Kotlin vs Swift: A Comparison and How to Choose - BairesDev Blog: Insights on Software Development & Tech Talent (2024)

In this modern era of computing and constant connection, consumers, clients, and customers depend on mobile apps to make it easier to interact with your company, purchase your products, get information about a service, and even help promote your business. Across the globe, the most popular mobile platforms are Android and iOS. That means comparing Kotlin and Swift, the two most popular programming languages for Android and iOS (respectively).

Although the popularity of these two operating systems differs from region to region, there’s no escaping that your company should consider one or the other (or even both), to remain competitive in a very complex and growing market. Ultimately, this means you have to consider your market before selecting which language would best serve your company.

Before you decide, however, you might want to know a bit more about these two languages. Let’s dig into both.

What Is Kotlin?

At one point, Java ruled Android development. Although that has hardly changed, there is another language that has quickly come into favor by both Google and Android developers worldwide. That language is Kotlin. And although Java is still heavily used in the development of the Android operating system itself, on May 7, 2019, Google announced that Kotlin would become the de facto standard for Android app development.

Kotlin came into existence in July 2011. Dmitry Jemerov (lead JetBrains developer) realized that most languages (with the exception of Scala) didn’t include the features he needed. And even though Scala did include his desired features, it was far too slow at compiling code. Jemerov and JetBrains set out to create a language that had the features of Scala and the compile time of Java.

In February 2012, JetBrains open-sourced the new language under the Apache 2 license, naming it Kotlin, a name that was inspired by Kotlin Island, in a similar fashion to how Java was named after the Indonesian island.

At the moment, Kotlin’s TIOBE index is 35, while Java’s is 3, so clearly, Java is still far more popular than Kotlin. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll have any problem finding a Kotlin development company anywhere in the world. And as Android development continues to flourish, so too will Kotlin.

Advantages / Pros of Kotlin

Kotlin has a number of very important advantages over other languages that are used to develop Android applications. These advantages include the following:

  • Less is more – With Kotlin, you’ll write less code. JetBrains did a great job of creating a very concise language. And because you’ll be writing less code, you’ll introduce fewer bugs.
  • Written by those in the industry – Instead of being created within the realm of academia, Kotlin was created by those already in the industry, so they created a language that solved many challenges developers face.
  • Easy to learn and adopt – Kotlin was created to be easy to use and adopt. And because Kotlin easily integrates (and is fully compatible) with Java, you can make it work with existing code.
  • Zero runtime overhead – The Kotlin standard library was created to be lean and fast and mostly serves as an extension of the Java standard library.
  • Multi-platform development – Not only can you use Kotlin for Android development but it also seamlessly integrates with JavaScript, so you can easily migrate your front-end apps to Kotlin with little effort.
  • No null reference – British computer scientist, Sir Tony Hoare, once referred to the null reference as “the billion dollar mistake.” Kotlin’s type system practically eliminates null references.

Disadvantages / Cons of Kotlin

Although Kotlin does have plenty of advantages, it does include a few important disadvantages to make note of, such as:

  • Fewer tools – Unlike Java, Kotlin doesn’t have nearly the number of third-party tools available.
  • Slower compilations – Although the goal was to create a language that could compile as quickly as Java, Kotlin doesn’t quite achieve that mark.
  • Smaller community – You will find Kotlin developers all over the world, but they aren’t quite as numerous as other languages higher on the TIOBE index.

What Companies Use Kotlin?

There are plenty of companies using Kotlin today, including the following:

  • Udemy
  • Slack
  • Robinhood
  • CRED
  • Delivery Hero
  • Tech Stack
  • Tinder
  • HENNGE K.K.
  • Pinterest
  • Postmates
  • Uber
  • Evernote
  • Coursera

What Android App Development Tools Integrate with Kotlin?

Although you won’t find as many tools for Kotlin as you would for Java, there are still some important ones to keep in mind such as:

What Is the Swift Programming Language?

