Swift vs Objective-C. Which iOS Language To Choose

Swift vs Objective-C - which programming language should you choose for iOS app development? With the popularity of the iOS platform and the higher payment ability of Apple users, businesses focus their strategic efforts to deliver the highest quality products. The right tech stacks play an important role here. Therefore, with the introduction of Swift in 2014, lots of confusion appeared in the iOS development world.

On the one hand, Objective-C has proven to be stable and has been used for many years in development. Whereas the newest programming language, Swift, provides a lot of benefits and a more modern way of coding.

What are Objective-C and Swift Programming Languages in iOS?

Objective-C and Swift are programming languages that are used to code the Apple software products under macOS, iOS, tvOS, watchOS, CarPlay, and Linux (only for Swift) operating systems. These languages have the corresponding app programming interfaces (APIs) and frameworks (Cocoa, Cocoa Touch).

Objective-C was created in the late 80s and impacted Smalltalk (for object-oriented syntax) and C (for non-object) programming languages. The newer language, Swift, is not based on the C language. Instead, it no longer has any inheritance and is just compilable with C libraries and frameworks. Swift offers more powerful tools and modern coding solutions for simpler, but expressive coding, app safety, and performance. As well, the language is intuitive, and thus easier to learn for new programmers.

Another difference Swift vs Objective-C is in the way the code is presented. Swift’s code is unified and has simpler syntax, whereas, working with Objective-C, the code is divided into 2 code blocks:

  • header (interface) files (.h)
  • implementation files (.m)

Objective-C was originally created by the company Stepstone, by Brad Cox and Tom Love, in 1980s. Further, the Objective-C trademark extended to Apple Computers. Since then, Objective-C has been a standard programming language for macOS and, further, iOS and other Apple platforms. The main characteristic lies in its maturity, since it has been used and tested for many years for Apple’s software.

In contrast, Swift is not limited to Apple OS. In 2015 it became an open source and cross-platform programming language. This takes away the unsafe pointer management and at the same time provides interaction with long-standing Objective-C and C code bases. These days, Apple Inc. promotes the use of Swift and provides constant language version updates.

Advantages of Objective-C over Swift in 2018

1- Objective-C is an approved, well-tested language

Objective-C is reliable and has been used and tested by many developers. There are tons of projects written in Objective-C and there are many great third-party frameworks.

2- Objective-C is more stable

As Swift is still evolving as a language, it has regular version updates and applications written in Swift need to be migrated to the newest version. Logically, this takes time and money. When an app is written in Objective-C, these operations are unnecessary.

3- Easier usage of private APIs

In instances where a specific custom solution is necessary for the product (e.g. specific color change or integration), Objective-C is easier to connect with private APIs. As Swift is constantly developing, it is unstable and this fact may result in some crashes from these sorts of connections.

4- Objective-C is easily compatible with C++

As it has routes from a C language, products integrating parts of C or C++ code operate smoothly. On the contrary, Swift is incompatible with the C++ language.

Disadvantages of Objective-C in 2018

1- Harder to learn

Objective-C is a distinct language which differs in syntax from other programming languages. Its memory management is more complex and has the legacy necessary to be understood by C and Smalltalk. In brief, Objective-C has a higher barrier for new developers because of complicated syntax and coding conditions. If you are deciding whether to learn Objective-C or Swift - choose Swift. It is highly recommended to learn Swift, as it is more logical, easier to read and understand, and tailored specifically for Apple’s hardware.

2- Less qualified Objective-C developers

It can be complicated to find a proper Objective-C developer. Their number is modestly decreasing as new developers are learning mostly Swift and others are switching from Objective-C to Swift. Any programming skills require regular practice, so with time, a decrease in the number of skilled Objective-C programmers is predicted.

Benefits of Using Swift

1- Swift is faster

The performance of Swift is almost the same as that of C++, which is considered the fastest in algorithm calculation arithmetics. Apple had this idea in mind and worked to improve the speed of Swift. For example, Swift 2.0 has beaten C++ in several computation algorithms, such as Mandelbrot algorithm. Objective-C is slower because it contains C API legacy.

Swift is faster than Objective-C, because it removed the limitations of C language and has been improved with the help of advanced technologies that were unavailable when C was developed. As mentioned by Apple, Swift was originally designed to operate faster.

2- Swift is safer

The construction of Swift has been designed to exclude and avoid mistakes with the help of its features – generics, optionals, and type interference to achieve app stability. Therefore, apps developed in Swift are less prone to bugs and crashes.

3- Swift is more readable

Code in Swift more closely resembles English, making it easier to read and requiring less time to check the code. As well, in general, it requires far fewer lines of code for the same feature. Swift is easy to read by JavaScript, Java, Python, C#, and C++ programmers who are able to use it to some extent.

4- Swift has less code

Swift is a more compact language for programming. However, this fact doesn’t imply code simplicity, of course. At times, it can be very difficult to write, but it brings more benefits and is highly reusable.

5- Swift is less error-prone

Swift’s syntax and language constructions exclude the several types of mistakes potentially possible in Objective-C. This control means fewer crashes and cases of unexpected behavior.

Here you can get full information with a detailed Swift vs Objective-C comparison.