Top mobile app development languages
Take a minute to think about how many times you use an app in a day? Multiple times, isn’t it? In fact, there is probably an application waiting to be discovered in your app store for every possible human need. Therefore, it is no surprise that the demand for mobile applications has been on a steady rise ever since the smartphone was invented. Also, the reason why you’ll find hundreds of mobile app development companies in your locality.
No one on the surface doubts the future of mobile application development and mobile programming languages. Gone are the days where businesses could ignore mobile users! Having crossed a milestone already, if your business isn’t mobile-ready, you’re in trouble today.
If you are taking the plunge to build your mobile app to get the user’s attention – you need to focus on choosing the right technology, the right programming language, the right UX design tools, and most important of all, one of the top mobile application development companies to create a robust, innovative and user-friendly app for your business needs.
With several mobile programming languages to choose from, you have to consider multiple factors, pros, and cons, as well as the popularity of the language, before making your decision to build the most popular mobile app. Once you’ve chosen the best mobile programming language and built a business app, you step into the marketing stage which demands a suite of best marketing apps to scale up your development efforts.
In this article, we have curated a list of top 16 mobile app programming languages which will help you choose the best quickly and get you started with your mobile app.
- A lightweight, platform-independent, and prototype-based language.
- Supports dynamic typing and object-oriented programming.
- Can validate user input and client-side calculations.
- Has built-in date and time functions.
- Versatile and Flexible language and can used in many ways through Node.js
- Faster on the client-side browsing and don’t need to be compiled.
- Straightforward to work with and easy to control.
- No set standard and plenty of room for variation.
- Is vulnerable and can be exploited for malicious purpose in some cases .
- You can encounter some browser support issues in some cases.
- Server-side scripts always provide the same output and client-side is a bit unpredictable.
Said to be the advanced version of Java – Kotlin is a statistically typed programming language used for developing modern Android applications. Kotlin has the potential to influence other programming languages such as JAVA to make high-performing and robust apps. Some popular apps built-in Kotlin are Trello, Evernote, Coursera, and many more.
- An open-source programming language.
- Reduces startup time for Android apps.
- Has a clean and compact syntax.
- Supports operator overloading.
- Clean, concise, and perceptive syntax increases team efficiency.
- Interoperable and versatile and can easily overrule the shortcomings of JAVA.
- Has full support from Google and IDE’s installation packages including Android and SDK toolkit.
- Generates compact, simple, and cleaner code as compared to JAVA.
- Still a new language in the market so hard to learn, so, think before you choose it .
- Sometimes gets slower.
- There are limited resources for learning.
C++ is considered to be an upstanding choice for mobile app development. It is a general-purpose, object-oriented language with generic and low-level memory manipulation features. Used for Android App and Native app development, C++ is used for developing games, GUI-based applications, real-time mathematical simulations, banking apps, etc. C++ is popular with Cloud computing apps as it can quickly adapt to changing hardware or ecosystems.
- A portable, high-level, and object oriented programming language.
- Simple and easy to understand.
- Includes built-in libraries to provide various functions to the programmers.
- A compiler-based language that improves the speed of program execution.
- Fast and stable and has a vast pool of ready-to-use in-built libraries and compilers.
- If you know C++ you can quickly learn JAVA, C, C#.
- No garbage collector is running in the background.
- You can take full control, and the app can run on any platform and take advantage of any hardware.
- Complex syntax, small standard library.
- Most complicated programming language to master.
- Cannot support garbage collection or dynamic memory allocation.
- The object orientation is quite essential as compared to other languages.
Pronounced as ‘C-sharp’ – this is another object-oriented, general-purpose programming language extensively used for mobile development, majorly for cross-platform and windows app development. C# has everything you want to achieve using other programming languages such as Swift, Objective-C, and JAVA programming languages. If you are planning to develop an interactive and high-performance game app, this is the best language.
- A modern, structured, and scalable programming language.
- Has a function-rich library for programmers.
- Ensures security of a program with type safe code.
- Is interoperable and updateable.
- Fast, easy-to-use, and quick to deploy
- Generic, strong typing, functional, imperative, declarative, component-oriented, and object-oriented disciplines.
- Simple, modern, and general-purpose language
- Most preferred programming language
- Intricate and complex language for fresh learners
- Case-sensitive language and creates confusion even if there is a slight miss-match between even alphabets
A widely accepted programming language, Python is used for developing web applications, desktop apps, media tools, machine learning, network server, and more. Examples of Python are YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. The language provides excellent library support, robust integration, and enhanced control capabilities. If you are a start-up planning to develop your app – Python is the best language!
- Ensures rapid application development.
- Can “glue” existing scripts with each other.
