In Australia, iOS holds a significant market share of 47.1 percent as of March 2023. This is a large user base that online businesses can take advantage of, but choosing the right iOS programming language can feel like navigating a jungle of options.
Creating an iOS app doesn’t mean you have to stick to native code anymore. Over the years, different iOS programming languages have emerged. If you’re thinking about targeting the iOS market for your next mobile app, it’s a good idea to check out your options and see which one suits your project best.
In this article, we will explore the popular iOS programming languages. By understanding their features, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your app goals and team requirements.
What is a Programming Language?
A programming language is a formal system that consists of instructions and rules, enabling humans to communicate with computers. It acts as a bridge between developers and a computer’s hardware, allowing developers to write code that the computer can execute to perform specific tasks.
Essentially, programming languages make it easy for developers to express their intentions and logic in a structured and understandable way. This enables them to create various software applications, including iOS apps!
When it comes to iOS app development, Apple’s go-to programming language is Swift, although you might still come across some legacy projects that use Objective-C. These languages give developers the power to write code that handles everything from the user interface and input processing to web service communication, data storage, and other essential tasks for a seamless app experience on Apple devices.
5 Things to Remember Before Developing iOS Apps
Just like any mobile app development project, creating iOS apps requires careful planning and following the best practices. Before you dive into development, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Conduct a target audience research
When building apps, it’s crucial to identify your target audience. Whether you’re creating a mobile storefront or an internal business app, keeping the user in mind is essential.
You have a few options to understand your target audience better. One is to conduct your iOS users survey or use customer segmentation to create a profile of the average user, considering factors like nationality, age, and gender. Another approach is to conduct research to analyze competing solutions, assess concept feasibility, and explore global trends in your niche. Both methods can help you gain valuable insights.
If budget permits, validate your iOS app idea by interviewing potential users to gather feedback. Also, consider a beta name for your app that can be refined before release.
2. Assess your budget
Before diving deep into your iOS app development journey, one thing is crystal clear: you have to know how much you’re willing to splurge.
The cost of developing an iOS application can vary widely, ranging from $5,000 for a simple app to $150,000 for enterprise applications. How much you’ll spend depends on several factors, such as:
- scope of your app
- the goal you want to achieve
- technologies used
- type and complexity of the features available
Implementing effective app monetization strategies can help support your iOS development budget. To give you an idea, read 9 App Monetization Strategies That Work.
3. Create an iOS development plan
Once you have successfully completed the first two points, you can proceed with the next crucial step: planning. The plan aims to bring clarity to your iOS app development project and ensure that all stakeholders are on board.
Make sure your plan is detailed and has all the necessary information. Here’s a list of questions to help you get started:
- What is the purpose of the app?
- What features will be included?
- What are the key security considerations that should be taken into account?
- Which APIs and libraries should be used to develop the app?
- Will you develop versions for other operating systems down the line?
4. Select your iOS app developers
Unless you have the necessary engineering skills and experience, you’ll need to select a team of iOS app developers. When selecting your development partners, consider their expertise with the programming languages we’ll discuss below.
The iOS app development team you will create will have to fulfill multiple roles. As much as possible, find a team that will cover the UX/UI design, iOS architecture, backend development, testing, and other key roles in the development process.
Also, explore their portfolio of past projects and take note of how they’ll use the available tools to create native iOS apps.
5. Evaluate the development approach and technology stack
Now that you will have experts by your side, it’s essential to assess the development approach and technology stack that will be used.
They will tell you that iOS development language offers different advantages and disadvantages, making it difficult to pick the right one. That’s why you should evaluate different options to make sure that the language selected is suitable for your specific iOS app requirements.
So, for the next section of this article, we’ll discuss each programming language compatible with iOS development to give you an idea of which fits your development project.
7 Programming Languages for iOS App Development
Apple users are famous for their unwavering brand loyalty. That means apps should be developed with utmost perfection and crafted to provide a seamless user experience.
When it is time for development, there are a few programming languages that you can use. The main languages are Swift and Objective C, but there are more solutions to build your iOS platform:
Swift is Apple’s flagship language when it comes to creating native iOS applications. Apple introduced it in 2014 as the successor to Objective-C. Swift is all about working seamlessly with frameworks like Cocoa, Cocoa Touch, and the massive codebase written in Objective-C for Apple products.
As of January 2023, Swift is currently ranked 11th in the Tiobe index, which is a platform that ranks programming languages based on their popularity.
As the official language, some might say that Swift naturally becomes the best programming language for iOS. It is versatile and can be used to develop applications for iPhones, desktops, servers, and more. Notably, it is known for its safety, speed, and expressiveness.
