Java rules the roost in the android development arena. There are no two ways about it. But, things are not the same anymore. Google has declared Kotlin to be the official language for Android App Development in 2019. So, what fuelled this change? What is Kotlin to begin with? What made Kotlin surpass Java’s versatility in android app development? What are the pros and cons of using Kotlin for android apps development? Read on to find out.
Kotlin is a one-stop programming language for all applications development. It could be all of these - a language for developing multi-platform mobile applications, a server-side language, a programming language for web frontending, and last but not the least, a modern touch for android application development.
What makes the Kotlin language even more interesting is the fact that it is interoperable with Java. The developers can call Java code from Kotlin and vice-versa. This means that even while using Kotlin for android app development, we are still preserving the versatility of Java. In the business context, if a company has been using the Java codebase for years, it can switch to the latest language like Kotlin without actually disturbing the code.
Kotlin’s versatility is catching up. The main reason for it is that Java has remained the go-to language for android app development for way too long. For over two decades now, Java has not seen a close contender for android development.
So, where does Kotlin stand as we compare it with Java? Kotlin is a new, lightweight, expressive, concise, and most feature-rich programming language of the present generation. Does it mean Kotlin has already left Java behind in competition? The answer is a big no. Kotlin is too new for that, however, holds a strong potential to topple Java’s ubiquitousness in the android development world.
Kotlin’s three key takeaways…
● Kotlin is not just interoperable with Java but also designed to run on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). It means the developers can switch to Kotlin anytime without carrying any baggage from the prior Java codebase.
● Kotlin comes with an impressive compiler.
● Kotlin integrates with all the Java frameworks and libraries effortlessly. It imbibes all Java’s design expertise, features, however, with improved run-time performance and productivity.
Kotlin is seriously looking to spread its wings and take Java head-on in the android development space. But, Java’s 20+ years of existence is a double-edged sword. While the mobile app developers long for the latest features for enhanced performance, Java’s time-tested efficiency cannot be dismissed easily.
So, what are those features that are driving developers towards Kotlin?
As already mentioned, we reiterate that Kotlin can take over from where Java coding stops. The entire Java code, its frameworks, features, and libraries can be accessed in Kotlin if you hope to migrate to the latter at any point. Java and Kotlin are highly compatible, a fact that works in Kotlin’s favor big time.
Kotlin is very expressive and concise. Meaning, a very few lines of code in Kotlin can perform the same job coded in any other programming language. The conciseness of Kotlin translates further to better maintenance, improved readability of code, and easy modifications.
The following are Kotlin’s features that positively influence Kotlin’s conciseness:
● Data classes
● Smart casts
● Type interface
Shorter and simpler code = fewer errors, crashes, and failures. In other words, the conciseness of Kotlin extends safer programming practices.
Kotlin’s remarkable compiler is its biggest advantage. Kotlin’s compiler achieves the following two objectives.
● Detects the errors during the compile time against runtime using the fail-fast principle to the maximum advantage. Fail-fast in the software development context means failing immediately and visibly. It means that the instant an error is introduced, the system fails and stops functioning making the bugs easier to be detected, and causing only a few to pass down to production.
● Runs multiple checks during compile-time and thereby reduces the runtime errors.
Lesser and smart coding, easy bug fixes, with minimal failures automatically boost productivity. In addition to these, the following features in Kotlin increase the overall productivity with Kotlin:
● Object declarations
● Extension functions
● Parameter values
Kotlin comes with Android Studio included not to mention its support for a wide range of IDEs. It means that the developers can merely use the already existing time-tested tools while coding making the life of the programmer simple and easy.
Kotlin offers dedicated support for functional programming.
● Inlining is a compile-time optimization where the function code is incorporated in the calling function instead of a separate call, thereby improving the performance. This feature is supported in Kotlin.
● Moving the functional concepts can be done concisely with the help of function types.
Java developers have taken the absence of nullability, a much-needed type in Android development, a tad too unhappily. NullPointerExceptions are thrown by Java programs during runtime very commonly. Kotlin makes up for this loss by introducing nullable references in the data types.
Although android application developers can pick up from where Java code ends and continue with Kotlin seamlessly, there are a few practical difficulties while switching to Kotlin from Java for Android development. Let’s see that one by one.
● Android developers need a complete knowledge of the Kotlin language to enable the switch.
● Kotlin is faster in performance than Java when it comes to incremental builds, however, loses in competition against Java’s clean building.
● Kotlin developers are still hard to find, let alone hiring Kotlin experts.
● The developer community and the learning resources for Kotlin are limited.
Kotlin has to travel a great length before it can topple Java for android development. Nevertheless, Kotlin isn’t a sore loser either. Kotlin is here to stay and in the long run, has the potential to make Java obsolete in the android development world. Furthermore, with Kotlin now as an official programming language for android development, the chances to wipe out Java in this space seem even more plausible.