Being one of the most popular mobile platforms, iOS has been installed on 26.3% of all mobile devices. If you decide to develop your next mobile app for iOS, probably the most important decision you will make is to choose the proper technology stack for your product. There are many alternatives on the market right now, and if you decide to choose native development over cross-platform solutions, you will be faced with an important choice — Objective-C VS Swift programming languages.
Learn in our article why Swift programming language matters so much in app development, and how to evaluate your decision for accuracy by examining the pros and cons of this language.
Swift is a relatively new language and was only developed by Apple in 2014, but has already rapidly overtaking competitors and become popular on Apple platforms.
In 2010, Apple started developing open-source Swift, a new general-purpose programming language that would rival Objective-C in a few areas–specifically, speed, type safety, security, and better on-hardware performance. It is simple and easy to use in comparison to other older languages. In addition, this language is designed to work across the entire Apple ecosystem. This means you can use it to write programs for iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and even Linux apps.
Swift programming language key features to note are the following:
While Objective-C has been around for a while, the introduction of Swift in 2014 caused some consternation. Objective-C, for example, was popular and stable and had a very strong user base. It had been used for development since the 1980s. However, Swift iOS programming language provided a lot of advantages to developers, including a more modern way of working and coding.
Swift offers a way of coding in a simple manner. It does not force you to use complex syntax but has taken a page from other newer languages like Python and Ruby. This simplicity helps improve the overall speed of development.
Swift uses industry standards to create clean code. Contrast this with Objective-C which is known for the complexity of the code and you can see why Swift has been growing in popularity. Data shows that Swift is significantly more concise than Objective-C and offers developers a way of replacing close to 70% of the code to achieve the same results. From a coding and development point of view, this is a huge advantage. However, it also benefits testers and QA teams, putting the subject of our article far in front.
Swift projects are generally easier to scale. Also important for the long term is the fact that Apple is more likely to support Swift than Objective-C. Jordan Morgan, iOS developer at Buffer, stated, “[…] Swift is the new toy and marked as the future. Objective-C is showing its age and will, eventually, be much less prevalent.”
Moreover, Swift makes it easy to add more developers to the team if necessary. Swift makes it easy to add new developers to the team based on the simplicity of the codebase. This can be critical for companies as training is often a huge time sink.
Swift is fast. With its short feedback loop, bugs and errors are easily identified and resolved. More importantly, its robust coding and typing system helps prevent code crashes. Another factor to consider is that this speed benefit will only improve over time as Swift becomes more robust.
Since Swift is designed to replace C-based languages (C, C++, and Objective-C)-it is comparable to these languages in performance for most tasks. There are many languages with new features—speed is rare. Moreover, the performance of this language is also predictable and stable, not just fast in short bursts that require subsequent cleanup.
Swift offers dynamic libraries which is a big benefit. Dynamic libraries are better than static ones for several different reasons. Static libraries are locked into the code when the program is compiled. This adds to the size of the program and increases its load time. Another negative to static libraries is that they do not automatically update, but are stuck in the version they were compiled.
By contrast, dynamic libraries that exist outside of the code are only uploaded when required. As standard Swift libraries are included in every macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS this helps reduce the overall size of the application.
There are many reasons to use more than one programming language in a project. Sometimes a lot of effort has gone into creating a framework—even years. Rewriting the entire framework to have a codebase in one programming language may not be the best use of resources.
While Swift and Objective-C are different and can be used independently, it is also possible to use them together. If this is of interest, there are two ways that this can occur in the same project.
The two are completely compatible and can be used interchangeably in the same project.
Swift offers a simple and easy way of controlling app memory. This feature helps to prevent memory leaks through automatic reference counting. By using Automatic Memory Counting (ARC) Swift determines what instances are no longer needed. ARC will automatically get rid of them for you, helping to improve app performance without impacting memory or the CPU.
This language can be used with other Apple products and not only iOS alone—from the MacOS to tvOS and even smartwatches (watchOS). Besides, server-side Swift integrates with most backend technologies. In fact, by using it at the backend and frontend, apps can be created faster. This is primarily due to the reuse of code, but it is also a factor in developer time and overall resource availability.
This table shows which platforms you can target when the tools are used on a given platform. Source: swift.org
With the backing of Apple and IBM, Swift has seen rapid growth. It has a very active and vibrant user community and is the second most starred language on GitHub. “We saw open sourcing as a critical element to make Swift reach its potential to be the language, the major language for the next 20 years of programming in our industry.”, said Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior VP of Software Engineering.