Why use Swift:
The Swift programming language is ideal for rapid iOS app development and future scalability. Whether you’re building a new native app or expanding an existing one, Swift allows you to leverage iPhone features fully.
Swift is an interoperable language with Objective-C, allowing you to use both in the same project. It offers optimal performance and eliminates the need for code interpretation on iOS platforms.
This list will not be complete without the original iOS app development language, Objective-C. It was created by Apple in the 1980s as a variant of the C language. It has been around for decades (which is longer than Swift) and still remains the go-to language for native iOS apps.
As the language behind the creation of OS X and iOS, as well as their APIs, Objective C still holds a significant place in the tech landscape. According to Stack Overflow’s 2020 popularity report, Objective C ranks 27th and is currently utilized by only 2.39% of developers worldwide.
When it comes to creating high-performing apps, Objective C is a language that truly stands out. It’s worth considering learning it, as a significant portion of Apple’s legacy code is still written in Objective C. While migrating fully may take time, it’s definitely a valuable skill to have!
Why use Objective C:
Objective-C is an older programming language primarily used for developing apps on older iOS devices that do not support Swift. It is recommended to use Swift for building apps on current and future iOS devices.
However, Objective-C can still be a suitable choice if you need to create apps compatible with older iOS versions that Swift does not support.
Microsoft created C# as a response to Java. It’s a high-level, versatile, object-oriented programming language that’s highly sought after. It’s like the go-to language for Microsoft app development, just like Objective-C is for Apple.
C# wasn’t initially seen as a programming language for iOS apps until Xamarin came along. With Xamarin, a hybrid app development framework powered by C#, teams can now share a majority of the code across different target platforms.
As of January 2023, C# is the 5th most popular programming language. It has a huge talent pool, supports cross-platform app development, has a rich library, and offers better cost-benefit and integration compared to other languages. However, it does have downsides, such as a poor platform GUI and a steep learning curve for beginners.
Why use C#:
C# is an excellent choice for developing iOS apps with Android, Windows, and Web API versions. It’s ideal if you have experienced C# developers on your team and plan to create mobile applications for Android users.
HTML5 offers several advantages, such as multi-platform support, cost-effectiveness, consistent performance across browsers, offline browsing, and improved page ranking. It also enhances mobile access to Business Intelligence and extends video capabilities to various platforms.
But there are a few downsides to consider. It only works for hybrid app development, has limited functionality, and can sometimes cause issues with design responsiveness.
Why use HTML5:
HTML5 is a great option if you’re looking to quickly develop a simple iOS app that can be accessed offline, too. It’s worth considering if you have team members who specialize in HTML5 and can handle the development. However, it might not be the best choice if you’re aiming for top-notch quality and functionality for iPhone apps.
Java, the versatile programming language, embraces an object-oriented and class-based approach that empowers developers to create incredible software. Importantly, Java’s code runs seamlessly on any platform, eliminating the need for recompilation.
With over 9 million programmers worldwide, Java ranks as the 6th most popular programming language. Thanks to its wide flexibility, it is also highly preferred for Android app development and building cross-platform apps.
When it comes to iOS app development, Java isn’t really a popular choice. If you already have an Android app and want to build it for iOS with minimal effort, you could consider using hybrid app development platforms like Codename One.
Why use Java:
If you already have an Android mobile app developed in Java language, sticking with the same programming language for the iOS version makes sense. However, if you’re building exclusively for iOS, it’s better to go with Swift.
[Also read: The Best Java Frameworks to Use this 2023]
Dart + Flutter
Flutter, developed by Google, is a hybrid app development framework that uses Dart as its programming language. While not as widely adopted as other options, Flutter and Dart offer a straightforward approach to building fast, responsive, and visually appealing applications.
If you’re starting from scratch, Dart isn’t the go-to coding language to build iOS apps. However, you might opt for it if you’re already familiar with the syntax and Flutter framework. Leveraging existing skills and workflows can help you save time and money.
Why use Dart + Flutter:
Consider Flutter if you want to develop cross-platform apps for iOS, Android, desktop, and web. It’s based on the Dart programming language, making it an excellent choice if your team is familiar with Dart.
Need to Hire iOS Developers for Your App?
The best programming language for your iOS app will depend on multiple factors. Consider the skills of your team, time and budget constraints, user base, size of the project, and so on.
At StartechUp, we can assemble a team with an iOS developer, as well as other professionals in UI/UX design, development, and QA testing, to jumpstart building your own app! We have members who have more than ten years of experience working with iPhone programming languages.
Contact us today to start discussing your project requirements!