An Introduction to the Top Programming Languages for Mobile App Development

Posted by Bryan Dingwall on November 21, 2016

The mobile app development industry is already big—and it’s still experiencing exponential growth. By 2020, the global mobile app industry is expected to be worth over $101 billion. 

With the rapid expansion of the industry, developers are also under pressure to build user-friendly and engaging apps that will adequately meet the increasing consumer needs. And, when it comes to building applications for mobile devices, choosing a programming language to use could be the difference between great success and terrible disappointment.

The selection of a programming language usually depends on many factors, including the type of mobile platform, target market requirements, and development costs. Here is a description of some of the most popular programming languages you can choose for mobile app development. 

 

1.  C: The Tried and True

Launched in the early 1970s, the C programming language is among the most foundational programming languages in the globe. The programming language has grown over the years to include useful features that can be used for building sturdy and efficient Android and Windows apps.

Although the C programming language may not be considered stylish or trendy, it is still the go-to language for building versatile applications for practically every purpose on different platforms.

Here are some key features of the C programming language:

Modularity: A large C program can be split into separate, manageable sub-programs for optimal performance. This is an essential aspect of structured programming languages.

  • Case sensitive: In C programming, lowercase and uppercase letters are treated differently.
  • Portability: A C program can be compiled or executed in different operating systems with minimal or no modification.
  • Middle level language: This feature enables C to combine both the advantages of low level languages and high level languages. Examples include the use of arrays and pointers.
  • Powerful: C has a rich library of functions and operators that can be used to build powerful, efficient, and fast mobile apps. Furthermore, the language can easily be extended to incorporate new features.

Here is a simple program in C:

2.  Experience the Versatility of Java

The Java programming language, created in 1991 by Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle), is one of the most powerful languages in the mobile app development industry.

With this object-oriented language, you can develop apps that can run on wide variety of platforms, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. In fact, Google’s preferred choice for its Android mobile operating system is the Java programming language.

Here are some key features of Java.

  • Object-oriented: Java is a pure object-oriented language. Therefore, it supports all the characteristics of the OOPs, such as abstraction, inheritance, encapsulation, and polymorphism.
  • Platform independence: Java is considered as a “write-once, run-anywhere” programming language. During compilation, a Java program is compiled into bytecode, which provides its cross-platform capabilities. As a result, any device with Java Runtime Environment can run Java programs without any difficulties. Furthermore, the bytecode adds to the protection of Java applications from viruses and other dangerous files.
  • Robustness: The Java programming language is designed with a host of features to eliminate errors during mobile app development. For example, it is strongly typed to facilitate comprehensive compile-time error inspection. Furthermore, it also has strong memory allocation and automatic garbage collection features to guarantee optimal performance.
  • Multithreading: Since it supports the execution of multiple threads, Java allows you to configure your applications to carry out different activities at the same time without any load issues. This way, you can easily build highly interactive and responsive mobile apps.

Here is a simple program in Java:

 

3.  Utilize the Incredible Swift Language

Swift is Apple’s most recent programming language. Swift is essentially a powerful, simple, and refined successor to Objective-C. Apple created Swift to eliminate the flaws in Objective-C, such as difficulty in learning, security vulnerabilities, and lack of simplicity.

The Swift programming language works with Cocoa and Cocoa Touch, which are Apple’s latest APIs for OS X and iOS, respectively. If you want to be an “Apple-only” mobile app developer, then this is the language to master.

Here are some key features that make Swift truly incredible.

  • Syntax improvement: Swift has a clean and user-friendly syntax that enable you to write more expressive lines of code. The SDKs have included the modernized Objective-C features, such as nullability and generics annotation, to improve the performance of Swift codes.
  • Security improvement: Swift eliminates classes of unsafe code by including some useful capabilities such as checking integers for overflows, initializing of variables, and automatically managing memory.
  • Interactive playgrounds: With this excellent feature, you can easily test out your Swift code and see the results immediately, without the need to create an entire iPhone application.

Objective-C interoperability: Swift is completely compatible with Objective-C programming language. As such, you can comfortably build a mobile app that contains lines of code written in either language.

Fast and powerful: Swift is optimized for development of fast, versatile, and robust applications. Furthermore, Swift has object-oriented features such as protocols, generics, and classes.

Here is a simple program in Swift:

 

4.  Enjoy the Ease of HTML5

HTML5, published by the World Wide Web Consortium in 2014, is a markup language suitable for developing web-fronted apps for mobile devices.

It is the latest version of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) standard. HTML5 can be used for developing applications for iOS and Android, providing you with the flexibility and ease needed for creating powerful applications.

Here are some key HTML5 features you will enjoy:

  • Multimedia support: The language supports the playing of both audio and video files in a browser.
  • Browser compatibility: HTML5 levels the playing field for different types of browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.
  • New and easy semantic elements: HTML5 has made the life of developers easy by introducing new and simple semantic elements such as new attribute parameters, new form types, and new structural elements.
  • Canvas: With this nice feature, you can conveniently generate animations or visual effects for your web-based apps.
  • Editable contents: The language allows developers to make their mobile apps interactive by enabling users to edit the HTML controlled content in sections like notes.
  • Application caches: This exciting feature, which works like cookies, enables your apps to store data locally on the user’s mobile device.

Here is a simple program in HTML5:

 

Which Programming Language Should You Choose?

There is no specific answer. Every language has its own benefits and weaknesses in the mobile app development world. Regardless of the language you choose, ensure it offers the opportunity to write the most appropriate lines of code for your application. In return, you’ll be able to create a high-quality, user-focused app.

 

Image Credit: Negative Space on Pexels.com

Topics: app development, mobile apps, programming languages

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