If you are thinking about building a mobile app, there are many variables to consider. One of the most important decisions you’ll make is which programming language to use. There are an impressive number of languages available, but choosing the right one can be the difference between your development project’s success and failure.
Before beginning the development process, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your app’s purpose?
- What platform does the app need to support?
- How secure does the app need to be?
- How important is data integration?
Your answers will help you put a project plan together and determine which language is best. But first, you’ll need to understand what your options are. The following are some of the most popular programming languages among developers. Each is suited to certain types of development projects.
- HTML5: If you are building a web-fronted app, you almost definitely want to use HTML5. According to Information Week, it makes “various data types simple to insert, rationalize input parameters, level the browser playing field, account for different screen sizes” and more. It also builds on the current version of HTML, making it easier to learn for those already familiar. It offers functionality across devices, browsers and platforms and can be used to build apps for both iOS and Android.
- Java: Java is one of the most frequently used programming languages, meaning that the skills required more likely to be available among your team. It is a compiled language that can be run in two ways: in a browser window or a virtual machine that doesn’t require one. If Android is your platform of choice, Java is probably your language of choice, as well as if you are looking to develop a common code base that will work for many different platforms.
- Objective-C: This language is the standard for iOS, meaning that the iPhone and all other Apple devices are written in Objective-C. It is high-performing, allowing your app to use all of the device’s functions. However, it’s not the easiest language to learn and isn’t scalable to other platforms. And it’s in the process of being replaced by Swift, which we cover below.
- Ruby: Ruby combines utilities for a streamlined development process. Some pros include tooling and code libraries. It is also the language of choice among online coding schools and bootcamps. Keep in mind that this language is slow (both to start and run), documentation can be hard to find and it is associated with performance issues that can lead to increased costs.
- Swift: Swift was created by Apple to work along with Objective-C. It was designed to eliminate the possibility of security issues with Objective-C, and is easier to learn. It offers better long-term support and optimized app performance. Swift is also open source. It is limited to iOS 7 devices or later, and your team will likely need time to learn it since it is so new.
- Python: Some features of this programming language include advanced data structures and dynamic semantics, which Mobile Business Insights says allow for the rapid development of apps. Developers can quickly test and debug code in Python. It is also great for writing scripts that join existing software components together, making it a good choice for large enterprises. Drawbacks include its slower speed and the fact that it isn’t widely present in mobile computing. It also comes with some design restrictions.
As you can probably tell, there’s no one, right answer for which language is best in mobile development. Each language presented here comes with benefits and drawbacks and is ideal for certain projects while being a bad fit for others. Consider your specific project requirements, as well as team experience, budget and other factors before making your decision. This checklist is a good starting point when beginning an app development project.