As Kotlin is the official language for Android app development, Swift is the official language for iOS app development. Swift is a high-level, general-purpose programming language that was initially created in July 2010 by Chris Lattner. Eventually, a number of Apple programmers were added to the development of Swift.

Swift incorporated features from languages like Objective-C, Rust, Haskell, Ruby, Python, C#, and CLU. It wasn’t until June 2, 2014, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, that Swift Apple released the first app built with Swift (which was the WWDC official app). Soon after that, a beta version of Swift was released by Apple.

Currently, Swift has a TIOBE index of 20, which makes it more popular than Kotlin but far less popular than Java. But because so many major markets are dominated by iOS devices, it’s very easy to locate and hire a Swift development service to help your company build and release apps to the Apple ecosystem.

Advantages / Pros of Swift

There are plenty of advantages to adopting Swift, such as:

  • iOS app development – If you want to develop iOS apps, you have two choices, Objective-C and Swift.
  • Easy to learn – Unlike Objective-C, Swift is considerably easier to learn.
  • Fast development – Apple claims developing with Swift is 2.6 times faster than developing with Objective-C.
  • Simple syntax and readability – Swift was created with the idea of creating a language with simple syntax and readability, which means maintaining code is considerably easier.

Disadvantages / Cons of Swift

Swift isn’t all advantages. Take these cons to heart when making your choice:

  • A young language – Swift isn’t nearly as mature as many other languages. And although it has the full support of Apple, you might find the community and supporting tools to not be what you’re accustomed to.
  • Backward compatibility – Swift does suffer from some backward compatibility woes. With each new version of the language, previous versions are not compatible.
  • Limited – Swift is pretty much limited to developing for MacOS, iOS, iPadOS, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

What Companies Use Swift?

Given how popular Apple products are, you can be sure there are plenty of companies currently using Swift, including:

  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Facebook
  • Airbnb
  • LinkedIn
  • Asana
  • Doordash
  • Google

What Mobile App Development Tools Integrate With Swift?

There are plenty of tools available to Swift developers to help simplify development efforts, such as:

Key Differences Between Kotlin & Swift

There are some key differences between Kotlin and Swift that you should consider when choosing software development services, such as the following:

  • Android vs. iOS – Kotlin is used for developing Android apps and Swift is used for developing iOS apps.
  • Data classes – While Kotlin includes data classes (a way for developers to hold data), Swift does not.
  • Underscore – Where Swift does make use of the underscore in variables as a prefix, Kotlin does not.
  • Extensions – Swift allows extensions to add additional functionality but Kotlin does not.
  • Error handling – In Kotlin, errors are indicated with null, whereas Swift uses nil.

What Does the Future Look Like

There is no doubt that both Kotlin and Swift will continue to dominate mobile app development. Even though both Android and iOS apps can be developed with different languages (Java for Android and Objective-C for iOS), Kotlin and Swift are easier to use and therefore will only continue to grow in popularity.

Kotlin Versus Swift: Who Wins?

It depends on the market. For example, in the US and Japan, iOS is the dominant mobile platform, so if you’re a startup looking to settle on one app ecosystem or another, iOS and Swift are the best choice. However, if you’re looking toward India, where Android is massively more popular than iOS, the choice is simple.

If, however, you’re looking to develop an app for global use, you’ll probably want to adopt both languages.

When to Use Kotlin

The choice is simple. If you want to develop an Android application, choose Kotlin.

When to Use Swift

Again, the choice is quite simple. If your company is more focused on developing and releasing apps for the Apple ecosystem (iOS, MacOS, iPadOS, Apple TV, and Apple Watch), your only choice between these two would be Swift.

Key Questions

What is better than Kotlin?

If you're looking to develop apps for the Android operating system, there are a number of languages you can use (Java, C, C++, C#, Lua, JavaScript, and Python). However, Kotlin is the official language for Android apps, so your best bet is to stick with Kotlin. However, if you already have a team of Java developers, you might stick with that language until you can find the right Kotlin developers.

