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Objective-C or Swift for iOS
Devansh Bansal
Devansh Bansal Updated on Jan 25, 2024  |  6 Min Read

With over 1.46 billion active iPhone users worldwide, it’s no wonder that the realm of iOS has been constantly expanding with exponential growth opportunities for businesses both large and small alike. As of 2024, there are over 1.868 million apps available on the Apple App Store, representing a growth of 65161 applications compared to the previous year. In other words, Apple’s iOS has captured a market share of 28.8% worldwide as of December 2023, touting a staggering app revenue of 9.8 billion USD in Q2 2023. This clearly indicates that iOS app development is not merely an option but a strategic imperative for businesses striving to navigate the ever-evolving mobile application landscape and seize the opportunities it presents. However, when it comes to developing an iOS application, the dichotomy between Objective-C and Swift represents a critical crossroads for mobile app developers, IT managers, CTOs, and other decision-makers.

Swift vs. Objective-C Comparison

Before embarking on the journey of iOS app development for crafting the digital experiences that users will love, it’s pivotal to understand that choosing a programming language is not merely a selection of syntax and semantics, instead, it’s about choosing a path that will influence the user experience of mobile apps, impact the efficiency of the development team, and redefine the overall growth trajectory of a business. To conquer the iOS app landscape and drive organizations to new heights of success, go through this head-to-head comparison between Swift and Objective-C to make an informed decision. Let’s get started.

A Brief Synopsis of Objective-C

Objective-C is an object-oriented programming language developed in the early 1980s by Brad Cox and Tom Love as the extension of C. This high-level general-purpose language comes with a shallow learning curve and has been promoted by Apple since the 90s for developing macOS and iOS applications. It combines the properties of two earlier programming languages namely, Smalltalk and C, making it an extensive, complex syntax. The C language provides the non-object syntax, while the object syntax comes from Smalltalk.

A Brief Synopsis of Swift

Swift is a relatively new general-purpose programming language developed by Apple Inc. and the open-source community. The development of this high-level language started back in 2010 and was made accessible to the public four years later in 2014. Though the basic concepts of this open-source language are similar to Objective-C, it embraces the features of modern programming languages, which in turn, makes it a coveted choice that supports development in macOS, iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and pdOS environments.

Reason Why Swift is Preferred for iOS App Development

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Swift vs Objective-C: A Head-to-Head Comparison

Both Swift and Objective-C are extensively used for developing iOS and macOS applications. Listed below are the key differences between the two.

Basis Of Comparison Swift Objective-C
Syntax Simple, easy to learn, and intuitive Utilizes parentheses and symbols
Performance High performance and is ideal for performance-sensitive coding Runtime code compilation is slow
Development Environment Xcode, Swift Playground, Cocoa Touch, and more Mainly Xcode
Code Safety Quick bug recognition and fixing Developers are less likely to notice mistakes
Memory Management Uses Arc that supports all APIs ARC is only supported within Cocoa API
Libraries Support Supports the integration of dynamic libraries No support for dynamic Libraries
Stability Stable but it’s growing as constant improvements are released Highly Stable

Swift vs Objective-C: Pros and Cons

Advantages of Objective-C

1. Compatibility with Existing Code: Objective-C’s compatibility with existing codebases is a significant advantage for iOS developers working on maintaining older iOS applications or legacy projects. This high-level general-purpose language allows an iOS application development company to seamlessly extend and integrate code written in Objective-C with modern components. This level of interoperability enables businesses to continue to maintain and modernize their existing applications without having to rewrite them completely. In other words, the interoperability offered by Objective-C is beneficial when dealing with established and large applications or when businesses need to maintain their applications that were initially developed in Objective-C.

2. Tried and Tested for Decades: Objective-C has been around for several decades and used extensively for writing millions of lines of code since its initial release to this day. The best part is that there is an answer available to almost every question related to Objective-C, all thanks to the exhaustive documentation that exists.

3. Strong Community Support: Objective-C is backed by a significant community of developers that makes it easier to find solutions to common problems. The community provides valuable resources for code, best practices, and sharing knowledge via documentation, online tutorials, and open-source projects written in Objective-C. This exhaustive support can be advantageous, especially when encountering challenges during mobile application development. Furthermore, Objective-C frameworks and libraries are still accessible and relevant though not as actively maintained as their Swift counterparts. This helps developers reduce both time and effort, especially when working on complex tasks.

Disadvantages of Objective-C

1. Verbosity: Objective-C is known for its verbosity, which simply means that iOS developers need to write several lines of code to accomplish the same task. This makes application code harder to read and maintain.

2. Slower Development: Due to its verbosity and complex syntax, app development in Objective-C can be comparatively slower and requires more effort in terms of code writing and debugging.

3. Decreasing Popularity: Apple actively promotes Swift as the future of iOS application development owing to this the popularity of Objective-C is declining rapidly. In other words, businesses that prefer Objective-C for their app development project may find themselves with limited access to new resources and tools, potentially making it challenging to stay updated with the latest iOS mobile application development practices.

Advantages of Swift

1. Faster Development: The clean and concise syntax of this open-source language simplifies iOS application development, making it a coveted choice among developers of all levels of expertise. The language’s simplicity combined with ample documentation and community resources, makes it a preferred choice for businesses looking for quick mobile app development.

2. Best-suited for High-performance Applications: Swift is optimized for speed, which simply means that mobile applications written in this programming language tend to consume fewer system resources and run faster. This is pivotal for resource-intensive applications, such as multimedia or gaming apps, where performance plays a critical role. Furthermore, factors such as a modern runtime, efficient handling of data types, and better memory management through ARC are accountable for Swift’ performance improvements, making it a preferred choice among enterprises for developing high-performance iOS applications.

Disadvantages of Swift

Limited Talent Pool: Though the popularity of Swift is growing rapidly, it still has a smaller talent pool compared to Objective-C. Many seasoned developers have rich experience and expertise in Objective-C since it was the standard language for iOS mobile application development for many years. Finding experienced developers with a deep understanding of this open-source programming language and its nuances can be time-intensive and challenging.

Swift or Objective-C: Which Language to Choose for iOS Application Development

Swift is a modern, flexible, and versatile language that offers several advantages making it a popular choice for developing iOS applications.

Reasons to Choose Swift for App Development

  • No prior experience with Objective-C
  • When creating a new project from scratch
  • When there is a tight deadline
  • When the app development project requires high-speed performance

Objective-C is a matured programming language that has been around for several decades. Listed below are the reasons to consider Objective-C for developing iOS mobile applications.

Reasons to Choose Objective-C for App Development

  • When the app development project is complex and large
  • When the iOS application is already built in Objective-C
  • If C++ or C third-party frameworks are used across the mobile application

Summing Up

As we conclude the detailed comparison between Swift and Objective-C, it’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to choosing a programming language for iOS mobile application development. Each language comes with its own strengths, challenges, and nuances, and the decision to choose a language should be a reflection of your project’s unique requirements, your team’s development expertise, and your future aspirations. Hopefully, after reading this detailed insightful piece, you’ll have the insights needed to choose the right programming language to bring your iOS mobile app vision to life.

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