Apple undeniably leads the mobile technology segment. Its iOS operating system gets evolved with every new iPhone series release. Thus, we might talk about iOS development as a beneficial investment.
We’ve already talked about the main programming languages for Android apps. Today we’ll review the main iOS development languages that every iOS developer should be aware of. We’ll start with exploring the basic iOS development environment and only then jump to languages.
The article will be useful to everyone who decided to move to iOS app development and eager to learn to code.
Which Programming Language is Used for Developing Native iOS Apps?
This question is quite incorrect. In fact, there is a whole variety of languages iOS apps are written in. But first, a bit of practical info.
The Tools for iOS Programming Languages
Xcode is the main development environment for Apple software that can be easily found in the Apple app store. It includes the programming tools for Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and Apple TV – all Apple platforms. Xcode introduces the Interface Builder and code editor tools. More to it, one can test the developed app right from Xcode before publishing it. If the app is developed for an external device, you can run it on an emulator.
The system includes all the required emulators that can be updated anytime. Additionally, Xcode uses graphic tools to analyze the performance of the app. The new versions of the software usually appear a while after the latest Apple presentation that takes place in early September.
The Ecosystem of iOS Apps
Sure, MacOS is the most suitable development environment for iOS apps, even the simple ones. However, Windows might serve this purpose as well.
If you work on Windows, you need to install iOS through a virtual machine. The internet is full of Windows-adjusted iOS versions so you can easily find the required one. But be ready that the PC keyboard lacks particular iOS keys, which makes particular key combinations impossible in this case. In other aspects, the process will be the same as if you used Mac.
An iOS developer must have in-deep knowledge of MacOS and iOS in particular. And, of course, one needs to learn IOS programming languages. The knowledge of Delphi, C#, or VB.NET will hardly be helpful here. Rather, Apple has own ecosystem that is quite different from, say, Android. It presented by Objective-C, Swift, and, of course, C++ (as it still a part of many iOS apps).
So, let’s consider these languages one by one.
Those who decided to learn Objective-C should know that this is a compiled object-oriented language used to write Apple apps. In essence, this is a “superstructure” above the C language. It inherits the syntax and data types of the latter one. Besides, it introduces new features of object-oriented programming, such as keyword class and method descriptions.
As in the case of C++, in Objective-C the key role belongs to abstract objects. Plus, there the messages sent to objects. This is an exclusive possibility of all dynamic languages. The type of each object is verified when the program is executed, not when it’s compiled.
Why not Creating an Object in C++ ?
C++ compilers can be found on any operating system. With C++, you can easily migrate most (including data and functions) programs from one platform to another without any issues with the development environment or static libraries.
This language is the demonstration of the idea of “classic programming”. The idea suggests that 90% of thoughts relate to code and only 10% of them – to the utilized tools.
C++ became almost a universal solution. It’s used when developing microcontrollers, web and mobile apps, Internet of Things, modeling, forecasting, statistical systems, etc. It’s everywhere. There is no such domain where C++ would be useless.
Sure, it’s almost impossible to find an app completely written in C++. Still, it’s partially used by almost any large project. As a result, the language has a strong programming community that shares libraries, templates, and codes with colleagues.
Objective-C vs C++, C#
C++ is a strictly typed language (used to create classes and objects for both iOS and Android devices) while Objective-C is weakly typed or has a dynamic system of data types. Compared to C++, Objective-C is more flexible. For example, its syntax is relatively simple so that users can understand the algorithms and how the executable program works.
In other aspects, these two languages are not so different. C++ complies code a bit slower than Objective-C. Still, if you are writing a portable library and need only the basic toolset, it’s better to do it on C++. The language can be called right from Objective-C.
Swift iOS Development
A year after Swift was introduced, Apple made it an open-source language. Now users can improve its features, migrate apps outside Mac and iOS, fix bugs – everything that a mobile app development community can do in this case.
When developing Swift, the authors set the following goals:
- It must be easy to learn;
- It must help to accelerate application development.
As a result, Swift has all the main attributes of a modern programming language:
- No indeterminate or non-initialized variables;
- No array errors;
- No overflow vulnerabilities;
- Nil (null) value processing;
- Automatic memory management.
Swift is a rather fast language. Apple states that it’s 2.6 times faster than Objective-C and 8.4 times faster than Python 2.7. The ultimate goal is to make the language faster than C++.
Swift is full of modern language functions that help to write full-featured code. Those include:
- Multiple returns;
- Built-in templates, etc.
Swift vs Objective-C
Objective-C remains the most popular iOS programming language as it appeared earlier than other languages – in the middle 1980s. Being around since 2014, Swift is now gaining momentum. Apple has high expectations for this language and invests huge funds in it. That is, Objective-C is used mostly to support old software while Swift is a top choice for new iOS software development.
Swift is designed to eventually replace Objective-C as the basic iOS development language. To write an app, Swift requires less code than Objective-C. The language uses a simplified work principle with recurring rows and queries.
The language is easy to read. It provides more possibilities than Objective-C, in particular, the possibility of memory management. Moreover, the language is fully complied with the code written in Objective-C.
Another advantage of Swift over Objective-C is enhanced security. This is reflected in pointer parsing, thorough compilation, and the possibility to add the optional nil variable to provide feedback.
That is, improved work with memory means the lesser probability of unauthorized data access. False data altering and the usage of wrong parts of memory are practically impossible. Plus, more efficient error processing reduces the number of failures and critical scenarios. That is, unpredictable performance is minimized.
However, Swift is a comparatively young language so some parts of the OS X and iOS codes are still not translated. That is, you need at least a minimum knowledge of Objective-C to work with Swift.
With the above info, you can now see the full picture. In essence, Objective-C and Swift now dominate the iOS development market, and we can observe the standoff between them. Still, some experts predict that Swift will finally oust its rival. Object-C will become a history leaving behind only nostalgic memories.