Is Swift still worth learning?

If your company has any hopes of developing apps for the Apple ecosystem, Swift is still very much worth learning. You won't find a better, easier-to-adopt language for Apple devices on the market.

Kotlin vs Swift: A Comparison and How to Choose - BairesDev Blog: Insights on Software Development & Tech Talent (2024)

FAQs

What is the difference between Swift and Kotlin development? ›

In terms of development, Kotlin is used as a programming language for Android whereas Swift is used as a programming language for iOS app development. Both of these languages are insanely popular due to their ease of use, overall user experience, and efficiency in coding.

What is better Swift or Kotlin? ›

Both Kotlin vs swift are powerful languages to develop IOS and Android development. Let's have a look at the key differences of both languages: Enums in swift is considered more powerful than that of Kotlin. There is not a data class in Swift.

What are the similarities between Swift and Kotlin? ›

Interfaces in Kotlin are known as protocols in Swift. Both are responsible for defining a set of functions or properties the class can conform to. The difference is Kotlin allows us to set default implementations in the interface. As a workaround for Swift, you can use extensions on the protocols.

What is easier Swift or Kotlin? ›

While they might be easier to pick if you have a background in Java or Objective C, you'll need to put more effort to pick both Swift and Kotlin if you are a complete beginner. So, from this aspect they're pretty much the same.

Why is Kotlin preferred? ›

Safer code: Kotlin has many language features to help you avoid common programming mistakes such as null pointer exceptions. Android apps that contain Kotlin code are 20% less likely to crash. Interoperable: Call Java-based code from Kotlin, or call Kotlin from Java-based code.

Why you should switch to Kotlin? ›

We don't need to create a class to do a simple function, as in Java. Furthermore, it goes without saying that the parameters are final in Kotlin. They already are, by default — which is another very positive point in the language, which encourages immutability. Oh, and another wonder: semicolons are optional!

Should I learn Swift or Kotlin first? ›

By learning Kotlin, you'll be able to develop Android apps. By learning Swift, you'll have your foot in the door of iPhone and Mac OSX development. Or maybe the question is: Which do you learn first? You can always do both and become an all-around mobile application developer of both Android and iOS apps.

What is Kotlin best for? ›

Kotlin is often used for data science tasks, such as building data pipelines and putting machine learning models into production. Jupyter and Zeppelin, two popular data science tools used with Java, also support Kotlin.

Which programming language is the most lucrative? ›

  • Clojure. Salary: $106,644. Clojure, according to StackOverflow, is the highest-paying programming language. ...
  • Erlang. Salary: $103,000. At number two we have Erlang. ...
  • F# Salary: $95,526. ...
  • LISP. Salary: $95,000. ...
  • Ruby. Salary: $93,000. ...
  • Elixir. Salary: $92,959. ...
  • Scala. Salary: $92,780.
Jan 25, 2023

What makes Kotlin different? ›

One of the most significant differences between Kotlin and Java is the syntax. Kotlin has a more concise syntax than Java, which means that it requires less code to perform the same operations. As you can see, the Kotlin version is much more concise and readable than the Java version.

What makes Swift different from other languages? ›

Swift is faster than most programming languages. It is almost 2.6x faster than objective C and 8.4x faster than Python which gives a seamless experience to the developers. Swift's syntax is similar to programming languages like Javascript making it easier to write and read even for beginners.

Which language is closest to Kotlin? ›

Top 10 Alternatives to Kotlin
  • Python.
  • Java.
  • Golang.
  • Flutter.
  • React Native.
  • Swift.
  • Ruby.
  • TypeScript.

Is Kotlin the best programming language? ›

No Null Pointer Exception isn't the only thing, Kotlin is far more safe and reliable than Java. The probability of bugs and errors from Kotlin is a lot lower thanks to preventable issues. And errors that do occur are detected during compile time itself, which is a great advantage in reliability over Java.

