and iOS.
Pros of cross-platform apps:
- Cheaper and faster to create
- Works on all operating systems with one single codebase; more reusable code
- Shorter time to market
Cons of cross-platform apps:
- Can lack in performance/speed when compared with native apps
Best use cases for learning cross-platform app languages:
- Cross-platform apps may be the ideal alternative if you’re on a budget and short on time. They’re excellent for smaller, simpler programs or hobbies. If you wish to launch across many platforms, this is also an excellent option.
Progressive web apps
- Affordable to create
- Can’t put on app stores
- Fewer functionalities than true mobile apps
- Limited features offline
Best use case:
- PWAs are a good option if you need a very basic app (e.g. for personal use) and don’t care about selling it through an app store.
Best Native App Coding Languages
Want to build native applications? Let’s look at the best programming languages for iOS vs Android development.
Best iOS App Languages
What’s the best coding language for apps on iOS? For iOS native app development, focus on Objective-C or Swift.
Swift is a programming language for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS that is both powerful and easy.
Creator/origin: Introduced by Apple in 2014 as a replacement for Objective-C (which had been around since the 1980s)
- Swift is used by 5.1 percent of developers polled by Stack Overflow (caveat: not all survey respondents are mobile developers, but you can compare it to the adoption levels of Objective-C above which is 2.8 percent )
- 53% of “Swift and Objective-C developers” are Swift-only
- The iOS language of the future
- Relatively easy to learn, especially when compared with Objective-C; simplified syntax & grammar
- Still a young language, which means there are frequent updates and changes that could change your codebase
- Can’t be used for legacy projects running on older versions of the operating system
Types of companies that use it: Newer companies, smaller companies, startups, etc.
- Over 7,000 jobs on Indeed with “Swift” and “iOS” in the job description
- Swift developer salary: $102,850 per year, on average
Objective-C is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language used to develop apps for iOS.
Creator/origin: Developed by Brad Cox and Tom Love in the early 1980s
- Objective-C was the standard programming language supported by Apple for developing macOS until Swift came along in 2014. However, Objective-C is still being used today. It will likely not become obsolete any time soon because, thanks to its nearly 40 years of existence, it has a large code base.
2.8% of developers in a Stack Overflow survey report using Objective-C
- Reliable and has been used and tested by many developers.
- Lots of learning materials out there
- Compatible with C++
- Decent job prospects as there are tons of legacy apps out there that need to be maintained
- Big learning curve; Need to understand a bit of C, so you need to essentially learn two languages. Plus, you’ll need to know object-oriented programming.
- Not the mobile app language of the future; newer apps aren’t typically being built with objective-C
Types of companies that use it: Bigger companies that have been around for a while and are using Objective-C in legacy codebases
- Over 5,000 jobs on Indeed that list “Objective-C” in the job description
The average salary for an Objective-C developer is $123,422 per year. Because it’s more difficult to learn and more developers are focusing on Swift, salaries for Objective-C talents are greater because they’re harder to come by.
💻 Course: Foundations of Objective-C App Development on Coursera
Best Programming Languages for Android
What language are Android apps written in? If you want to learn a language for Android development, it should be Java or Kotlin.
Java is an object-oriented programming language that can be used for all kinds of software development. It’s one of the most popular Android programming languages (and many other uses). Using an IDE, you may create Android apps in the Java programming language (integrated development environment) called Android Studio.
Creator/origin: Originally developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems and released in May 1995
- In a survey of Android developers, 85% respondents preferred Java over Kotlin
- However, many companies are increasingly moving from Java to Kotlin, so popularity is decreasing
- If you learn Java, you can work on a wide range of development projects beyond just mobile apps
- You can keep your options open if you’re not set on a specific development path yet
- Google does not recommend it as the best language to use for Android development
- Requires more memory compared to other languages
- Requires much more coding than other languages
Types of companies that use it: Typically older, bigger companies that still use legacy Java for Android development
Career prospects: There are over 10,000 jobs with “Java” and “Android” in the job description on Indeed
💻 Course: Java for Android on Coursera
Kotlin is a modern statically typed programming language used to create Android apps. Kotlin is 100% interoperable with the Java programming language.
Creator/origin: Created in 2011 by JetBrains
- Used by over 60% of professional Android developers according to the Android website
- Google actually recommends that developers start building Android applications with Kotlin (Kotlin-first)
- Over 60 of Google’s apps are built using Kotlin. This includes apps like Maps, Home, Play, Drive, and Messages.
- 67% of professional developers who use Kotlin say Kotlin has increased their productivity.
- Android apps that contain Kotlin code are 20% less likely to crash.
- More of a concise language than Java
- Compilation is slow compared to Java
- Bigger learning curve than Java
- Smaller community than Java, so it may be harder to find answers to your questions online
Types of companies that use it: More and more companies are adopting Kotlin for their Android apps.
- Over 10,000 jobs with “Kotlin” in the job description on Indeed
- Kotlin developer avg salary: $127,541 /year
💻 Course: Developing Android Apps with Kotlin on Udacity
Best App Languages/Tools for Building Cross-Platform Apps
If you want to build and sell your own apps, you might like the idea of being able to release them on multiple app stores without writing the code twice. Let’s look at the best cross-platform app development languages and tools: React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin.
