The world of app development never stays still and as a proof, we constantly have a pleasure to meet new products in the development shops. Some products replace the old ones, some come as complementary coexistence. It’s been almost three years already that we have two major programming languages for iOS which aim for the dominant position in the industry. Swift was introduced in 2014 as a brand new programming language that was declared to be ambitious enough to change the rules of the app development.
The game didn’t change though. Back then, the preference was still given primarily to Objective-C. The well-known, stable, practical language. But maybe it is time to have a look at the Swift vs Objective-C comparison again and check where the favors are this time. So without further explanations, welcome to our personal guide Swift vs Objective-C 2017. Let’s see what makes a difference between them.
Swift vs Objective-C guide
Let’s start from the beginning. Swift was designed with three main traits in its foundation:
- Powerful performance.
And it sticks to this perfectly. The first pioneers in Swift coding have also caught a clear vibe from the working environment of the new language. It aimed to make app development much easier than we used to think of it. Learning the basics of programming in new iOS language happened to be easier and more entertaining than all the previous languages we knew.
Considering those factors we can also add the new types of the coding environments which Apple created specifically for Swift. We have Xcode Playground and Swift Playground for iPads. Both of them are meant to make coding easy and more engaging. Also, when it comes to safety, we have mentioned previously, those environments become the definition of safety with their immediate responses and feedback.
On the opposite side, we have Objective-C which was created about 30 years ago, when all we knew about the computers was drastically different from what we know now. Which de facto makes working with Objective-C pretty daunting sometimes. Especially it can be intimidating for the beginners. It’s not just hard to learn but also hard to support product after it goes on the market. At the same time, Swift tries to be more welcoming to the newcomers, friendlier and more supportive during the first learning stages.
Now, what does it mean to the entire app development market in the broad picture? It means that Swift is simply becoming more attractive for the developers and for the business in general. For a moment, putting all the further discussions of characteristics and features of Swift aside, we have a language that is new, modern, potentially more perspective and, what’s more important, very friendly for beginners. So we have to expect here only improvements and investments from the Apple’s side.
So we have already highlighted quite impressive advantages of Swift over Objective-C. Although the guide is not over and we surely have a bunch of reasons why the use of Objective-C is still relevant in 2017.
Let’s analyze more precisely what are the Objective-C vs Swift differences. As we have already mentioned a safety factor, we could go on with that for a bit. Now, we have mentioned that Swift is designed for safety. And it’s sure so. It is able to automatically find and prevent the whole range of potential errors and mistakes in coding. It blocks them, inform us and tells what we have been doing wrong and what we should do instead. So it projects stability with its well-customized feedback and typing system that gives no slack for typos. There are few more features of this particular language that can guarantee safety while working:
- Its memory is managed automatically;
- It’s capable of recognizing typos and mistakes while you are still coding, track them down and inform you or correct them, if they are easy;
- It is known to be more stable and practical because of its debugging system;
- It can give you a precautionary warnings when anything is going wrong;
- You don’t need to do an unnecessary manual conformation which reduces chances on having typos or typical bugs.
- It’s syntax is more clear and simple which, again, eliminate chances on making mistakes;
- As a nice bonus, it requires less writing work and its codes are noticeably shorter than on Objective-C.
On the other hand, we should forget that since it is still relatively new it is still in the developing stage. Which leaves us with quite of unpredictable future in terms of developing heavy-weight products. Adopting new languages in cases like this can be pretty risky since the new versions continue to come up. Which means every time Apple releases an update the entire project will be frozen and you will have to wait up to a week.
Moreover, it can lead to changes in the work you built converting the syntaxes and idioms which mean you will have to start over, following those even minor changes in the version. Obviously, that makes the whole process of development time wasteful and dependent on the luck rather than on strict plannings.
So if you are doing large complicated projects in the undefined future it is better either to wait for a few more years with involving Swift coding into it or fearlessly go with Objective-C straight away. That will save you time, money and nerves. Also, same issue here is with the runtime for Swift. It is not even remotely close to the runtime of Objective-C and it will hardly catch up with it in the nearest future.
This far we have already covered a bunch of Swift advantages and disadvantages but we have reached the issue where the favors are clearly on the side of Objective-C. Let’s have a look at what is happening when eventually you need to use libraries, APIs, etc. As long as Objective-C remains de facto the main language of iOS, Swift will face obstacles in using all the required tools for easing the coding process.
Also the similar issue with the operating systems. As an immature language, Swift supports iOS 7+, Mac OS 10.9+, plus all existing versions of tvOS and watchOS. But if you plan to hit any other operating systems, your choice is on Objective-C.
As we established, working in Objective-C can be less time-consuming in a way that all the frameworks you can find and third party libraries you use already exist in this language. Objective-C simply was here longer, it is native for iOS development and more familiar to the majority of developers. So far, at least. But yet, as tools are clearly very important for having the work done on time and without any unnecessary complications, most companies still prefer Objective-C for exactly that reason.
Although Swift community is pretty eager to bring their language to the front positions but the facts are clear. They work hard and Apple is definitely easing their attempts as much as it can by making Swift an open source language, for instance. Which means that there is a large community of developers who are able to contribute into the development of the new language for iOS. Therefore, we can observe combined efforts of the Apple developers and just professional and dedicated “outsiders” who are working together, innovating the code and bringing it to the next level.
The same thing concerns the work with the libraries and APIs. Swift might provide developers with some decent wrappers for managing with fitting APIs into the Swift code base but using the built C-based originals in the native language is simply easier. Also with libraries, you just can’t import the file to Swift when they are origins of C++ libraries. In this scenario, even wrappers won’t make the work any easier since each new import from the library requires completely new work. Therefore, if your building process will need the use of C++ it is more reasonable to go with Objective-C without hesitations.
Finally, the bottom line “the newer the better” concludes this piece perfectly. Developing your project in the more modern language will definitely benefit you in the long run since Swift is definitely moving exactly where the market is going. And with the same pace, it will overtake the market within next five years or so. Although, important to remember how dependent and relative the choice of coding is within the personal preferences and project characteristics.
In the end, making a decision about the language choice always depend on numerous factors. Some are more important precisely for you, some go as complimentary, and some don’t matter at all. You might consider the factors we have mentioned but take some time to create your own pros and cons list with tributing to the context and purpose of the project you are planning at the moment.
And if you are not sure about the final choice you can always rely on some help from the side of our company. The developers from Lunapps are highly experienced and devoted professionals. We will help you to define the dominant factors in the language choice for your project and develop the application you want at minimum costs and time consumption. Don’t hesitate to contact us for any additional information or cooperation. We are always ready to help with any native custom application you are eager to build!