- Has readable and clean code as it uses indentation.
- Can help create GUIs using one of the many standard libraries.
- Fast, easy-to-use, quick to deploy, easy to learn, and excellent at readability.
- High-level programming language used for analyzing, computing scientific and numeric data, and for software development.
- An interactive language used to build scalable apps and supports GUI applications .
- Supports multiple systems and platforms.
- Has huge-set of frameworks which programming flexible.
- Slow execution time.
- Not that great with modern mobile application development.
- Not a great choice with memory-intensive tasks.
- Has some drawbacks with data access.
PHP is one of the most recommended programming languages for mobile apps that need database access. It is an open-source language used for server-side scripting, command-line scripting, and coding applications. Widely used for creating eCommerce applications, content-heavy apps, dynamic web applications, and mobile apps. It is a flexible language that can be easily embedded into HTML or HTML5. A few of the popular websites on PHP are Wikipedia, Facebook, and Yahoo.
- An open-source, interpreted, and loosely typed language.
- Logs real-time access by the users.
- Can generate error messages with predefined reporting constraints.
- Is compatible with all databases and almost all local servers.
- Easy to learn, is platform-independent, and exceptionally compatible with smooth integration
- Is excellent with content-heavy apps and loads quickly even with a slow internet connection
- In-built security features to protect from complex security threats
- Great language for learners, which can then help them learn complex program development quickly
- The open-source nature of the language is readily available for all to see and thus bugs can be found quickly to exploit its weakness
- Not suitable for large applications
- Not modular and is difficult to maintain
- The framework needs better error handling.
A prospective game-changer in the mobile app development space – Swift is an open-source programming language specifically designed to work with iOS, OS X, and tvOS platforms. The language is flexible, scalable, and can easily adapt a safe programming pattern to add modern features to any app. Swift is expressive and fun to work with a scripting language, along with having the first industrial-quality systems. Examples of apps developed in Swift are Lyft, LinkedIn, Hipmunk, and more.
- Has a free-standing IDE called Xcode.
- Is type safe and catches minor errors during compilation.
- Has native error handling functionality.
- Has in-built memory management techniques like automatic reference counting (ARC).
- Can execute on Cocoa and Cocoa Touch platforms
- Requires less, little maintenance, and avoids some of the bugs of Objective C.
- Projects are easier to scale
- Powerful, intuitive, and easy-to-learn programming language
- Writing Swift code is interactive and fun; the syntax is expressive yet concise.
- Has multiple features for seamless and safe design yet produces lightning-fast software
- Still at a nascent stage and can be considered quite young for development of heavy apps
- Considered an unstable language as its new in the market and needs regular updates
An extended version of C language, Objective C is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language with added features like Smalltalk-style messaging. A well-updated and mature programming language, Objective C is mainly used for macOS and iOS app development and operating systems.
- Supports both static and dynamic typing.
- Message syntax is just like our natural language, thanks to Smalltalk.
- Has an automatic garbage collector.
- Easy to introspect objects.
- Easy-to-learn and used by most of the developers
- A lot of legacy codes are included to support the nest coding style
- Does not support any latest features which are then overcome by Swift
- Requires extended coding which is time-consuming
Java is an official Android development – object-oriented programming language. With in-built open-source libraries readily available for users to choose from, JAVA is easy to handle and offers the best documentation and community support. With JAVA’s vibrant spectrum of features, you can develop the best cross-platform apps, Android apps, games, server apps, embedded space, websites, and more.
- A robust, server-side programming language.
- Is compiled and interpreted.
- Is independent of platforms and environments, meaning architectural neutral.
- Ensures security of programs with access modifiers and virtual machine sandbox.
- Popular for code reusability and portability
- JAVA codes can run in multiple environments, virtual machines, browsers, and different platforms
- Safeguards developers against issues inherent in native code, memory leaks, etc.
- Flexible, versatile, portable, and platform-independent programming language
- Explicit interface, simplified, and machine-independent language
- Some bugs may occur while running JAVA in a virtual machine – JVM
- Poorly written class libraries and complex syntax in some cases
- Complex implementations due to poor garbage collection
Are you planning to build web-fronted apps or location-based apps for mobile devices? Then the fifth version of HyperText Markup Language – HTML 5 is an ideal option for you. It is not a programming language but a markup language that uses tags to structure and present the content on the webpage. The latest updates of HTML 5 highlights exceptional features like media elements, multi-platform functionality for different programs, and quick market deployment. Examples of HTML 5 are Google Docs and Google Drive.
HTML 5 Features
- Supports vector graphics, enhancing the use of Adobe Flash while creating websites.
