Softwares/Apps

Swift or Objective-C: Who will lead the iOS App Development Race in 2020

If you are planning to develop an application for iPhone or macOS, there is a wide range of options to explore. For example, if you are building a native application you can choose between Swift and Objective-C, which are also Apple’s official programming languages besides C and C++. Similarly, if you want to develop a web application, the preferred languages include JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, etc.

However, in this blog, we will compare the two major iOS app development programming languages – Swift and Objective-C. Alternatively, we will also see which language is leading the way forward in 2020.

Initially, when Apple Inc. first launched its iOS operating system in 2007, developers had very limited choices. The apps for OS X or iOS were mostly built using Objective-C, which is a superset of the C programming language.

An Introduction to both Swift and Objective-C 

Objective-C made its inception in the early 1980s and was the leading iOS development programming language until the arrival of Swift in 2014.

Objective-C is basically an object-oriented language and general-purpose programming language, which adds Smalltalk-style messaging to C programming. It offers dynamic runtime capabilities, inherits flow control statements, and adds syntax to define classes and methods.

Swift, on the other hand, is relatively new to the programming language arena as Apple introduced it at the WorldWide Developers Conference (WWDC) in 2014 as an alternative to Objective-C.

However, interestingly, Swift has gained high momentum within these five years to become one of the most popular and preferred programming languages for iOS app development.

The reason is quite simple- Swift offers many more advantages over Objective-C.

Swift is a general-purpose, multi-paradigm and compiled programming language used for developing applications for iPhone, iPad,  macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and Linux, etc. It can work with Cocoa Touch frameworks, Apple’s Cocoa, and a large body of existing Objective-C code. It is developed on an open-source LLVM compiler framework, included in Xcode version 6.0. Swift allows you to run Objective-C, C, and C++ within a single program using an Objective-C runtime library.

Key Areas Where Swift Supersede Objective-C

Swift enjoys several benefits over Objective-C. Let’s highlight the most important ones here-

Swift is known for its Speed 

With trends changing, iOS app developers need to focus more on optimizing speed. Several tests conducted on the programming language confirms the fact that Swift can offer the same performance as C++ for FFT and Mandelbrot algorithms. Moreover, Apple’s official website also claims that Swift is 2.6 times faster than Objective-C.

Both Swift and Objective-C make use of static language and the same iOS Software Development Kit (SDK) as well as high-quality Low-Level Virtual Machine Compiler. But it’s the impact of the app performance that makes a big difference between the two.

One of the reasons that have boosted Swift’s performance is the introduction of Xcode 6.3 beta in 2015. However, Swift is still in its early days as compared to Objective-C. So, we can expect some more enhancements within the coming years.

For instance, in the latest WWDC 2019 event, Apple introduced a new framework known as SwiftUI to make code much faster. You just have to drag and drop the content in the app preview and start with coding without any manual typing. Moreover, it also supports Arabic and Persian language that reads right to right.

Objective-C isn’t as quick as Swift and one of the reasons is because it employs runtime code compilation.  So, if the object in Objective-C uses another object in the code, it involves some indirection.

Swift Offers Good Security 

Swift has been designed to secure the code safety of iOS products. It is a type-safe and memory-safe language that prevents developers from committing errors.

Also, the issues that you faced with nil pointers in Objective-C such as expression to no-operation have been nullified in Swift. This could lead to fewer app crashes. It will produce a compiler error every time you are writing bad or wrong code. You can even fix all the bug issues at the development stage and don’t have to review the entire code.

Let’s talk about the safety of the Objective-C as well using null pointers. The drawback of the pointer is that it can lead to vulnerabilities in security as it is a component of the C++ language. Also, if you call a method using a nil pointer, no action takes place.

Syntax of the Language 

One of the reasons why Swift has become incredibly popular is because it offers simplified syntax. Therefore, reading and writing the codes become easier. Swift will help you write a clean code employing all industry standards. This also makes Swift an easy programming language. You just need to have knowledge of Python, JavaScript, or C++ to be precise.

Objective-C, on the other hand, makes use of several symbols, semicolons, end lines, parentheses surrounding conditional expressions such as if or else.

Unlike Objective-C, Swift uses a comma-separated set of parameters within parentheses. In addition, if you have to integrate any other option, you have to write only a few codes.

Improved Memory Management 

Both Swift and Objective-C make use of the Automatic Reference Counting (ARC). But the issue with Objective-C utilizing ARC is that it gets the support within the Cocoa API and object-oriented code. The code isn’t available for procedural C and other APIs such as Core Graphics. The result is that it leads to memory leakage.

Swift has come to the rescue providing ARC support for all the APIs that streamlines the memory management process. It completes the ARC with procedural and object-oriented code paths. It allows the developers to focus their attention on developing the app logic rather than managing memory inside the application.

Support for Dynamic Libraries 

The biggest gain with Swift is that you can instantly update your application as soon as the developer community releases a new version. This is largely possible because of the presence of dynamic libraries, which made its inception with iOS 8.0 version.

The dynamic libraries also help to connect the codes directly with the app, keeping your project up-to-date.  It also reduces the size of the application.

It has allowed Apple to improve the ecosystem of the iOS app, making it more responsive.

Objective-C uses static libraries and does not support dynamic ones. The major disadvantage of this issue is that it increases the file size of the app. The memory usage also becomes higher.

Concluding the Discussion

So, beyond any doubt, we have a clear winner- the Swift programming language. It offers various advantages over Objective-C and most importantly simplifies the iOS app development. Swift is an open-source programming language that reduces name collisions. It also provides an extensive support of a huge development community ready to upgrade customer experience.

Author Bio

Bharat Patel, who heads the digital marketing team at Brainvire Infotech, is armed with over 12 years of experience in the fields of online marketing and project management. He is extremely proactive in implementing the latest technological innovations in his projects. Bharat’s core expertise lies in search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and conversion rate optimization, among other things. His immense flare of writing encourages him to consistently pen down words revolving around current trends and innovations that relate to his fields of interest

About the author

Ann Castro

Ann Castro is a lead author at Techicy who writes on Technology, Home Improvement, and Businesses around the world. With a background in Journalism, Ann has a professional experience of more than seven years working with some of the big media companies. She is also an avid traveler, a singer, and a guitarist.

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