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Picking The Best Language for iOS App Development in 2021

Mobile apps have significantly increased in the last years, forcing businesses to enter the mobile market actively. Though Android has occupied the dominant market share, Apple devices also meet the audience. How to benefit from iOS application development? What programming languages should you choose to create an iOS app in 2021? Let’s look into technology trends in iOS development.

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Things You Need to Consider Before Start Working on Your iOS App

Target Audience

Knowing your audience is essential for app development because your future product success depends on the people who will use it. To analyze user trends within your industry, you can turn to such tools as Google Trends, Statista, or survey platforms to determine what type of iOS apps are popular within your industry.

Budget Estimation

Before choosing an iOS programming language to build your future app, you need to estimate all potential costs. Think over how much you can afford to cover the cost related to each development phase before the product is released to the market. A thoroughly defined budget helps avoid unexpected costs while building your iOS product, so be sure you do it before picking a programming language.

Development Approach

Based on your time-to-market expectations, plans, and budget, you need to decide on the development approach. Whether you have already decided to target only iOS users, you might consider native and cross-platform mobile development. It’s worth giving it some thought if you are interested in targeting other users in the future, so what would be your approach: native or cross-platform? You also need to understand some peculiarities related to iOS itself. If you aim to target a larger iOS audience, you need to provide compatibility for older iOS versions still in use.

Team Staffing Approach

Finally, review your staff resources and decide on the engagement model suitable for your product development. You can opt for in-house development, staff augmentation, or outsourcing your project to a dedicated team. When deciding on the team staffing approach, be sure to analyze your expertise, time-to-market expectations, and budget available.

Top 5 Technologies for iOS App Development

Here are the five best programming languages and frameworks suitable for native iOS development and cross-platform app development. Each programming language has both advantages and disadvantages, so let’s focus on the key reasons why you may need to consider them.

Swift – iOS-Dedicated With Cross-Platform Support

When it’s better to use: Though it’s the most widely-used programming language in iOS native development, you can also opt for this technology when considering a cross-platform app.

Compatibility with platforms: a general-purpose language that supports Apple platforms, including iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS; cross-platform development support (source).

Popularity according to Stack Overflow: 17th place among most popular technologies in 2020 (5,9% of the respondents use Swift).

Availability: open-source; under the Apache 2.0 license with a Runtime Library Exception.

Key Advantages vs disadvantages:

  • Thanks to a simple syntax, the code written in Swift is easy to read and understand, making the coding process less time-consuming.
  • Developed as a replacement for Objective-C, it provides more advanced functionality and higher development speeds;
  • Cross-platform support allows developers to create a single container for other platforms, saving time and money compared to native development.

But:

  •  It’s still young and updated, which results in additional costs when switching to the latest versions.
  •  It doesn’t support older iOS versions, so it’s impossible to build applications that will be available for all OSs that customers still use.

Objective-C – iOS-Dedicated Language Compatible With Older iOS Versions

When it’s better to use: Compared to Swift, Objective-C might be less popular for modern iOS devices as it hasn’t been updated since 2016. Still, it’s mature with no improvements required, and it would be a great option if you want your application to support all the older versions, too.

Compatibility with platforms: general-purpose, object-oriented language used for building macOS and iOS applications based on Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks; native development (source).

Popularity according to Stack Overflow: 20th place among most popular technologies in 2020 (4.1% of the respondents use Objective-C).

Availability: unavailable as open-source

Key Advantages vs disadvantages:

  • Developed over 30 years ago, it has been known as a well-tested language with no unexpected errors.
  •  As a mature iOS programming language, it doesn’t require new updates and releases.
  • Due to the dynamic typing feature, it’s highly adaptable while tasks are executed.

But:

  • Its complex syntax is harder to learn for beginners, so it’s not easy to staff the development team.
  • It’s getting less popular and is mainly used to support older iOS versions.

C# – for Android and iOS Apps

When it’s better to use: it’s a cost-efficient programming language if you plan to build not only an iOS app but an Android-based one, too.

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Compatibility with platforms: supports multiple platforms like iOS, Android, Windows, and web apps.

Popularity according to Stack Overflow: 7th place among most popular technologies in 2020 (31.4% of the respondents use C#).

Availability: open-source and available on GitHub

Key Advantages vs disadvantages:

  • It’s quite easy to find experienced developers adept at this programming language to create your application because it’s popular among developers and considered one of the common languages they learn.
  • It can be deployed on any operating system, including iOS, Android, etc.
  • It’s well-known for its fast development as the code compilation process is not time-consuming.

 But:

  •  It’s not flexible enough as it’s based on the .NET framework which is not updated by Microsoft anymore.

Java – For Businesses Who Already Have Android Apps

When it’s better to use:  it’s another good programming language for those businesses who already have or plan to create Android apps in addition to iOS apps.

Compatibility with platforms: supports multi-platform development

Popularity according to Stack Overflow: 5th place among most popular technologies in 2020 (40.2% of the respondents use Java).

Availability: open-source and free.

Key Advantages vs disadvantages:

  •  It’s simple in use, code writing, and debugging compared to other programming languages, be it iOS native or cross-platform ones.
  •  As a popular open-source programming language, it has a large community of iOS, Android, and other developers that contribute to its growth, making it easier to choose developers in a wide talent pool.

But:

  •  It’s relatively slower when it comes to native iOS programming languages, as it requires more memory to compile the code.

Flutter – A Framework That Cross-Platform Development

When it’s better to use: if you need a cost-efficient cross-platform application rather than a native iOS app and reduce time-to-market, it’s another best technology for app development.

Compatibility with platforms:

Popularity according to Stack Overflow: 9th place among most popular technologies in 2020 (7.2% of the respondents use Flutter).

Availability: free and open-source.

Key Advantages vs disadvantages:

  •  It’s a great solution for an MVP, especially for startups, as cross-platform support allows you to cut costs significantly.
  • It provides quite a fast development process as the code written in the programming language for iOS can be reused for Android, etc.
  • It’s based on the Dart programming language, which is getting popular among developers, so it’s relatively easy to staff a development team with specialists who know this programming language.

But:

  •  Like other new technologies, it’s still new and constantly updated within a relatively small community.

In a Nutshell

When starting an iOS development project, it’s essential to choose the main technology. That’s why your choice should be based on your project needs and expectations, as there’s no ‘’one-size-fits-all’’ programming language. We hope the comparison of the five technologies above will make it easier to decide what is best for you.

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