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Most Popular Programming Languages for Mobile App Development

Summary: The mobile app development industry is constantly evolving. Given the benefits of mobile apps, their structure, architectural programming, and languages become essential. These languages determine the development speed, testing bandwidth, flexibility & scalability of mobile apps. Thus, there is substantial demand for app development languages and the right developers who can work with them. Below is an elaboration on some of the most popular programming languages for mobile app development.

Smartphone users across the globe have increased over the years, the number at 7.1 billion in 2021 and forecast to rise to 7.26 billion in 2022. With people spending more and more time on their phones for both personal and professional reasons, there has been an explosion in mobile app development. Research suggests over 3.48 million apps on the Google Play store and 2.22 million apps in the Apple App Store. The numbers continue to rise.

With the growth in mobile use and mobile apps comes an increase in demand for mobile app developers. There is a huge IT skill shortage, particularly in the areas of mobile development:

growth in mobile use and mobile apps

There is a growth in demand for apps as well as software developers. Many people are considering learning a mobile app programming language for the first time. At this point, business owners looking to re-skill their talent pool or individuals looking to take an idea to market are asking: what are the top mobile app development languages, and how do you know what language to learn for mobile app development? Read on to find out.

What is the Best Programming Language to Learn for Mobile App Development?

To answer the question of the best programming language to learn for mobile app development, we need first to answer what language mobile apps are written in. That depends on the app: whether it is a native or cross-platform app.

Native App Development

Native app development focuses on creating an app targeted for a specific target platform, allowing it to optimize for performance and the latest UI components available for each device. This approach to development requires that brands focus on multiple platforms to support multiple apps, which can be costly initially and in the longer term. The language for native app development depends on the target platform: iOS or Android.

ios and android

Cross-Platform App Development

Cross-platform app development focuses on generating an app that reaches as many people as possible across a wide range of end devices from a single app. Such apps have a lower development cost but may not access all device APIs or meet the UI expectations of each device. Cross-platform apps are developed using popular frameworks such as React Native, Flutter, or Xamarin, which dictate the chosen language for development.

cross platform app development languages

The top graphics outlines the most popular programming languages for mobile app development, which will be elaborated in our list of the best mobile app programming languages.

moble app development checklist


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The Top 8 Most Popular Programming Languages for Mobile Apps

1. Swift

swift
As the official language for iOS development in 2022, Swift is still considered a younger language, overtaking Objective-C as the language of choice by Apple after it was introduced in 2014.

Swift is very user-friendly, ideally suited to new programmers, focusing on expressiveness, safety, and speed. However, Swift is highly dependent on third-party tools and lacks the maturity of other languages. Still, there is no more natural choice for iOS development than Swift.

2. Kotlin

kotlin
The official language for Android development is Kotlin, although it is one of many languages that we can use for Android app development. Kotlin is a simple language with a powerful, clean syntax and combines both acquisitive and functional programming features to allow for faster compilation.

3. JavaScript

javascript
JavaScript is a top language choice by many developers for mobile apps in coordination with frameworks such as React Native, Cordova, NativeScript, and Appcelerator. React Native was created by Facebook, giving it the backing to make it a dominant player in the development of mobile apps, particularly those focused on native UI elements – without the need to know native programming languages such as Swift or Kotlin.

4. Objective-C

objective c
Once the official language for iPhones, Objective-C remains a common iOS mobile app development language due to its stable performance, resource availability, and compatibility with C++.

5. Java

java
Java remains one of the preferred languages for Android development and is one of the options for building cross-platform apps with a supported framework, known to be both fast and reliable due to its extensive use over many years. With that in mind, Java does have a strict syntax and complex code, making learning more difficult.

6. Python

python
Python has been around since the 80s and is still considered the top programming language, making it an ideal beginner choice due to its versatility in creating mobile apps and a wide variety of other software. It is English-syntax based with many robust libraries. Although not always considered a “mobile app coding language,” given the availability of native language options, Python is often relied upon for more specialized mobile development in areas such as data science.

7. Dart

dart
Dart is the language of choice for mobile app development by those who love the Flutter framework, one of the top three frameworks for cross-platform apps, and was specifically developed by Google for web and mobile apps. Based on the C-style syntax, Dart is object-oriented and compiles to either native code or JavaScript.

8. C#

c#
C# is one of the “core” languages for various projects, including mobile apps, thanks to powerful frameworks such as Xamarin. Its resembles human language but relies on .NET, which requires a higher knowledge level.

