The most popular mobile application programming languages
Thousands of mobile applications are created every year, a large part of which is software created for a specific platform - Android or iOS (i.e. native applications). Dedicated languages are used to create them. We have prepared a list of the most popular languages and outlined an alternative to native applications.
Native application languages for Android
Java is a very popular general-purpose language, which is used by 33% of developers - according to theStack Overflow study from 2022 (which we will continue to quote here). In turn, according to the PYPL table which compiles the most popular languages based on Google searches for tutorials, it is in second position - almost 17% of programmers are learning or want to learn it. It is the oldest language used in Android application development (and the first to be declared official for this platform), which made it the standard.
One of the advantages of Java is that applications can be moved between different platforms because they only require a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) to run. The syntax of the language is similar to that of the popular C++ and C# languages, which may make it easier for some programmers to learn. In addition, it supports multi-threading and is very well suited for developing applications with complex architecture.
The disadvantage of Java is considered to be the need for developers to use relatively large amounts of code, even to perform simple tasks.
Kotlin is a junior alternative to Java that continues to grow. It currently has the status of official language of the Android platform. It features a concise code structure which gives it a clear cut over its predecessor. Programming in it is faster and more effective.
The disadvantages of the language include greater difficulty in debugging (diagnosing and removing errors in the code). The issue of some shortcomings in the documentation and the fact that it is a new language, which makes it unsuitable for programming applications for older devices, is also sometimes raised. It is still evolving and developers must keep up to date with the changes that are taking place in it.
Both using Java and Kotlin, developers can use Google's application development tool - Android Studio. This is their big advantage.
C++ is an object-oriented language that about 23% of programmers know. Despite its complexity, developers are willing to invest their time in learning it (5th place in terms of downloaded tutorials). This is due to the fact that it can also be used for other applications than writing mobile applications - creating games, desktop applications or machine learning systems.
C++ is universal because it can be used to build both Android and iOS applications. Its advantage is also speed, because it uses a small amount of RAM (it is appreciated, for example, by 3D game developers). The disadvantage of the language, however, is the low flexibility and the greater risk of errors in the code.
This language is the successor to C and C++, which solves one of their most important problems - excessive complexity. It is much easier to learn, thanks to the simplicity of the structure and the clarity of the code.
C# was created by Microsoft, which provides developers with useful tools. These include the Visual Studio IDE, part of the .NET ecosystem, which includes all the necessary features to build an application. No need to download additional tools. The downside of C#, however, is that it depends on the .NET framework. This reduces its flexibility when we do not plan to base the tech stack on this technology.
Native application languages for iOS
This language was developed back in the 1980s, but is still widely used in developing applications for iOS and macOS. Due to its ‘experience’, it is very well tested, which translates into high stability of the application.
Its advantage is the huge amount of available resources, which makes it easy for developers to find solutions to their problems. It is also efficient and compatible with C++.
The disadvantages of Objective-C include security issues and the fact that it is relatively difficult to learn. Its development has also been stopped, so you can't count on updates. For employers, a serious disadvantage of the language is the low availability of developers who operate it - according to Stack Overflow, only 2.8% of programmers know it.
SCreated in 2014, Swift is the successor to Objective-C and is now Apple's official language for developing applications for iOS and MacOS. Unlike its predecessor, it is open source software, which is why a large community of programmers has already formed around it (although the availability of resources such as tutorials or other materials is still less here than for Objective-C). The popularity of Swift is also twice as high as Objective-C - it is used by almost 5% of developers.
It is easy to learn and based on a simple syntax, which speeds up the development of applications. It is characterized by high performance, also thanks to dynamic libraries that reduce memory consumption. It is also considered secure due to its lower vulnerability to code failures. You can count on regular updates as the language development process is very dynamic.
An alternative to native applications - cross-platform and hybrid applications
Native applications are characterized by very high performance, which is why they are the most common choice when creating software with demanding graphics, e.g. 3D games. They also use all the functions of the device, such as support for gestures, sensors or the camera (also in the latest devices that are just entering the market).
However, many companies choose to create applications that can run simultaneously on Android and iOS platforms. Thanks to this, they do not have to organize two separate teams of developers to build software for each of the platforms.
This is made possible by cross-platforms. Applications of this type are slightly less efficient than native applications in the case of graphically advanced software and may have problems with supporting the latest device functionalities. Still, they work effectively enough for most applications. Languages of this type are:
The language has many uses - it is commonly used in web development, but it can also be used to build server-side software (thanks to Node.js). It is also used to create a lot of mobile applications - hybrid and cross-platforms.
The disadvantages of React Native include difficult debugging, because the technology does not always precisely indicate the sources and locations of errors.
React Native is also a framework with which work is quite time-consuming. Starting a project takes a relatively long time, and testing the application requires the use of physical devices, as emulators and simulators do not provide assurance as to the application's performance on selected systems. If we add to this insufficient personalization of the application for Android or iOS, we get a language suitable for less demanding projects.
- C# and Xamarin
The C# language, as we mentioned, is also used to create native applications. However, the Xamarin platform also uses the language, which enables comprehensive development of cross-platform applications. It gives developers access to Visual Studio and the Xamarin Component Store, where you can find many useful components.
- Dart and Flutter
Flutter is an open source platform by Google. It is based on the Dart language created in 2011. It consists of a set of SDK (Software Development Kit) tools for application development, including code compilation, and a framework. As part of the framework, the user has at his disposal configurable widgets that are reusable elements (e.g. buttons, sliders, text input fields).
The platform allows you to create efficient and aesthetic applications using a relatively small amount of code. It is appreciated for its good documentation and ease of use. Due to this, the Flutter community is growing dynamically.
Cross-platform applications are a very good choice if we want to create software for both Android and iOS. An alternative to them are hybrid applications. They work via the device's web browser, but it is not visible to the user thanks to the use of WebView technology (they are displayed in full screen).
An example of such a solution is the Ionic platform. It uses the very popular AngularJS Java Script framework. It is based on the Model-View-Controller architectural pattern used to create the user interface. Creating Ionic applications is simple and fast, and the built interfaces are effective and similar in appearance to the interfaces of native applications.
Apache Cordova is also popular among developers. It is a framework that gives access to many plugins and the ability to create your own. You can also use many libraries with ready-made code snippets and support is provided by an extensive community. Cordova plugins can also be used in Ionic.
Appropriate language for an application
When choosing a language or platform for creating applications, from the programmer's perspective, factors such as the ease of learning a given technology, speed and convenience of programming or access to knowledge and libraries are important.
It is important for the employer to availability of specialists on the market who know a given programming language or platform. The more popular the technologies are, the easier it will be to assemble a team to build the application and it will be done faster.
Above all, however, you need to take into account the specifics of the project - what is its budget, expected schedule and application requirements. Technology is only a tool that is to serve us to implement the basic goals of the project and it should be selected taking these aspects into account.