There’s also something to be said about doing your research and learning from others successes, and sometimes their mistakes, before starting your next big app project.
The best app programming languages
When it comes to choosing the best programming language, it can largely depend on the type of app you’re planning to build. For example, if you’re developing a 3D game, chances are you’ll want to use C++. In short, before choosing your tools, remember that there are different options available for different types of apps.
We asked the experts for their advice about the best app programming languages. Let’s just say, it got technical.
Swift is a general-purpose language developed by Apple. If your target audience is using Apple products that run on iOS, macOS, etc., you should consider using Swift to develop your app.
“I've used Swift to create dozens of apps for iOS. Swift's syntax is simple but powerful, with lots of syntactic sugar that makes coding iOS apps a breeze. Swift's safety features stand out, such as optionals, because they help you code more productively with less bugs. It's the go-to language for building a new app for Apple platforms, and I recommend it for any production-level app.
The latest version of the programming language, Swift 5, has matured a lot and become more stable. The programming language itself is actively being developed, with an engaged open-source community. For me, being part of that community makes Swift more than just a tool.”
“The advantage of using Swift is that it has built-in functionality to ensure that apps are robust, current, and optimized for Apple devices. Swift syntax is clean, easy to read, and simple to maintain. Plus, memory is managed automatically. I recommend Swift for its elegance, safety, and ease of use.”
“With 5 years of experience and trying many different languages and tools, my favorite must be Swift. XCode is the integrated development environment (IDE) swift is programmed in providing suggestions in code and showing you how to fix errors in real time helping you learn along the way. Swift seems to incorporate the best from every language before it - easy syntax, null objects with quick null checks, and beautifully designed callbacks.”
TIP: Some IDE software was built with a specific language in mind. Learn more about what tools are best for your project.
Java is an object-oriented programming language that can be used across multiple platforms. While it’s an older language, it can handle a large amount of data and is often used for robust projects.
“I prefer it to Kotlin or Swift because I find it easier to read and use in general, especially when debugging. While Kotlin and Swift might use fewer lines of code, the extra lines of code in Java become extremely beneficial when it comes to debugging an issue.
When it comes to deciding which language to use, a lot of that decision rides on which platform you’re building your app for. For iOS, Objective-C and Swift are the most popular languages to use and for Android, Java or Kotlin are the way to go.”
Python is a universal programming language that can be used across multiple platforms. It’s often the first language that programmers learn because it’s relatively easy to read, especially for non-developers.
“I love Python for apps, because it's so easy to learn. Even a marketer like me, who's not a developer, can understand Python!
If you want to create your first app but you're not overly tech-savvy, Python is the programming language that you need. It only takes a couple of hours to learn, and there are great tutorials online to teach you how to create your first app. It's not surprising that Python is the most taught programming language in US schools and colleges! Python makes programming accessible to all.”
“Python is often my language of choice for making quick projects, like proofs of concepts and simple apps for internal use – this is because its libraries tend to have very simple, elegant, and expressive APIs.”
TIP: Read our in-depth analysis on PHP vs Python - which is better and why.
Ruby is a dynamic, open-source programming language known for its readability and flexibility.
“Together with its framework Ruby on Rails [RoR], Ruby is characterized by its high-speed deployment thanks to available libraries, as well as its high-security level. RoR possesses several built-in features, such as SQL-injections and cross-site scripting that prevent most threats."
“React Native is by far the best language for building and iterating on apps quickly for iOS and Android. If you are just starting to build an app, it’s a clear winner. It’s ideal for getting a prototype, MVP, or proof-of-concept app together. React Native is an open-source protocol, but it is also supported and developed actively by Facebook. It also has one of the largest dev communities in the world and a lot of libraries and integrations are constantly being built.”
Elixir is a general-purpose programming language that can be used to build a variety of different applications.
“Elixir combines the strengths of a functional programming language with an expressive syntax that is conducive to developer productivity. Elixir really shines when building highly scalable and highly reliable distributed systems.
Paired with the Phoenix web framework, Elixir can be used to build real-time applications that support millions of concurrent connections and take advantage of all CPU cores. Pairing Elixir with the Nerves platform and tooling, businesses can build impressive experiences for embedded devices.”
- Estelle DeBlois, Director of Engineering at DockYard
Before you start your next project...
It’s obviously a much more complex than just simply choosing the most popular programming language and running with it. As you’ve learned from these pros, certain frameworks and tools work best with specific languages. Read more about the most common tech stacks used by developers today.
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Bridget Poetker is a former senior content marketing specialist at G2, who focused on app development and design. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I-L-L! In her free time, you'll find Bridget in the bleachers at Wrigley Field or posted up at the nearest rooftop patio. During the 8 months of Chicago winter, she hibernates. (she/her/hers)