How to Create Mobile Apps Without Programming – Is It Possible?

How to create mobile apps without programming? Is that even an option for organizations looking to accelerate their idea to market?

There are various iOS, Android, and cross-platform app builders that have a “no code” or “low code” approach, but often the results are sub-par in terms of user interface (UI), features, and/or performance. Various options include AppyPie, Bubble, Microsoft Power Apps, Adalo, AppGyver, and many more – but we caution against their use if the app is critical for your brand or growth or if you are looking to establish your start-up as a contender in the marketplace.

It is also possible to outsource the creation of your mobile app and its ongoing maintenance to a skilled Android mobile app development company or one specializing in iOS and general mobile app development services that allow for a more flexible cross-platform approach.

Should You Be a Specialist or Generalist in Mobile App Coding Languages?

As a reader of this post, your goal may be to influence the decision to become a software developer – and, if so, what education path to choose. The purpose of formal software engineering or software development education is to teach generalist knowledge – to focus on primary languages and options in demand in today’s market. However, many developers getting successful jobs or creating successful apps are self-taught.

Many reputable introductory computer science courses and specific online courses (free and paid) are available to encourage the self-taught developer. Many online courses available from Code Academy, Hackr.io, or Udacity (or the like) will provide 10-12 week instruction on a specific language, so it is essential to consider what kind of education path you want to pursue. That will depend on the answer to the following questions:

  • Do you want to develop skills for one particular platform or device? Or create a cross-platform app?
  • Do you want skills to build the entire app, or only to contribute to part of the project (e.g., front end or back end or more targeted elements such as data science)?

A “generalist” or a full-stack developer knows the front-end (what the user sees) as well as the back end (server-side) of the app. At the same time, a specialist will have more targeted knowledge related to a specific platform (iOS or Android) or aspect of mobile development (e.g., servers, APIs, data science). The more specialized the knowledge, the more likely one will need to know multiple languages or specialize in a particular language (e.g., Python for data science).

There is no “one size fits all” coding language, but there is demand for both full-stack and specialized developers in all aspects of mobile development. However, there is something to be said for knowing several languages – both foundational and several languages used in mobile development. After all, not every tool is suitable for every situation, so learning more will make for more robust development and help avoid over-specialization if the market shifts.

For those interested in cross-platform development, it is also essential to have some knowledge of at least one language per platform. This enables a greater understanding of when and how to customize some aspects of the app for the target platform.

There are many mobile app development languages. It can be challenging to know what to learn as a new developer or what to use if trying to bring an idea to market. To ensure success, lean on the expertise of a trusted partner who offers mobile app development services, one who can help test ideas with MVP app development services ideally suited for startups, custom app development for the enterprise client, as well as full-service UI/UX design and development to help turn a mobile app vision into reality.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I choose between programming languages?

There are approximately 600 and more available popular programming languages, of which we only use a select few frequently. Choice of a language should be based on the particular platform to be used, the flexibility offered by the language, execution speed, performance parameters, time it will take to create the specific app, the post-development support infrastructure, and the ease of hiring developers to work on that language.

2. What if I wanted to combine languages while creating apps?

In one sentence – yes, you can. Provided you knew how to make them interact and which feature of the app will use which language. Specific programming languages could be combined with others to be compiled or interpreted in a manner that suits the functional processes. Different languages function together by “writing instructions” to each other or through sprints (conveying data in simple ways). This process, however, will demand sound knowledge and understanding.

3. Is it true that it’s better to be an Android app developer than an iOS one?

Both the iOS and Android systems have their pros and cons. Mobile development, and the operating systems involved, keep changing with time. The choice between iOS and Android is subjective. Developers choose to learn the basics of mobile app development (the model view controller or MVC, for example) and opt for a specific OS based on time to learn operations, the kind of tools used, and the base hardware used. Previous experience in web development also plays a part in the choice between the two. So it isn’t that one is better than the other – context, learning processes, and work ecosystem would determine the option. We cannot have a categorical ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to this question.

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Amit Manchanda

About the Author

Designation: Project Lead
Forte: ASP, Adobe Flex and Android
Likes: Quick Communications and watching cricket
Dislikes: Not taking a self-starter approach
Claim to Fame: Had coffee with a Bollywood celebrity
Biggest Tech Blunder: Delivered the project with some missing libraries
Wannabe: Bollywood Star

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