Top 5 programming languages for mobile app developers to learn
By Jesus Vigo
These languages will help current and new mobile application developers navigate the programming landscape to code apps that are stable, secure, and compatible with modern mobile architectures. As I have said previously, I'm no fan of programming or app development. I don't find myself to be very good at it,
but I am truly in awe of what can be accomplished with properly written applications, especially when the applications leverage network and cloud-based technologies to provide enhanced functionality and reporting capability while offering cross-platform support. There are colleagues of mine who have always shown this ability to tap into a program's APIs to create helpful dashboards that can be rolled into mobile apps, allowing them to keep tabs of a number of systems or an entire site—all from their smartphones—including integrated push notifications to alert them of potential issues in real time. All this can be created by their hands using software development tools and a little coding know-how.
For those who share my colleagues' skills—or wish to—I have collected the top five programming languages for mobile app developers to learn, allowing you to create modern applications that run natively on specific operating systems and hardware types. Or they can be made software/hardware agnostic by creating them as web-based apps and hosted from a web server to run on any supported browser.
Since its inception, Java has been the language of choice for mobile app development centered around Google's Android platform. Java is a highly popular programming language that allows for cross-platform support and ease of portability when creating apps for multiple OSes and hardware types. There's a saying that Java applications are Write Once Run Anywhere (WORA), since this code can be expected to run the same way on any Java-enabled device without needing to modify the code. While Java is among the older programming languages, it has stood the test of time—particularly in the mobile space for the reasons stated above.
The newest of the programming languages highlighted in this list, Kotlin was designed to interoperate fully with Java. So much so, that last year Google declared it to be "the preferred language for Android app developers." Among the benefits over Java, scalability has been touted as a welcome feature by developers who've taken to the language's modern approach to programming. For those who prefer Java, both it and Kotlin boast interchangeability given that both compile to bytecode, making this great for developers who wish to migrate to the newer language over time or enjoy the flexibility of choosing one over the other.
Swift, the programming language designed by Apple as a modern replacement to Objective-C, which was the language used previously during Apple's initial push into using native applications in iOS. Though Swift started out primarily aimed at iOS development, it has grown through the years to support macOS, Windows, and Linux officially, with unofficially supported tools available for adding support to Android, as well. It became an open-source language several years ago, while maintaining its ability to run Objective-C, C, and C++ runtime libraries simultaneously while running Swift code.
The Rust programming language is a relatively newer language, but already known for its memory management capabilities and security. Another language with cross-platform support, Rust can be used to develop mobile applications that will run on Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, and an assortment of Unix flavors. Sharing similarities with C and C++, Rust has the flexibility to function as a development tool for designing native apps or web-based ones, yet the power and integrity to run as operating systems, browser components, and game or simulation engines.
Yes, HTML5 is on this list despite it not necessarily fitting the mold of a mobile app development language like the others on this list. Moving beyond that, HTML5 can be used to create web-based applications that run on any device through a browser to provide a robust, ubiquitous app capable of running on any supported OS and hardware type—all running off the same code base. However, apps written in HTML5 can be paired with frameworks allowing them to provide all of the functionality of the web app, but placed in a wrapper for the native app format of the target system and eligible to utilize native APIs and local resources—the best of both worlds.