Everyone wants to have their own app. But looking to get it off the ground can be a daunting task without knowing how to do it. There are almost 2.55 million apps on the Google Play store and those apps just keep multiplying. Whether you’re starting out or looking to expand your skills, you should learn Kotlin. You might ask, why learn Kotlin and not invest in other programming languages? Well, let’s break it down.
Android app development is not going away anytime soon. Android OS users have been steadily increasing over the past decade with lower entry points to the ecosystem compared to iOS. Android has maintained and increase the majority market share of smartphone OSs for the past decade, currently standing at 73%. As for why choose to learn Kotlin over Java, for example, the reasons are very clear.
Kotlin for App Development Over Java
Easy to learn
When thinking about starting to learn a new language, one of the key factors is always its difficulty. For anyone with existing developer experience, understanding and learning Kotlin will be almost effortless. Kotlin’s syntax and design are simple to comprehend and yet very powerful to use. This is a key reason why Kotlin has surpassed Java as being the go-to language for Android app development.
Interoperable with Java
One of the biggest issues with picking up a new language is that if you have an existing project or are working as a team, then there is a ton of migration to be done. The beauty of Kotlin is that it’s 100% interoperable with Java. You don't have to immediately stop using Java or swap out all the code, you can use both. And while doing so, adding more and more Kotlin incrementally so migration is smooth.
Extension functions give you a way to add functionality to existing classes (even Java classes) without a full rewrite to Kotlin. This means you can take advantage of Kotlin’s powerful features without having to abandon all the skills you’ve gained while building existing apps. It allows recovering views from Activities, Fragments, and Views in an amazingly seamless way. It also builds a local view cache. One such extension is ‘Synthetic’ Extension.
No more Null Pointer Exceptions
One of the major issues with Java was Null Pointer Exception which leads to Android Apps crashing frequently. Every developer has probably faced this problem. Kotlin, on the other hand, is completely null safe, which prevents this exception from happening. This advantage alone has prompted many developers to make the switch and if you’ve encountered it then you know.
Reliable and safe
No Null Pointer Exception isn’t the only thing, Kotlin is far more safe and reliable than Java. The probability of bugs and errors from Kotlin is a lot lower thanks to preventable issues. And errors that do occur are detected during compile time itself, which is a great advantage in reliability over Java.
Despite it surging in recent times, Kotlin has been around for a long time and developers have been making the most out of it. Support has been around and Kotlin is thriving with the influx of more and more developers, not to mention that it is also officially supported by Google themselves. Google announced official support for Kotlin at Google I/O in May 2017. And the community is there to help make the most out of it.
There are many resources for building your skills
Other than the fact that Kotlin is generally super easy to pick up and learn, there is an abundance of good resources to start your journey. Check out our Essential Android Resources article that highlights some of the best tutorials and bootcamps that will help you learn Kotlin, as well as podcasts, communities, and advanced tutorials.
JetBrains released Kotlin Multiplatform in 2020 as an additional feature of the language that helps it expand beyond Android app development. Kotlin Multiplatform lets developers use a single codebase to develop apps for both iOS and Android. This is the potential game-changer that will really push Kotlin into being one of the top languages out there.
Kotlin Multiplatform pros
- Modular integration: Probably the biggest benefit in favor of Kotlin is that it’s an SDK and not a framework. This means that teams with existing apps can simply add a module or migrate a small part to assess its viability without a huge commitment. This really helps Kotlin address the biggest deterrent when moving to a new codebase.
- Easy to learn: Kotlin as a programming language is very popular already and its syntax is very similar to other popular languages such as Swift and Java. This also helps reduce the barrier for entry and encourages developers to pick up Kotlin as an alternative.
- A single codebase for the business logic: Cross-platform development solutions by definition let you use a single code base for various platforms and Kotlin Multiplatform is no different. The advantage of Kotlin is that it lets you share logic and libraries below the UI layer. This enables developers to directly interact with their native environment (iOS/Android).
- Native UI experience: Kotlin Multiplatform unlike Flutter does not demand developers to follow its own UI. It lets you utilize native UI elements to its fullest as if you are developing natively.
- Native performance: This utilization of native components helps Kotlin developed apps perform as efficiently as they would as natively developed apps. This is a much sought-after advantage for various developers looking to make something beyond an MVP.
Kotlin Multiplatform cons
- Fresh out of beta: Kotlin Multiplatform was introduced in Kotlin 1.2 and as of Kotlin's 1.9.20 release in November 2023, the SDK is out of beta and production ready. However, this is only true for the core parts of Kotlin Multiplatform and many advanced parts are still in beta. It has surprising adoption in big products(VMware, 9GAG, McDonald's, CashApp, Netflix, and Baidu), but companies will want to hold off on using advanced features that are not production ready.
- Community support and libraries: Being a relatively new alternative, libraries and community support is somewhat limited. However, it's worth mentioning that they have been rapidly growing over the past few years and show no sign of slowing.
- Not a closed solution: Kotlin Multiplatform still needs mobile teams to be at least familiar with the different tech stacks. Utilizing a lot of native components means that it won't be sufficient to be familiar with only Kotlin on its own. This isn’t the case with Flutter where you can do everything purely using Flutter.
- Takes more development resources: When compared with Flutter, Kotlin isn’t the best solution to create an MVP or prototype as fast as possible. Its need for various semi-native components increases the cost of development both in terms of time and resources.
The future of mobile?
We don't know for sure if Kotlin is the future of mobile development or not, but for now, you should absolutely look to pick it up as a language in your toolbox. It's extremely flexible, powerful, and easy to learn! It is also growing very rapidly and not showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon, so 2024 is still a great time to jump on the Kotlin train.
- Flutter vs Kotlin Multiplatform: The 2021 Guide
- React Native vs Kotlin Mutliplatform: The 2023 Guide
- Essential Android Resources for All Levels
- Mobile App Quality: An Essential Guide
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