Are you an iOS developer interested in developing iOS applications and mobile apps? Are you confused about which programming language to use to achieve your goals? Well, many people are facing the same challenges. But we can’t forget to say that Swift and Objective C are the primary programming languages one will run to when they want to do iOS development. The challenge comes in choosing the most preferable.
Not until 2014, when Swift was introduced, Objective-C was the sole programming language for developing Apple apps. Swift is a modern language with an easy-to-understand syntax, making it popular with iOS developers. This article gives you the facts about the two languages.
A Closer Look at Objective-C
Objective C programming language was established in the 1980s by Tom Love and Brad Cox. With prior Smalltalk knowledge, they worked at ITT Corporation’s Programming Technology Center, an institution that helped them develop Objective C. This language falls under object-oriented programming language we use to develop different software and applications, including OS X and iOS. It is an advanced version of the C programming language; it does everything C performs and more. The advantage you enjoy with this language is the capability to dynamically load code; thus, it is easier to develop both small, lightweight applications and larger, complex apps.
Love and Cox created the language with class libraries before developing PPI, which targeted the commercialization of their product. NeXT acquired Objective C, changed rights to StepStone, before transitioning to Apple in 1996.
Objective-C, a programming language, comes out uniquely with amazing features and is instrumental in developing OS X and iOS apps. Some of the features include:
- Object-oriented – You can define classes, develop objects, and utilize polymorphism, inheritance, and other object-oriented features.
- Data hiding – This safety feature protects your data from unwarranted access. It prevents any accidental or deliberate alteration to a program by restricting access to data.
- Encapsulation – This wonderful feature limits other users’ access to state values for each object variable. It is another addition that makes it easier to hide data, be flexible to new requirements, and set variables to read or write only.
- Dynamic binding – It is a more flexible language, easing the creation of responsive applications.
- Inheritance – While using Objective C, you can decide to develop classes while you still have another one existing, and that is where inheritance comes in. Besides that, inheritance allows code reuse, making sure you can autonomously extend your original code while utilizing accessible interfaces and classes, and you can modify the design and still maintain similar features.
- Polymorphism – Users get the ability to access various objects within the same interface. It can be dynamic or static.
- Fast program – Every programmer always looks forward to doing their code without experiencing delays from the language they are using. Objective C comes in handy and helps software developers do their work quickly and in an efficient way.
Advantages of Objective-C
You will enjoy several benefits once you go the Objective C way as a programming language. Some of them include:
- Simplicity and efficiency: Grammar used in creating Objective C language is easy to understand. It enables developers to develop or rebuild new applications without difficulties. Most institutions use it in teaching students as an elementary programming language.
- Plenty of tools: The language has existed for more than 30 years, meaning it has made lots of tools available with time. Such tools are Cocoa and XCode, and others available from the companies that acquired the language. The tools allow for smooth running, and developers feel comfortable using the language in their development.
- Compatibility with different iOS versions: This language is compatible with almost all iOS versions. You can bet it has been around for several years, and people have used it to develop many Apple apps.
- Has a high level of extendibility: The design of this language allows for easy and quick extension of a program. This makes adding new functions or modules to existing software easy by making minor changes.
- It has libraries rich in functions: Objective C has a huge library collection that makes it easier for designers to access plenty of built-in features to simplify their programming experience.
Shortcomings of Objective C
We have seen that the language has several strengths. It has a few shortcomings:
- Time-consuming: It takes a long time to program with Objective C compared to other languages. This can be a costly let-down to most programmers since it ends up delaying the launch of the app.
- Tedious and complicated syntax: Most languages, like Swift, have a simple syntax, which is like plain English. On the other hand, Objective C has a tedious syntax, which can be challenging to write.
- The number of software developers who understand this language is decreasing each passing day since it is hard to learn and implement. New iOS developers are finding it easy to learn Swift.
- Since Objective C has been around for years, it is easier to reverse engineer and hack an app developed in this language.
An Overview of Swift
Apple developed Swift language. It first existed in 2014 but officially came to the public in 2015. Reading and writing using Swift is easy. It is a modern language, meaning it is resilient to errors. The other unique thing about this language is that it is open-source and applies to different platforms. You can use it to create software for tvOS, Linux, macOS, watchOS, and iOS. It is also compatible with Objective C.
Features of Swift
You will be right to say that Swift is an improved innovation on C-based codes. It has unique features that make it an easy language to use in terms of reading and writing. Some of the features are:
- Efficiency in terms of automatic memory management. Swift has an Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) feature to help handle memory management automatically. The ARC handles the memory taken by the project, and a developer doesn’t have to worry about memory usage.
- It is an easy language to learn and read. Swift has amazing features that emphasize simplicity and create easy codes to learn without much stress. Beginners and those without programming experience find learning the language easy. It is an easy-to-read language and serves as a great language favoring the beginners. The presence of a playground in Swift to support easy and independent learning on using Swift is a plus and wins the hearts of beginners.
- A fast programming language. The presence of an optimized compiler in Swift helps in faster code generation. The developer is relieved of the bookkeeping challenges.