- Includes predefined tags to display header and footer information, photos, captions, and other similar elements.
- Has eliminated using the “type” attribute for scripts and links.
- Supports multiple tags and media elements to display content.
HTML 5 Pros
- Compatible with all the browsers and new features and standards already emerge
- In-built capability to support rich media formats like audio and video
- Loads faster using local storage or cache
- Has CANVAS elements used for embedding applications based on geolocations, dynamic graphics, offline/ online games, and animations
HTML 5 Cons
- A vast amount of coding required for each platform
- Does not support old version or systems causing a backward compatibility issue
- It takes a longer time to develop a mobile app as each platform requires its coding
- In case of customization or adding features, HTML5 adjusts the code, and the tools of iOS and Android goes behind the official SDK
Ruby is a back-end object-oriented scripting language used in the development of web applications, servers, system utilities, and standard libraries. Over the years, Ruby has evolved into general-purpose, high-level multiple-paradigm, interpreted programming language. It is a functional language that directly executes the instructions rather than compiling the program in machine language. A few of the well-known websites developed using Ruby are Twitter, Bloomberg, Airbnb, and Shopify.
- Supports dynamic and duck typing.
- Has a flexible and compact syntax.
- Features an extensive library of in-built functions and modules.
- Implements exception handling and operator overloading.
- Supports dynamic typing to make changes on the go without affecting the overall result
- Allows duck typing that focuses on operations rather than class objects
- Easy-to maintain, smooth performance, and intuitive code quality, garbage-collected, and concise
- Easy to learn and execute for beginners
- Considered as slow language and is not that popular for the development of web apps or mobile apps.
- The shortage of flexibility and the boot time of the framework is quite long.
- Slow runtime speed and low performance
- Development and updates for bug fixes are slow
Rust has been Stack Overflow’s most loved language for four years in a row. Sponsored by Mozilla, Rust is a system programming language having syntax almost similar to C++. With strong compile-time correctness, fast-performance, intuitiveness, and safe memory, Rust is useful in a time-constrained scenario and to develop applications across different fields. Examples of Rust are Dropbox and Yelp.
- Is memory-safe and manages resources with RAII (Resource Acquisition Is Initialization).
- Can extend Rust with the help of procedural macros.
- Uses a foreign function interface (FFI) to call code from Rust to C and vice versa.
- Implements pattern matching to improve the program’s flow.
- Errors are caught while compiling the code
- Developers are encouraged to write optimized and high-performance code
- Supports functional and imperative procedural paradigm
- Safe, concurrent, and practical language
- Low-level language suited for embedded systems
- Installation on Windows is not straightforward
- Does not have in-built libraries as compared to other languages
- Difficult to learn and execute for beginners
- A steep learning curve
- Slow to compile
Lua is a light-weight mobile-first enterprise communication solution. It is a cross-platform multi-paradigm programming language. It powers in-built messaging for businesses and is instant, secure, and keeps developers accountable. It is popular for real-time secure messaging, analytics dashboard, easy file sharing, and two-touch conference calling. If you want to improve the speed, extensibility, portability, and reliability of your apps, Lua is perfect for embedded applications.
- An extensible and adaptable programming language.
- Is lightweight and cross-platform.
- Ensures fast execution of programs as it compiles interpreted bytecode.
- Has dynamic datatypes and freeform syntax.
- One of the fastest languages which use the least amount of runtime memory
- The smallest memory footprint for bundling and is helpful for error handling
- Lua C API is very well documented and can be easily integrated with C
- Reduces API and lower learning curve
- Though the documentation has improved, it is still a bit sketchy overall
- Not adequately documented with the least amount of code comments
- Not easy to learn and execute for beginners
- Poor garbage collection capacity
ActionScript is a popular programming language for Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR runtime environments and is a tool in the tech stack – languages category. It is an object-oriented programming language derived from HyperTalk – the scripting language for HyperCard. Looking to use Adobe Flash Player on your website or software? Lua works great with animations or motions in websites and to develop video games.
Action Script Features
- An event-based language in which events trigger actions.
- Allows developers to create onscreen environments.
- Protects code with obfuscators that transform code in a way that’s difficult for humans to understand.
- Has both an open-source compiler and an open-source virtual machine.
Action Script Pros
- ActionScript versions 1.0 and 2.0 can run on the same machine
- Supports custom classes like external text files structured in a particular way
- Is popular among developers using Adobe Flash Player or Adobe Air
- For data-based applications and basic robotics – ActionScript is the most suitable language.
