When it comes to Android development, two of the most popular programming languages are Java and Kotlin. While Kotlin, which was released in 2011, is still being developed, Java has been around since 1995 and is open source, making it one of the most widely used languages. However, Kotlin has been taking off since 2017 when Google included it as an official Android development language along with Java.
If you’re new to Android development, the question of whether to use Kotlin or Java will probably not be on your mind at first. You will most likely opt to use Java until you become more familiar with the platform and decide what language would better suit your needs. But once you start becoming more confident with your Android development skills, choosing between Kotlin and Java will be a bit more difficult as both languages have some advantages and drawbacks, which we will examine in this article.
Java is a versatile and powerful programming language that can be used for a wide range of purposes. It is platform-independent and object-oriented. Platform independency is possible since the language uses byte-code and once compiled, the code can be run on any machine irrespective of its operating system. Also, using the principles of object-oriented programming increases the flexibility and reusability of the code.
Java does not use explicit pointers. This means that developers can not access the memory directly from the code. Also, programs are executed inside the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), providing additional security to the code. If an unauthorized method tries to access a private variable, the program fails to compile and prevents the system from a crash.
Java is widely used and has a large community of developers who are continuously creating new libraries and tools to make development easier. Moreover, Android Studio, the official IDE for Android development, is based on JetBrains’ IntelliJ IDEA, which also supports Java development.
Kotlin is compatible with Java and can be used alongside existing Java code. In fact, its purpose is to interoperate with code written in Java and improve it while using Java libraries and frameworks. This leads to reducing the boilerplate code, making it simpler, easier to read and understand, and safer in terms of potential bugs. Moreover, you can write Gradle code in Kotlin, allowing you to build iOS applications.
Kotlin is concise and expressive, meaning that you can write less code to accomplish the same task. This can lead to fewer errors and a faster development process overall. An example of reducing the boilerplate code is using the Data Classes.
You can see a side-by-side comparison of code written in Java and in Kotlin on the graphic below.
Kotlin has null safety built-in, which eliminates the risk of NullPointerException (NPE) errors since it fails to compile whenever an NPE may be thrown. It also supports higher-order functions, lambda expressions, and operator overloading, making the language a combination of functional and procedural programming.
Although it is a new language, it is gaining a lot of popularity in the development community. However, there are still some drawbacks to using Kotlin for Android development. The language is not yet as widely adopted as Java. This means that the learning resources are limited. Also, the community of Kotlin users is smaller so finding help and support, or experienced developers for your business may be more difficult.
Kotlin and Java are both great options for Android development. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses that should be considered. Kotlin is a younger language, but it has many features that make it a great choice for developers. However, the concepts of Android SDK are based on Java so learning the basics might be useful. Moreover, it is still the most popular language for Android development and additional knowledge would definitely will be an advantage to you.
The answer to the question “Java or Kotlin?” depends on your preferences and what you are looking for in a programming language. One thing is certain – learning both will benefit you by expanding your tech stack and improving your coding abilities.