Creator/origin: Created by Google in 2017
- Flutter is chosen by 39% of developers
- Lots of big-name companies also use Flutter, like Toyota, eBay, Google Pay, etc. (although not as many as React Native)
- Allows for fast development
- Easy to customize
- Also works for web development
- Still a young, immature framework that will likely continue to change
- Apps built with Flutter can be “heavy” (i.e., take longer to download)
Types of companies that use it: All kinds of companies
- 1,200+ jobs with “Flutter” in the job description on Indeed (not as many as the other mobile languages listed in this article)
- Flutter developer salary is: $72,166/year
💻 Course: Flutter & Dart – The Complete Guide [2022 Edition] on Udemy
2. React Native
Creator/origin story: Created by Facebook in 2015
- 42% of developers choose React Native for building apps
- Lots of big-name companies use React Native for their apps, like Facebook, Instagram, Shopify, Discord
- Fast to build; shorter development times
- Similar performance results to native apps
- Large development community
- Can be hard to debug
- Still evolving; every new release or update has many significant changes
- Can be difficult to scale
Types of companies that use it: All kinds of companies
- 5,000+ jobs with “React Native” in the job description on Indeed
- React Native developer salary is: $88,252/year
💻 Course: React Native: Getting Started on Pluralsight
Built with #C and .Net, Xamarin allows developers to create cross-platform applications for Android, iOS, tvOS, macOS, and Windows.
Creator/origin: Subsidiary of Microsoft, created in 2011
📈 Popularity/adoption levels: Several companies use Xamarin for their mobile apps, including UPS, Outback Steakhouse, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
- Provides 60% to 95% of reusable code
- Part of Microsoft’s software development bundle
- You get the level of performance comparable to a native app
- More of a limited community than other mobile app languages
- Any code written in Xamarin can only be used within the .NET development stack
- “Heavier’ and may take up more space than native apps
➡️ Types of companies that use it: All kinds of companies
- 1,300+ jobs with “Xamarin” in the job description on Indeed
- Xamarin developer salary is: $117,783/year
💻 Course: Xamarin Essential Training: Create Your First App on LinkedIn Learning
How to Choose Your Best Coding Language for Apps
Your best language for app development depends on your goals. The first step is deciding if you want to focus on iOS, Android, or cross-platform apps.
To narrow down what kind of apps to build and the best language to develop mobile apps on your platform of choice, consider these five factors.
1. Market demand, popularity, and trends
According to Statcounter, the global market share of Android is about 69.74%, while iOS market share is 29.49% (as of January 2022). However, if we look at only the US map, iOS is leading the race with 59.87%, while Android has 39.81%
That means if you’re in the US, iOS has more market share. If you’re outside the US, Android might be more popular.
Look at what is older/possibly being phased out (i.e., Objective-C and Java) vs. what is up and coming and represents the “future” of mobile app languages when choosing on the ideal programming language for mobile apps (i.e., Swift, Kotlin).
2. Speed, development time, and functionality
Other variables like as speed, development time, and functionality might help you narrow it down if you want to build your own apps. Depending on what you’re producing, Swift may be faster than Objective-C while developing an app. For you, that could be a deal-breaker.
If functionality is your #1 consideration, you might want to learn native app development languages instead of cross-platform, even if it takes longer.
3. Previous experience / your preference
Do you already have programming experience in another language? On that foundation, you might be able to construct. If you already know C#, for example, Xamarin could be a natural choice because it is designed using C#. Alternatively, if you’ve tried Java and disliked it, you can rule it out as an app coding language.
4. Support and documentation available
When deciding which language to learn for app development, support, community, and documentation can all play a role. If you want to be a part of a community with a lot of documentation, Stack Overflow answers, and so on, you might want to go with a more popular mobile language (like Swift, Java, or React Native) so you can get the help and community you need.
5. Your career goals
If you already have an end goal or dream job in mind, that can instantly narrow down the best language for app development to get you there.
If you’ve answered all these questions and still haven’t narrowed it down to one best language to develop mobile apps, that’s fine! I’d suggest taking a beginner course on each language you’re considering, to see what you resonate with.
There’s More Than One Best Language for App Development
Ultimately, there are pros and cons to all the best programming languages for mobile apps. Different app languages will be best for different situations!
The key selling point of cross-platform mobile languages like React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin is “write once, use everywhere” (i.e., having a single code base for iOS, Android, and other platforms).
However, cross-platform languages don’t have all the features you get with native app languages and are often “heavier,” meaning they take up more space than native apps, which can cause them to be slower to update, download, etc.
After you’ve selected whether you want to go native or cross-platform, you’ll need to choose a language. This is dependent on your objectives (e.g., creating your own app, landing a job at a large tech firm) and your areas of interest.
While it may appear difficult at first, considering your future in technology, your past experiences, and even looking at what your dream company is presently utilizing, among other things, will help you narrow down the best app development language for you!