- The code syntax is clear and concise. Programmers can easily handle and achieve a lot using a few lines of code due to the concise code syntax. It highly reduces the codes needed to implement string manipulation and repetitive statements.
- Safety management. The occurrence of errors is highly minimized when using Swift. It does away with the presence of errors/bugs through the trigger of a runtime crash that forces the developer to get the error handled immediately. There is a short feedback loop, and the programmer can easily understand the code.
Read: Design Patterns in Swift
Advantages of Swift Language
Let us check some of the benefits of Swift.
- It is a fast language. The programming language has a direct and simple syntax, making it twice as fast as Objective C. It has new modern features to ensure the seamless and swift coding experience.
- The presence of Automatic Reference Counting plays a big role in managing how an app uses the memory. Developers do not waste time on memory management issues.
- One can easily read and write the Swift codes. Being a modern language, it uses simple algorithms, and most people find no stress in reading and writing it. The syntax is concise and highly simplified.
- The presence of interactive playgrounds makes it easy for people to download on their Apple gadgets and turn them into useful tools for learning algorithms and codes. This additional feature makes it easy for beginners to learn and enjoy the language.
- There is an open-source community hosting a group of people building projects and sharing ideas on certain areas of interest. You can visit the community whenever you are stuck and ask questions. Getting assistance and more ideas for implementing a certain project becomes easier.
- It is safe, and errors are minimized. The design of Swift helps in doing away with the unsafe code. The compiler feature provides a safe ground for writing code and eliminates the occurrence of runtime crashes when developing your applications.
The shortcomings of Swift
No language lacks the downsides.
- Being a new language that only came into existence in 2014, it is still undergoing frequent updates. It is, therefore, not compatible with previous or older versions of iOS.
- Backward compatibility challenges. This feature allows a language to easily integrate with data and interfaces from previous system versions once new updates occur. With the evolution of Swift, the new versions become incompatible with iOS’s older versions. The language supports iOS7 and macOS 10.9 or higher, forcing programmers to run Objective C whenever maintaining or building applications targeting the older versions.
- Challenges of integrating with IDEs and third-party tools. With updates happening constantly and the absence of backward compatibility, it becomes hard to get IDEs and third-party tools that can easily communicate and function with this language. There is a limited number of IDEs like App code, Atom, and implement Swift libraries.
Good read: Swift Advantages and Disadvantages
Swift and Objective C Difference
Most of us like new and modern things and innovations since they come with new features that resonate well with us. Swift throws in the towel by being a newer language, coming with many features as compared to Objective C. They are both programming languages hosted on the Apple ecosystem, and you use them to develop apps for iOS, tvOS, watchOS, and macOS. As you study them, you will note that they exhibit key differences in performance, syntax, and general coding experience. Let us compare the two languages.
Apple introduced Swift in 2014 and became a modern and user-friendly programming language. Its syntax is concise and cleaner compared to Objective C. Many consider it a more readable code, and maintenance is easy.
Objective C has a C-like syntax that is more verbose. The syntax is less intuitive to most programmers, and you will note the square brackets’ usage in calling methods.
Swift is more of a static type (statically typed language), implying that you determine or know the variable types at compile-time. The compiler will automatically infer the variable type based on the value, meaning there is no need to explicitly declare the variable type. The chances of making errors are less; it has a cleaner and more concise code and supports type interface.
Objective C is more of a dynamic type (dynamically typed language). You determine the variable types at the runtime. You will experience runtime errors if you don’t handle the types appropriately.
The design of Swift allows it to work seamlessly with Objective C. Swift projects can use Objective C frameworks and libraries and vice versa. Such ensures a smooth transition to Swift for the current Objective C codebases.
Objective C uses bridging headers in calling Swift code, but the interoperability is one way. Unlike Objective C, Swift easily includes Objective C code within its projects.
The design of Swift focused more on safety. The presence of type safety and optionals features assist in avoiding null pointer errors and any bug that may occur. ARC makes it better in memory management.
Objective C has a high likelihood of experiencing runtime errors like null pointer dereferencing. Programmers must be keen on managing memory utilizing manual reference counting.
Tooling and Support/Community
Apple has placed more finances in developing Swift, which developers have rapidly adopted. Its community is growing on a daily basis and contains Swift Package Manager, which acts as a modern package manager.
Objective C is still in use, but most of its tooling and the community have been dwarfed by the popularity of Swift.
With a modern design and highly optimized, Swift has better performance. Execution of Swift code is faster, and there is lower memory overhead.
The dynamic nature of Objective C can make it experience performance overhead.
A lot of reasons point to choosing Swift as the go-to language. Beginners find it easy to read and write with a more concise and understandable code. There are fewer errors when using Swift, and you don’t have to worry about memory management. The relevance of Objective C is still visible, especially in maintaining legacy codebases or when one needs to work with older frameworks and libraries. The language choice will depend on the project requirements and how familiar a person is with a given language.
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Also read: Swift vs React Native