This programming language has a terrific typing system, robust coding and error handling to detect bugs and prevent coding errors. With a shorter feedback loop, Swift allows developers to easily identify bugs in their code and fix them immediately. The result is less time and effort, and a better chance of implementing high-quality code.
Choosing safety sometimes dooms you to the rigorous feel of Swift, but our experts believe that clarity saves time in the long run.
We’ve already talked about the benefits of Swift in depth. However, like everything in life, there are always two sides to any story. While there are many advantages of the Swift programming language, there are also some areas where it is lacking.
This could be considered a positive and a negative but Swift’s age sometimes negatively impacts it. Swift has only been around since 2014 while Objective-C has been in use since the 1980s. Fortunately, Apple has realized this and its most recent update goes a long way toward addressing the gap. The new update brings ABI (Application Binary Interface) stability across all of Apple’s platforms. In addition, it also includes backward compatibility of Swift versions along with improved documentation. But globally—Swift is still limited to native libraries, tools, and probably will be unstable after each release.
This is probably a function of its age more than anything else, but currently Swift has a very limited pool of talent. Based on a recent StackOverflow survey, only 5.9% of 57,378 respondents use Swift. In addition to the limited number of developers, even fewer have real-world experience with the language. This can make finding skilled resources difficult. Fortunately, the onboarding process does alleviate this somewhat.
Due to the regular and frequent updates, finding the right tools can be difficult with Swift at times. Using external tools and IDEs can also be a challenge, as Swift does not integrate well with them. Developers report many problems with syntax highlighting, autocompletion, refactoring tools, and compilers.
Though the official Apple IDE (XCode) lags in terms of tooling and support for Swift, it still provides smooth navigation and an intuitive interface.
Among those who are already enjoying all the benefits of Swift are all the top companies from Google, Facebook and Instagram to CNN and Medium and many others.
In Q1 2020, users could choose from nearly 1.85 million available iOS apps. Below you can see a list of some great iOS apps written in Swift.
For example, Lyft’s official announcement of the Swift app transition was the following “Today’s release of the app marks the first time Lyft for iOS has been written entirely in Swift. It was a lot of engineering work, but it was worth it – this Lyft app is not only more responsive, but we can now accelerate development cycles and create new features for drivers and passengers even faster.”
NIX has experience working with businesses of all sizes around the world and our team of professionals is experienced with Swift so we can assist you in using it to its fullest potential and strength. Whether your requirements include creating a new app from scratch, enhancing an existing product or anything else, call on our expertise to help your business grow.
Alienware Corporation is best known for its high-end gaming laptops and computer systems. We worked with Alienware on their gaming portal. The Alienware team wanted to extend the user’s experience via mobile applications. This would allow players to access the gaming portal features on the go which would enhance the overall user experience.
Using Swift, the NIX team created a high-functioning app to dive into the gamer’s world. We found that this allowed the user to interact with the main features of the website. This included the Arena Rewards section as well as daily and weekly quests. Alienware determined that this added capability helped them attract more users to the gaming portal and increase engagement.
You can examine the full case.
Vuze Camera has expertise in the photography field. They work extensively with 3D, computer vision and image processing. Vuze Camera offered the first consumer 360 3D camera with an associated dual-camera. This combination gave individuals significant power. Users could use the technology to create and share immersive experiences in 360° or VR180 (3D) Photo and Video.
The NIX team created an app that provided additional capabilities for Vuze Camera. The app allowed users to view videos in Cardboard or Little Planet mode. In addition, users could also make live-stream videos which could be shared through social media on Youtube or Facebook. Added to this was a powerful video editor which provided users with many fun features including add artistic filters or effects, make color adjustments, and adding audio.
You may also be interested in the full case.
Let’s dive into the history of the language. In 2016, TNW claimed that the request for Swift employees has increased by 600 percent. By the end of that year, Upwork reported that Swift was the second-highest growth skill in the freelance job field. According to the last Stack Overflow survey—Swift is currently ranked 9th on the most loved, languages list and the experts do not predict its departure into the outsiders soon.
Apple stands to have no reason to displace Swift in the present decade with another language. Keep also in mind 6 years of progress, both in terms of development and popularity, steadily growing sales of Apple devices and the expansion of the lineup. It’s fair to say, based on these facts, that the demand for Swift development will grow.
Many companies around the world have taken advantage of Swift app development, and the list tends to be immeasurable. The language is already in a leading position, and there is a promising future ahead as Apple continues to develop the language endlessly to unlock its full potential.
If you want to keep up, and maybe even work with Apple, you need Swift programming language in your next development. We have the right experts and you can be sure we will find exactly the right talent for your industry and company culture.
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