Is Swift Programming Language
Ideal for iOS Applications?
Swift language is voted as the ‘most loved technology’ according to the 2015 StackOverflow survey. And there is every reason to be. Introduced in 2014 by Apple to rival against one of their in-house production, Objective-C, Swift programming language has developed a huge fanbase in a very short time. So, let’s see why Swift is touted to be the best for iOS applications development.

What is Swift iOS?

Apple introduced Swift iOS language in 2014 after its inception in 2010. Swift is today, an open-source, go-to language for developing iOS applications. Nevertheless, its use is not limited to iOS applications. Swift helps in developing the applications built on Mac, OS X, watch OS, and tvOS. Despite being easy to learn, Swift offers complete freedom to the developer community with its safe, reliable, and productive codebase.

As already mentioned, Swift is a widely adopted programming language by developers, educators, and students. What’s more, as an accolade to its popularity, the top universities in the USA are including Swift as part of their academic curriculum.

Swift’s accomplishments do not stop here. Apt to its name, Swift apps offer quicker performance. Swift is found to be 2x and 8.4x faster than Objective-C and Python respectively. Objective-C, a language primarily used to build iOS and OS X applications, has remained the iOS app developers’ top choice for way too long. However, Swift has bowled over Objective-C in no time especially in the areas like type safety, security, and performance.

Swift for iOS application development

When Apple released Swift’s first version in 2014, there was a lot of ambiguity related to Swift’s co-existence with Objective-C. Apple did not make any announcements to revoke Objective-C, however, continued to invest in the new programming language. Nevertheless, when Swift was finally launched, the iOS developers were partially delighted by the flexibility and simplicity Swift has to offer but were at the same time confused.

However, one year later Swift went on to become the top choice for iOS applications development. One of the major reasons for its high adoption rate was Apple making it open-source in 2015. In the next two years, Swift has officially become the fastest-growing programming language, according to the TIOBE index. Just in the matter of 4 years in 2018, Swift occupied a place among the top 10 programming languages.

10 Key takeaways of Swift for iOS Native Development

Swift in many ways, is a sequel to Objective-C minus the C language features. Apple claims Swift to offer the best performance of a compiled language combined with the simplicity of a scripting language. Listed below are the major benefits of deploying Swift for your next iOS app development project.

Memory footprint is lower

The developers would know the importance of this feature. Basically, when an app is developed using a programming language, a lot of third-party code needs to be included. There are essentially two ways you can integrate with third-party libraries- static and dynamic. When Swift integrates with the static libraries, that version of the library is locked in, making the app size bigger. Also, you are stuck with the version used during compilation, you are also proofing it for future updates.
On the other hand, the dynamic libraries are uploaded and shared only when needed, however, slows down the app’s performance as they need to be called from outside. However, Swift’s 5.0 version has resolved this issue by integrating all the standard Swift libraries into iOS, Mac OS, tvOS, and watchOS, to help retain the smaller size of the apps alongside boosting the performance.

Lesser development time

For a clean, concise, and expressive programming language like Swift, coding is a piece of cake. How far is this statement true? To check this out, the Lyft app's original codebase consisting of 75,000 lines was revamped using Swift, which brought down the code length to its third. Moreover, it took just one developer to handle the onboarding process of the latest version of the app where the previous version took over a month and multiple programmers working on it. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that development is faster with Swift.

Safe and Secure

Swift’s error handling is outstanding as it can easily prevent code crashes and failures. Swift, with its shorter feedback loop, can spot the errors instantly, reducing the debugging time and effort with fewer bugs passing down to production.

Better Performance

True to their name, Swift apps are popular for their faster performance. Swift is easily 2x faster than its predecessor, Objective-C.

Interoperable with Objective-C

Swift is not just completely compatible with Objective-C, but also can be used interchangeably. In other words, the Objective-C codebase can be used in Swift and vice-versa.

In-built Memory Management system

With languages like Java, C#, and Golang, the garbage collector deletes the class instances when not in use, however, taxes the CPU usage by an additional 20%. As opposed to these performance lagging issues, the iOS developers had to manually manage the memory cleaning until the introduction of Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) in Swift. The ARC determines which instances are not in use and clears them up to increase the app performance without impacting the CPU usage.

Full-stack potential

With Swift’s availability on Cloud, the server-side Swift is capable of integrating with all the popular backend technologies. Furthermore, just like JavaScript, Swift also can be used for both frontend and backend development of the iOS apps. This feature of Swift boosts productivity and resolves development issues.

Offers cross-device support

Apple extends its support for the apps across all the devices including MacBooks, iPhones, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

Large community support

Switch is touted to exist for another 20 years in the iOS app development space as claimed by Apple’s senior VP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi.

Offers great scalability

With Apple’s backing and support, Swift projects are easily scalable.

Where does Swift fall behind?

Just like any other programming language, Swift has its drawbacks too. Let’s cover those as well.

1. Swift is still too young to offer complete reliability. Apple is still in the process of making Swift seem more mature to enable an enterprise-level change.
2. Once again, Swift’s inexperience in the iOS app development world is evident. Although Swift’s developer community is larger than any other new language in comparison, it falls short as compared to other open-source programming languages. Hands-on Swift developers are hard to come by.
3. The unavailability of the right third-party tools is another sore point against Swift. The official Apple IDE and XCode fail to offer the complete support of tools that render out as autocomplete, syntax highlighting issues.
4. This is probably the biggest drawback. Swift can be used for building apps for iOS 7 and later versions. Coding Swift is not possible with legacy projects running on previous iOS versions.

To sum it up…

Swift has proved to be an out-and-out success ever since its launch in 2014. Despite Swift’s evolution as a mature programming language for iOS app development, it needs multiple fixes as mentioned in the cons section of this blog.

A few popular apps for iOS have been built entirely based on the Swift programming language. Khan Academy, LinkedIn, Coursera, Pandora, Vimeo, Twitter, Groupon, Fitbit, Sky Guide, Hipmunk, are only to name a few of Swift’s success stories.

Now, from a business owner’s perspective, switching to Swift involves lesser cost and effort. And the double bonus is its huge potential to stay in the market for 20+ years.

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