What is Swift language best for? ›

Swift is a clean and concise language that is also growing fast and gaining popularity. Initially developed only for native iOS development, programmers also use Swift to write safe, concise, and easy-to-use code for operating systems like Windows and Linux.

Is Kotlin really worth it? ›

It is a better option for both beginners as well as experienced developers as it improves productivity by making debugging easier. The use of Kotlin is not only limited to Android apps. As it is JVM based so can be run easily on every platform that supports JVM. Kotlin allows you to do front-end development also.

Why do developers love Kotlin? ›

Kotlin is fully interoperable with Java, which means that developers can easily use them both in the same codebase. This interoperability allows developers to use the language to write new code and seamlessly integrate it with existing Java code.

Why don t more people use Kotlin? ›

Beginners tend to start writing Kotlin just like they'd write Java. As they get more comfortable with the language, they'll likely push some features (e.g. extensions and inline functions) too far, making the codebase impenetrable to newcomers.

Why is Kotlin not more popular? ›

Although both Kotlin and Java programming languages provide plenty of documentation, it's much easier to find a needed tutorial for Java because it has been in use for a longer time. Another reason Kotlin is less popular than Java is that many existing codebases are written in Java.

Why did Google choose Kotlin? ›

Kotlin's improved syntax and safety features make it a more productive choice than Java, and its interoperability with Java allows developers to leverage existing Java code and libraries. Additionally, Google has stated that Kotlin is now the preferred language for Android app development.

Why companies are moving to Kotlin? ›

Kotlin allows developers to write robust code, which ensures better security and reliability. Also, the chances of system crashes and failures are minimal with Kotlin. Uber is the first bird to migrate from Java to Kotlin. The primary reason for this switch was its influence in the Android mobile app industry.

Should I learn Kotlin as a beginner? ›

Kotlin is a beginner-friendly language, and you can learn it even if you have little to no prior knowledge of programming. However, anyone having experience working with Python or Java will be able to master Kotlin quickly.

When to choose Kotlin? ›

Kotlin Application Deployment is faster to compile, lightweight, and prevents applications from increasing size. Any chunk of code written in it is much smaller compared to it, as it is less verbose and less code means fewer bugs. It compiles the code to a bytecode which can be executed in the JVM.

Who uses Kotlin? ›

Kotlin is used at Atlassian for developing Jira Software cloud products. With the introduction of Jira cloud, Atlassian needed to decompose the application into multiple services in order to scale it better.

Is Swift the easiest language to learn? ›

Is Swift easy to learn? Swift is easy to learn, even without prior experience in coding. Apple designed it to be a programming language suitable for beginners, efficient, and easy to use. First-time coders can download Swift Playgrounds to learn the coding language with gamified Apple-designed lessons.

Is Kotlin good for full stack? ›

Kotlin is a full-stack solution that can be used for back-end and front-end development instead of Java and JavaScript. It can be used to develop apps for a server, web browser, or mobile.

Does Kotlin have a future? ›

HireOtter. Kotlin is an open-source programming language that has been gaining popularity among Android developers around the world, including LATAM. In fact, it's becoming increasingly clear that Kotlin is the future of Android app development in LATAM.

Is Kotlin used for frontend or backend? ›

Kotlin has features like static typing, coroutines, Ktor, and null-pointer exceptions, which make it ideal for backend development. Also, many Android developers prefer Kotlin for back-end development, due to Google's official support.

Which programming language is best for 2023? ›

Below is a list of the most popular and best programming languages that will be in demand in 2023.
  • Javascript.
  • Python.
  • Go.
  • Java.
  • Kotlin.
  • PHP.
  • C#
  • Swift.
May 22, 2023

What is the top 1 hardest programming language? ›

Malbolge. This language is so hard that it has to be set aside in its own paragraph. Malbolge is by far the hardest programming language to learn, which can be seen from the fact that it took no less than two years to finish writing the first Malbolge code.