Action Script Cons
- To program with the latest version of ActionScript – Flash player nine or, the higher release is required
- Need to keep things simple as it would be difficult to demonstrate complex content
SQL stands for Structured Query Language used for assessing, communicating, and manipulating the standard database for most applications. SQL is designed to meet specific standards, both ANSI and ISO, and there is extensive support for both on a community and enterprise level. Strength – Relational data model and referential integrity between data, data query, data manipulation, and data access control. With well-defined standards, SQL is widely used in business intelligence tool platforms.
- Is rich in data definition and manipulation commands (DDL and DML).
- Provides vertical scalability to databases.
- Encrypts data to ensure security and authentication.
- Is vendor-independent, making it easy to migrate from one vendor to another.
- Powerful and one of the most popular query languages
- Optimized for a large number of table rows and supports many different database choices
- Can handle a large number of transactions in a single query
- Fast for retrieving data, search and querying of data from multiple tables
- High availability and consistency of data
- Difficulty in interfacing, complex to add a few lines of code in between
- A predefined and inflexible data model
- Can be difficult to convert data from objects into database tables
- Vertically scalable. It can only run on one server, so if speed increase, hardware needs to be upgraded.
- Lack of partition tolerance
DART is a client-optimized and open-source programming language focusing on UI, productivity, and speed. It features asynchronous coding and is used on Flutter to make cross-platform apps easily. Apart from client-side and server-side development, Dart is also popular for Native mobile app development. Google developed Dart to accelerate app development on all the platforms.
- Supports iterative changes and “hot reload” to track results on the go.
- Is type safe and allows both static and dynamic typing.
- Provides a feature-rich library that simplifies core programming tasks.
- Has both just-in-time (JOT) and ahead-of-time (AOT) compilers.
- Accelerates app development on multiple platforms.
- Emphasizes productive and high-quality development.
- Has separate compilers for both native and web platform app development.
- Is easy to learn and has a familiar syntax (of C).
- A detailed description of features and support from a friendly community.
- Programs run fast and are stable.
- Does not give much importance to the backend.
- Lack of generic and domain packages.
- Is yet to provide native support to bring Dart on browsers.
Why do you need to know the basics of mobile app development languages?
Learning programming languages is a hard nut to crack unless you know the basics.
Every programming language has its building blocks, which help budding programmers learn the language from scratch.
App development languages are no exception. They are, of course, advanced, but the secret to cracking these languages stays the same — you have to learn the basics.
Besides, many mobile app development languages resemble and are even based on languages like C and C++, something you have known for a long time now. Therefore, learning app development languages can be easy and fun if you have mastered these languages.
Which is the best programming language for mobile apps?
There are several programming languages for different sorts of tasks. Choosing the right language for the mobile app is different from choosing one to learn. The right selection yields solutions that are concise, easy to code, easy to scale, easy to debug and fix.
Often people will tell you that there is no choice and that all languages are equal and are developed to fulfil a particular purpose. However, it can be quite confusing, if you are new in the mobile development arena and lack information about programming languages.
So, if you are in a confused mess, the following factors can you help you choose the best language easily:
- The targeted platform.
- Elasticity of the language.
- The time to produce.
- Performance, support, and community.
- The purpose to build the app.
- Efficiencies of the programmer.
Expressiveness, performance, reliability, quirks, and features of each are crucial to consider before you choose to work with a specific programming language. You may find some languages are a better fit for projects than others, for example, if you are aiming to create a game, object-oriented programming language would be a more intuitive choice. Make sure to note down your exact requirements before you approach app development companies for your mobile needs. It will help ensure you both are on the same page, leading to a seamless app development process.
Types of mobile apps
You can also select a language for app development based on the type of app you are developing.
By type of apps, I mean native and hybrid apps.
- You build Native apps for a single platform using its specific language. So apps that are specific to Android or iOS are native. You can code these apps in their supported language only. For example, Java is apparently the best language for Android app development, and Swift is popular for coding iOS apps.
To help you make an accurate choice – the set of below questions can serve as a starting point to make the best decision –
- Does the language have proper ecosystem support? Will it survive long haul?
- Choice of environment the project will run on.
- Is there any specific infrastructure or deployment considerations like any new hardware requirement?
- Can the developer program in this language? Can he maintain and deploy on time and within budget?
- Can the language make the app scalable?
- Do you have the need for third-party integration tools?
- Are there any security or legacy codebase considerations for the project?
Are there any other constraints or any performance benchmarks?
With a list of questions to ask, factors to consider, and the above-listed pros and cons, we are sure you can make a sensible decision regarding which language to choose. After all, choosing the right mobile programming language will help you develop agile mobile apps that will weather the changes in future business needs.
So, what are you waiting for? Dive into the nitty-gritty of the programming language, choose the best and gift your business the most needed mobile application to reach a more substantial mass.