Java vs Kotlin for Android App Development
Building an Android app is a popular option for many businesses considering creating their own mobile solution. That’s because Android is the most used smartphone operating system worldwide with over 2.5 bln active users in more than 190 countries in 2022.
While Android development is a clear choice for many, the debate on whether to build apps using Java or Kotlin continues unabated. Both programming languages work great for developing high performing, effective, and feature-packed Android apps. In this article, we’ll compare Java vs Kotlin and find out why these two programming languages raise so much debate in the Android app development circles.
Kotlin vs Java: Comparison
For a long time, Java was the most widely used programming language for building Android apps. Android developers still prefer using Java for its simple portability, platform independence, great development environment, easiness to learn, and large set of libraries of any kind.
Why has Kotlin become Google’s choice and is it still worth developing Android apps in Java? To answer this question, let’s compare Java and Kotlin by various parameters.
Java and Kotlin Main Features
The main Java advantage is that it’s platform-independent. It means that it can run on any device that supports the JVM (Java Virtual Machine). Above all, Java is highly secure due to the use of a public key, encryption-based authentication, and its own illegal code-checking system.
With Java, software developers can identify code errors during the compilation time and eliminate error-prone states. Java has an extensive set of ready-made solutions and frameworks for faster development and issue solving.
One of the main reasons to choose Kotlin for Android development is that it shortens code length by up to 20% in comparison to Java. This makes Kotlin-based apps more efficient and less bug-prone.
Kotlin is a versatile programming language that can operate on any platform. That’s because it is compiled in bytecode and runs on JVM just like Java. Due to the use of JVM, Kotlin can be easily executed in Java and vice versa. This way, software developers can add as much Kotlin to Java and as much Java to Kotlin as they want and the developed app will run perfectly.
Ease of Use
Java is a basic programming language many developers start learning to code with. It has a flat learning curve and is easy to understand, yet, it can be quite challenging to read. Contrary to Java, Kotlin requires a bit more effort to learn but once it’s written, it’s much simpler to understand for other mobile developers.
Let’s have a look at the same basic “Hello World!” program written in the two programming languages:
Kotlin needed just two lines to execute the program whereas Java extends to five lines to perform the same action.
When running Kotlin or Java apps, their code is compiled to bytecode which is executed on the JVM. Therefore, it’s quite hard to compare how the two languages use memory as they’re quite similar to each other in this way.
Meanwhile, adding some extra features to Kotlin makes it a more functional programming language than Java. The number of features in Kotlin results in a bit slower compilation than simple Java with fewer features. Although these differences in speed are so insignificant that hardly it’ll be noticeable for the developed business software.
Kotlin and Java easily interoperate with each other, therefore, companies can use the two programming languages when developing their projects. However, Kotlin takes it one step further, and starting from Kotlin 1.4 release, it is also easily compatible with Apple’s Objective-C and Swift languages. This way, software developers can also use Objective-C/Swift frameworks and libraries in Kotlin code whereas Kotlin modules can be utilized in Objective-C/Swift code as well.
Kotlin is quickly growing in popularity, especially among young companies that build their mobile solutions from scratch. Nevertheless, Java doesn’t take a back seat in mobile development. There are many companies that have been developing their mobile apps in Java for many years.
Moreover, those developers who want to work with Kotlin successfully still should be well-versed in Java. But, why do they need Java? Here are just some examples. It can happen that while building their mobile apps in Kotlin, software developers will have to use a specific library that operates only with Java. Another example is when reading Kotlin documentation, software developers run into explanations such as “it works like in Java, you just need to modify it slightly”.
Although Kotlin is a rather new programming language, it already has much-developed documentation. Yet, it’s still easier to find many more detailed tutorials for Java. It’s so, simply because Java has been used for a longer period of time.
Kotlin, in its turn, doesn’t show any slow-down in its growing popularity. It means that more and more software developers opt for Kotlin and contribute to the development of this programming language.
Key Differences Between Java and Kotlin
It’s clear that Kotlin won’t replace Java in the near future. But, what makes Kotlin a preferable choice for many mobile app development projects? It’s all in the programming language. Here is a list of the key reasons why numerous developers opt for Kotlin over Java.
- Null Safety
NullPointerExceptions is a famous software developers’ headache in Java when a null value is attributed to variables and objects by default. As a result, if developers attempt to refer to an object with a null value, the NullPointerExceptions opens the exception and they have to handle it.
In Kotlin, no variables or objects obtain null values by default and if a developer wants to assign a null value, they should add a question mark to the variable.
- Extension Functions
In Kotlin, developers can extend the functionality of the existing classes without using an inheritance from the class or the decorator design pattern. It means that while adding more functions to the existing app components, software developers don’t have to implement any changes to the source code. Also, by using extensions, developers reduce the number of classes necessary for app building and make the code less repetitive. This helps to make Kotlin code much simpler to read and easier to maintain.
In Java, the inheritance function isn’t available and mobile developers have to write a certain method first and then call it to perform the needed action.
- Coroutines Support
Heavy app processes can load up a smartphone’s CPU and block task execution on Android. To prevent this situation, mobile developers use a Multithreading feature in Java. They create several threads with tasks that are handled asynchronously. On the other hand, this increases execution complexity and can result in code errors.
Kotlin offers an enhanced way to manage multiple threads that simplifies asynchronous code execution – coroutines. Coroutines are much more lightweight than threads, they allow software developers to suspend code execution and later resume it again. This way, coroutines ensure that the tasks are handled smoothly and without any glitches.
- Data Classes
While Java software developers have to write a lot of standard code to create classes for data storing, in Kotlin they can build them in several simple clicks. All they need to do is just to include the keyword data in a class definition and the compiler will do the rest of the work.
- Functional Programming and Object-Oriented Programming
Kotlin involves both object-oriented (OOP) and functional (FP) programming constructs. This way, programmers that are used to working in one of the paradigms can effectively use Kotlin. For Functional Programming, it supports such features as high-order functions, function types, and lambdas.
Meanwhile, Java creators introduced lambda expressions and functional interfaces in Java 8 only to reduce the amount of code and make it cleaner and more concise. Even though Java still can’t beat Kotlin in this task.
Why to Choose Kotlin Over Java?
- Kotlin’s syntax is clean and intuitive while it includes all existing Java frameworks & libraries. It means fewer iterations during the development process, stable release version and no deadlines rescheduled.
- Kotlin is open-source and fully supported by Google, its authority and its reputation. This means that the developed Android applications will surely work on any Android device by default and with no exceptions.
- Benchmarks show imperceptible lags for Kotlin applications running on the end-side. It means a lightning blaze application, airy and error-free.
Kotlin vs Java Which is Better?
Although Java is still the most often selected language for Android development, there are still some cases where Kotlin is a better choice. For example, traditional banks and cutting-edge fintech companies choose Kotlin for its reliability and security. It significantly simplifies and speeds up the development of their apps while reducing time-to-market.
Here are some well-known apps that have already switched to Kotlin.
While some mobile developers still debate on Kotlin vs Java which is better for building their mobile apps, others effectively use the two programming languages in their projects. They take Java’s extensive libraries, tools, and JVM and mix them with concise and feature-rich Kotlin. This way, even those companies that have used Java for a long time in their mobile solutions can enjoy Kotlin benefits.
SCAND’s experienced team is keeping pace with the recent technology altercations and offers mobile app development using Kotlin as well as effective migration to Kotlin on Android. Feel free to contact us for more details or request.