What is the most paid programming language 2023? ›

Top 10 Highest Paying Programming Languages In US [2023]
  • Clojure.
  • Lisp.
  • Erlang.
  • Ruby.
  • Elixir.
  • Rust.
  • Python.
  • Scala.
Mar 20, 2023

What is the disadvantage of Kotlin? ›

Disadvantages of Kotlin:

Kotlin is younger than Java and has a small developer community which means limited resources to find solutions. Switching teams to Kotlin is difficult due to the steep learning curve. Compared to Java, slower compilation time.

What is Kotlin most similar to? ›

What is Kotlin? Kotlin is a cross-platform, statically typed, general-purpose language developed by JetBrains. Similar to Java, Kotlin has become a top choice for developing Android applications. This is evident from the fact that Android Studio comes with inbuilt support for Kotlin, as it has for Java.

What are the disadvantages of Swift? ›

Cons of Swift
  • Compatibility issues: The updated versions of Swift are found to be a bit unstable, with the newer versions of Apple leading to a few issues. ...
  • Speed Issues: This is relevant to the earlier versions of the Swift programming language.
Feb 15, 2023

What language has Swift replaced? ›

First released in 2014, Swift was developed as a replacement for Apple's earlier programming language Objective-C, as Objective-C had been largely unchanged since the early 1980s and lacked modern language features.

What language did Swift replace? ›

Back in 2014, Apple introduced the Swift programming language. Apple positioned Swift as a replacement for Objective-C, its decades-old programming language for the company's software ecosystem.

Why Kotlin replaced Java? ›

The short answer is that Kotlin code is safer and more concise than Java code, and that Kotlin and Java files can coexist in Android apps, so that Kotlin is not only useful for new apps, but also for expanding existing Java apps.

Is Kotlin replacing Java for backend? ›

It has been several years since Kotlin came out, and it has been doing well. Since it was created specifically to replace Java, Kotlin has naturally been compared with Java in many respects.

Is Google using Kotlin? ›

Kotlin became generally available for Android development within Google in 2019. Since then, most of our Android apps are being built with Kotlin. As an example of the benefits, when the Google Home team migrated to Kotlin they saw a 33% decrease in NullPointerExceptions, which greatly improved the end user experience.

Is Kotlin worth learning in 2023? ›

Kotlin is another best programming language to learn in 2023. It's easy to learn and can be used for Android development as well as backend services. It was designed by JetBrains in 2011 and has been well received by Java developers who want an alternative but still want the familiarity of Java syntax/style.

Is Kotlin good for web applications? ›

Server-Side Development

In addition to the back-end, Kotlin is also great for server-side web development using Kotlin/JS. Not only does Kotlin/JS allow you to access powerful browser and web APIs, but it makes sure you remain type-safe throughout.

Are Kotlin programmers in demand? ›

Finally, Kotlin is in high demand in India, thanks to its advantages and the increasing demand for Android and server-side application development. As more and more Indian companies adopt Kotlin for their development projects, the market for Kotlin developers is expected to increase further in the coming years.

How long does it take to learn Swift? ›

If you have a programming language background, you can quickly learn swift and its advanced features in 3-4 days. But if you are new in the programming world, you will require 3-4 weeks to learn swift basics and some of its advanced features.

Is Swift used for deep learning? ›

Beyond derivatives, the Swift for TensorFlow project comes with a sophisticated toolchain to make users more productive. You can run Swift interactively in a Jupyter notebook, and get helpful autocomplete suggestions to help you explore the massive API surface of a modern deep learning library.

Why Swift is a preferable language in development? ›

Swift unifies the language in a way that Objective-C never has. The support for Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) is complete across the procedural and object-oriented code paths. The huge memory leaks that a programmer can have in Objective-C are impossible in Swift.

Should I learn Kotlin or Java 2023? ›

Java and Kotlin are object-oriented languages, but both languages have different purposes, as Kotlin is preferred in Android application development. However, Java is more prominent in enterprise-grade web application development.

