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Swift vs Objective C: Which Is the Best Choice for Your New iOS App?

Which coding language is best: Swift vs Objective C? After the introduction of Swift in 2014, this has become the most prominent question regarding iOS app development. Apple introduced both programming languages to the world with the intent of software development for their platforms. Objective C, the older of the two languages, become the prominent choice for app development on iOS. This came from a manner of necessity, given that Swift did not exist at the time of iOS’s introduction. Now, times have changed. Developers are forced to ask themselves: Swift vs Objective C? Is it better to learn Objective C or Swift? Is the newer Apple programming language better than the old one? Do the benefits of switching between languages far outweigh the costs? All of these questions, and more, have answers present within the details of each language’s capabilities.

coding language

What is Objective C?

Long before the battle of Swift vs Objective C came the inception of Objective C. Objective C is an object-oriented programming language based within the C programming language. The language was originally developed by Brad Cox and Tom Love in the early 1980s. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, popularized the use of the language during his time working with NeXT. Upon Jobs’ return to Apple, the company began to use Objective C for Mac OS X development purposes. In the end, the various Objective C versions rose to prominence with the creation of iOS. Apple chose to support the language for app development on their new platform, making it the obvious choice of developers.

What is Swift?

Unlike Objective C, Swift’s history lies entirely with Apple. The company created the general purpose programming language known as Swift to act as an alternative to Objective C. Given that Objective C had remained mostly unchanged since the 80s, a modern update was necessary. Apple announced Swift as an open source programming language at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2014. The goal being giving Apple the ability to provide users with a new option for developing software on their various systems. The programming language receives continuous updates when necessary, the most recent being Swift 5.4. This latest version of Swift was released on April 26, 2021 with improved functionality. The inception of Swift greatly aligns itself with the introduction of the Swift vs Objective C argument. Users began choosing between their trusty language of old, or the shiny new version created specifically for programmers and Apple content.

Why Bother Comparing Swift vs Objective C?

Both of these programming languages receive support and work for iOS purposes. Why bother creating the Swift vs Objective C discourse? Does it really matter if you learn Swift instead of Objective C, or the other way around? In truth, the answer is up to you. When deciding whether or not to learn Swift or Objective C, understanding the differences between the two languages is crucial. Objective C was not designed with iOS in mind, the language simply adjusted to a new platform. Despite both languages sharing functionality on iOS, this means that Swift is not a true successor to Objective C.

Differing Views

Veteran iOS app developers may still suggest that new developers learn Objective C over Swift. The various Objective C versions provide different capabilities than Swift, while remaining accessible for iOS app development. Even if Swift is the newer of the two languages, it may not be the optimal choice for your project.

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Swift vs Objective C

In the case of Swift vs Objective C, it makes sense to compare and contrast the two. These programming languages share a lot in their inception as well as their chosen platform. This does not mean that there are not innate differences between the two worth covering.

Objective C 

When it comes to the Swift vs Objective C argument, Objective C is the old dog in the race. With that in mind, it is worth addressing the stability of Objective C. Objective C has been in use for so long that running into bugs is rather rare. A major selling point of Objective C is its compatibility with the other C programming languages. Objective C came to be as a superset of C, allowing it seamless integration with C and C++. If you are working with a group that is reliant upon C or C++, this can be a great thing. Objective C is also highly dynamic. It is able to swap out invocations very quickly, which allows for highly successful testing, ensuring that your app is stable and reliable.

Weaknesses of Objective C

Objective C is a rather unique programming language. This can be a weakness if you normally use other programming languages that are similar. The language that Objective C employs is unconventional, relying heavily on square brackets. The language is only one aspect of how Objective C does not hold a user’s hand. It is an entirely bare bones language, which is to be expected of something from the 1980’s. The language does not teach you how to use it as you use it. This means that Objective C requires a bit of studying prior to use.

Apple and Support Issues

The biggest issue for Objective C is Apple. Apple went out of their way to create Swift. Swift is the new kid on the block, and Apple wants to support them. Objective C could soon lose support from Apple, forcing it to lose its current sole purpose. If Apple is not behind Objective C, it will not be able to develop iOS apps. If Objective C cannot develop iOS apps, Objective C will no longer be popularly used.

Swift

In short, one of the many things Swift has going for it right now is popularity. Apple introduced the programming language back in 2014 with iOS app development in mind. This immediately makes it the frontrunner for up-and-coming developers. A huge advantage for Swift in the Swift vs Objective C argument is that Swift is open source. This provides developers with a lot of freedom, and a basis of understanding in terms of teamwork. Swift also has time on its side. Apple is constantly updating the language as it updates iOS. This provides a seamless amount of speed that Objective C does not have. Alongside this, Swift is fully integrating itself with a number of utilities and auxiliaries. Developers are given this wide array of options through Swift’s package manager.

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Weaknesses of Swift

Just as it was a strength, recency is a weakness of Swift. It can come off as more of a problem when developers have to constantly shift between versions of Swift. At the very least, Apple provides a migration tool to make this transition as seamless as possible. Even so, the more code you have, and the more apps you have, the worse this process can be. This transition process is necessary because Swift is not ABI stable. This means that Swift versions do not work with previous versions.

Compatibility Issues

An odd issue for Swift is its lack of compatibility with Xcode. Xcode is Apple’s integrated development environment, and sometimes Swift simply won’t work with it. This is an issue that users hope Apple will clear up in the future. If you consider how keen Apple is on both Swift and Xcode, integration could happen sooner rather than later.

Should I Learn Swift or Objective C?

Despite all similarities and differences, the answer will most likely be Swift. The Swift vs Objective C discussion may be put to death by its own  creators. Apple is heavily pushing Swift to the forefront of the iOS app development scene. This makes sense, given that Apple actively created the programming language for its own platform. You will want to learn Swift over Objective C if you are new to the app development scene. All in all, the newer programming language is easier to learn for newer developers. With that in mind, many companies have begun using Swift over Objective C. If a company is currently using Objective C, they oftentimes prefer to have their programmer’s main knowledge located in Swift. This allows you to learn Objective C at your own pace, and begin transitioning the company towards Swift.

Consider Swift 

If you are still using Objective C on your own terms, you may want to consider switching over to Swift. The language is not entirely outdated, but the constant stream of updates provided to Swift is too much to ignore. Swift is becoming more of an app development powerhouse everyday, suggesting that it is here for the long haul.

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The Future of Swift vs Objective C

All good things come to an end. Having to wrap your head around the Swift vs Objective C discourse may be a bit much, but the existence of Objective C creates important services for developers. This is an achievement that should be honored by developers for quite some time. At the very least, new developers will no longer have to wonder whether to learn Objective C or Swift. Swift has entirely shifted the app development scene in its direction. The majority of apps currently being made are done so with Swift. This is a truth that does not seem to be changing anytime soon. There are a seemingly endless amount of existing apps written in Objective C. These apps will use Objective C to maintain their coding, meaning that Objective C won’t be dying just yet. With that said, due to lack of support, don’t expect app developers to choose Objective C over Swift anytime soon.

FAQs

  • Is Swift better than Objective C?
  • How can I learn Objective C?
  • Is Swift faster than Objective C?
  • Is Swift newer than Objective C?
  • What is the difference between Objective C and Swift?

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