Painters, architects, designers, and virtually everyone in the business of creating things dream of having their work seen and appreciated by as many people as possible. Given the fact that there are approximately 1.4 billion Apple devices in the world, it is not surprising that so many developers are turning their gaze to development with Swift and Objective-C, two leading programming languages used on Apple devices. Web and mobile iOS development has become one of the biggest directions for thousands of companies and studios, with Swift and Objective-C being major focuses in this niche. For those people just jumping into iOS software engineering, the choice between the two languages is difficult to make. Hopefully, this article will shed some light on the matter.
What is Swift?
Swift is a programming language that was released by Apple in 2014. It was created as an advancement of Objective-C, a programming language used for iOS development. The language is currently used for products with iOS 7 as well as MacOS 10.9 or higher. Since 2018, Swift is broadly used by agencies, software development companies, and freelance developers to create iOS apps. In fact, it’s 1.1% more popular than Objective-C, according to a StackOverflow survey.
Like Objective-C, Swift is mostly based on the C coding language. The style of programming is quite generic, and it implements many fixes to common errors and limitations of C-family languages. As a relatively new language, Swift also incorporates modern programming concepts and simplified syntax.
What is Objective-C?
The Objective-C (sometimes shortened to Obj-C) programming language was developed by 2 computer scientists (Tom Love and Brad Cox) in the 1980’s. Though many people associate it with Apple and iOS, Obj-C was initially developed for the Productivity Products International company, and was later licensed by NeXT, which was eventually acquired by Apple. Thus, the language grew to become an integral part of the macOS and iOS operating systems, and demand for Objective-C development services became global.
As the name hints, Objective-C is mostly built on the C programming language, but extends it in certain aspects. For example, Obj-C supports reflection (inspection of code features at runtime) and is more focused on runtime decisions than C. Other key features supported in the language include dynamic typing, automated garbage collection, and expressive message syntax.
Advantages of Swift over Objective-C
Although Swift is a relative newcomer to the world of iOS development, it has already earned its place among developers due to multiple distinct advantages it grants them. We will share the features and characteristics that Swift utilizes to the best effect.
1. Support for type safety and interference
Type safety in Swift helps developers write code more efficiently and error-free through real-time troubleshooting of the assigned types, such as string, integer, and so on. Thanks to type-safety support in Swift, developers can focus on solving actual problems instead of dedicating most of their time to checking code.
Type inference provides new functionality that decreases the number of type declarations, meaning that two of the same or different types can be present in functions unlike in C or Obj-C. Such capabilities also help increase the development speed and improve code readability.
2. Automatic Memory Management
Swift uses Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) to track and manage an app’s memory usage. In older languages, developers would have to manually allocate the memory and use memory declarations for classes, arrays, and objects.
In modern Swift, developers don’t need to bother with memory management in most cases, since it’s done automatically. The ARC concept has been shown to improve development speed and the developer’s performance in general, making Swift a good choice for iOS app development over Obj-C.
3. Interoperability with Objective-C
Given the active presence and use of the Obj-C programming language, it is not surprising that Apple has not abandoned support for it, and has made it so that code can be seamlessly ported and read in Swift. Additionally, most of the code written in Obj-C can be easily used in conjunction with Swift.
4. Broad open-source community
Thanks to quick adoption by the community of developers as well as continuous patches, updates, and maintenance of Swift from Apple’s side, the language has acquired an even broader community, which helps developers learn and solve problems efficiently.
Swift is thought to be one of the most modern languages since it is both object-oriented and functional, supports automatic memory management without garbage collection (GC), and has high performance and speed.
5. No pointers
Pointers are a method used in coding that exposes values (specific types of data) to programmers, allowing them to access and modify it more directly. You might think this is a good thing, but the pointers in C and Obj-C are notorious for certain vulnerabilities that they create, so this is one of the biggest Swift advantages over Objective C. Swift does not have any traditional pointers, and instead makes all variable types optional. This is especially great for fixing bugs on demand.
6. Compatibility with Cocoa Touch
Cocoa Touch is an incredibly popular framework used for iOS application development. However, by default, Cocoa Touch uses Obj-C, which creates a roadblock for developers who want to use it with other languages. Thankfully, this hurdle is overcome in Swift, as it was created with compatibility in mind. This means that software engineers can easily build mixed-language applications with Cocoa Touch, as well as use the classes in the framework with both languages.
Advantages of Objective-C over Swift
There are many reasons why Obj-C has retained such a solid foothold in the sphere of iOS development, but the strong features and characteristics of the language are certainly the main selling points.
1. Stability and reliability
Being widely used for decades has earned Obj-C a solid place among the world’s leading programming languages. Furthermore, the extensive development that it has experienced over time has made it well-rounded, stable, and reliable. There is an abundance of open-source code, libraries, documentation, and tutorials available for the language, while performance is time-tested and stable.
2. C++ compatibility
There is a lot of overlap between Obj-C and C++. It is incredibly easy to implement C++ code into an Obj-C project, which is one of the major advantages of Objective C over Swift. Considering the great number of programmers working with C++, this level of compatibility makes the language very appealing to a large audience.
3. Dynamic typing
Obj-C is often praised for its clear and understandable syntax, and a lot of it has to do with dynamic typing. This is a coding feature that makes the process very flexible for the programmer, and allows them to make major changes to code (classes, structure) at various stages of development without creating delays or additional hurdles.
4. Legacy support
Technological innovation happens quickly, and each year, we are bombarded by a slew of new gadgets and products. Thus, legacy hardware and software quickly get left in the dust and lose support from their makers as those focus on newer technologies. If you want to develop software that will be supported both on devices running modern iOS and macOS versions and those running older versions, there is hardly a better choice than Obj-C.
Objective C vs Swift. Summation.
Both Objective-C and Swift have thousands of fervent fans and both continue to be used in iOS/macOS project development. However, if we need to pick a winner of the two, it would be Swift. Not only is the language faster and safer to use, but it is quickly becoming the gold standard for iOS/macOS development. Apple has placed its full support behind Swift, and we can see it becoming even more polished and widespread with time. On the other hand, the massive impact already made by Obj-C will ensure its survival for many years to come, so Objective-C developer companies have nothing to worry about for the time being
Finding Objective-C and Swift Development Services
Learning a new programming language for iOS development can be a daunting task, so many companies just choose to hire specialists already skilled in the language to develop their projects. Program-Ace is one such company ready to assist you with app development.
We have a large team of iOS developers skilled in both Swift and Obj-C, though most prefer to work with Swift. Each project is approached with the right level of experience and diligence, and the work itself can take place in different formats, such as full-cycle development or prototyping.