Will Kotlin overtake Java? ›

Kotlin may not have overtaken Java quite yet, but it's become one of the most in-demand programming languages in the world. It's positioned itself as a true Java competitor, and it's still very possible that it will fully overtake Java at some point in the future.

Is Kotlin enough to get a job? ›

Is Kotlin enough to get a Job? Yes, gaining excellent skills in Kotlin is enough to get a job, being a highly skilled Kotlin developer opens up many doors of opportunities. You will be able to work on Android apps, web development, data science, mobile app development, and more using Kotlin skills.

What is the difference between Swift protocol and Kotlin interface? ›

Class contract (interface)

Both Kotlin and Swift allow to provide a default implementation for a class interface; however, the place of the implementation differs. In Kotlin, concrete implementations need the `override` modifier. In Swift, the `override` modifier is not required when implementing a '`protocol'`.

What is the equivalent of Swift if let in Kotlin? ›

Swift "if let" is a conditional check operator to check whether a reference variable is NULL or not. This is a very useful technique to evaluate the unwrap optional value using swift language. In Kotlin, we can't use this operator directly. Instead, we will be using "let" and "run" to evaluate the same.

Can I learn both Kotlin and Swift? ›

Fortunately, there are few differences when it comes to Kotlin vs. Swift languages, so developers can realistically learn both. A mobile developer will almost always have to consider iOS app as well as Android apps in order for the product to be relevant for the whole market.

What should I know before learning Kotlin? ›

Prerequisites for Learning Kotlin
  • Basic knowledge of computers and their functionality.
  • Ability to install and manage multiple software on a computer system.
  • Familiarity with Android and iOS (for mobile app development).
  • Basic understanding of web development, especially back-end development.
Mar 21, 2023

What should I know before learning Swift? ›

Although Swift is a relatively modern language, there are a number of great learning resources already available to help beginners learn the language. To start your journey, you should focus on learning the basics. But before you even do that, you should download Xcode , which is Apple's app for creating software.

Is Kotlin hard for beginners? ›

Easy to learn

For anyone with existing developer experience, understanding and learning Kotlin will be almost effortless. Kotlin's syntax and design are simple to comprehend and yet very powerful to use. This is a key reason why Kotlin has surpassed Java as being the go-to language for Android app development.

Should I start with Swift or SwiftUI? ›

Some beginners wonder whether they should learn Swift or SwiftUI. The answer is yes. Jokes aside, SwiftUI is a framework that allows you to build user interfaces for your apps. As the name suggests, it's based on the Swift language, which you should learn first.

How to convert Swift code to Kotlin? ›

Write the logic of your app's iOS code in Swift, then use Gryphon to turn it into Kotlin and use it on Android. No need for manual edits - when your Swift code changes, just translate it again. This way, you can maintain a single codebase and use it on both apps.

Is flutter better than Kotlin and Swift? ›

A native app built with Kotlin or Swift has many advantages over a cross-platform app, including higher performance and support for OS-specific features. The Flutter framework, on the other hand, allows you to build apps for multiple platforms much faster, using a single codebase and a variety of widgets.

What are the two possible types in Swift? ›

In Swift, there are two kinds of types: named types and compound types. A named type is a type that can be given a particular name when it's defined. Named types include classes, structures, enumerations, and protocols.

What does a Kotlin interface present as in Swift? ›

Kotlin primitive type boxes are mapped to special Swift/Objective-C classes. For example, kotlin.Int box is represented as KotlinInt class instance in Swift (or ${prefix}Int instance in Objective-C, where prefix is the framework names prefix).

Is Kotlin good for iOS development? ›

Great for mobile: no need to introduce a new language

There's no need to introduce any new programming languages to your mobile codebase to make your app cross-platform. Kotlin syntax follows the same concepts used for iOS development and is easy for iOS developers to learn.

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