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Swift vs Objective-C: Which is Ideal for iOS App Development in 2020

When you aim to develop the perfect iOS app, one of the first things that you need to decide is the language that you will need for the project. In terms of native mobile app development for iOS, you basically get two choices: either use the good old Objective-C or go with the next-gen Swift.

Now, understanding the ideal programming language for iOS app development needs you to consider the features, differences, pros, and cons of both the options that you have on hand.

So, without further ado, let’s get right into the details of Swift vs. Objective-C.

The main features and characteristics of the languages

Objective-C

         

Way back in the 1980s, Brad Cox and Tom Love of the Stepstone Company came up with the programming language Objective-C, as the extension of C. It was released in the market in 1988, and the response it received was quite amazing. “Object-Oriented Programming: An Evolutionary Approach”: a book written by Brad Cox and Tom Love in the same year was instrumental in the success of this programming language.

Finally, during the late 1980s, NeXT Computer, Inc. acquired the license for Objective-C for developing the frameworks for ‘NeXTStep,’ which was again, picked up by Apple. Thus, Objective-C came up to be the standard in terms of iOS app development for many years.

Basically, two programming languages were brought together to create Objective-C, namely, Smalltalk and C. This is what makes it a language with an extensive, complex syntax. Smalltalk gives it the object syntax, and the non-object syntax comes from C.

Message passing and dynamic tapping are used by Objective-C. The code blocks of implementation and interface are also required in this case for dividing classes.

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Swift

Swift is younger than Objective-C, as Apple began developing it in 2010 and it was released in the market four years after that. A year after that Swift was made open source. Swift goes way past C and Smalltalk and rather embraces the features of modern programming languages. So, here you will find type inference, optional, generics, and other such higher-order functions.

The speed of app development with both the languages

The features that a programming language comes with are crucial in ensuring that you get the speed of app development that you aim for. Swift is actually swifter than Objective-C when it comes to speed!

The use of higher order functions and generics make the codes much more reusable and cleaner. Type inference and options also make sure that the codes are safe as they are being transferred to the compilator from the programmer.

Moreover, the syntax is highly concise and you don’t have to make two code blocks for implementation and class interface. So, the programmers don’t need to write codes as lengthy in Swift as they have to in the case of Objective-C. In addition to that, there is a general consensus among the developers that this factor alone gives Swift an edge over Objective-C.

The pros and cons of both the languages

There is no denying the fact that you can develop apps faster in Swift, but that’s not the be-all and end-all of the decision to choose a programming language for your iOS app. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both languages.

Objective-C

Pros:

It’s been tried and tested for years. Objective-C has literally been used for writing millions of codes from its beginning till this day. You will get an answer to almost each question and every doubt thanks to the third party frameworks and the documentation that exists.

The compatibility with C++ and C. Objective-C is actually a superset of the programming language C. Thus, it works pretty smoothly for both C++ and C codes.

The stability factor. If an application is developed in Objective-C, you will not really have to spend your money for taking the application to a new language after a couple of months.

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Not the easiest to learn. It is significantly different from other common programming languages. The memory management of Objective-C is really complex. Thus, if a developer has an idea about Objective-C, he can learn and start working with Swift easily.

Dwindling number of supporters. With the difficulty posed in learning Objective-C, the new-age developers are keener to learn Swift rather than Objective-C. On the other hand, the seasoned developers who know all about Objective-C, find it easy to learn Swift. So, there is a steady stream of migration of developers from Objective-C to Swift.

The reverse engineering tools. The app that has been made with Objective-C is easier to hack into compared to a Swift app. Objective-C is renowned by now, and it has been here for years. So, the tools of reverse engineering are quite sharp, as well.

Swift

Pros:

The safety factor. The number of features on offer, right from type interference, optional, to generics, make sure that the Swift apps are not as prone to bugs or crash as frequently as Objective-C.

Apple is Swift-focused. Apple develops the language and offers support to the community constantly. The developers are raving about the technicalities of Swift, which is an indication that this language deserves all the attention.

The developer’s team will love you! survey reveals that Swift is one of the leading programming languages, while Objective-C is the most shied away from.

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Changes and migrations. The weakest link of Swift is the change and migration associated with it. However, it is already not as difficult as it was, but still there is definitely chances of improvement after the introduction of ABI stability.

The constant changes in the language used to be a problem earlier. Developers had to shift to the new versions, which costs both money and time. The good thing is that, as time goes on, the subsequent versions are becoming better than ever before.

Summing up

According to the ongoing discussions on this topic among the developers’ community, Swift is perfect for the latest, small apps. However, when it comes to large projects that already come with extensive Objective-C codebases, Swift might pose some difficulties at the onset. With that being said, Swift has become really advanced and many of its glitches are being progressively fixed, which makes it the ideal language for iOS app development.

Arul karuppannan

Digital Marketing Strategist, Nature Lover, Growth Hacker.

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