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Why Kotlin is the Future of Android App Development

Why Kotlin is the Future of Android App Development

Wednesday November 14, 2018,

12 min Read

It is an exciting time to be an Android developer. A big reason behind this excitement is the official support that Google has extended to the programming language Kotlin. Kotlin after all, gives developers the features they asked for. It is a statically typed programming language that can run on the Java virtual machine. It is an open source, general purpose, and pragmatic computer programming language that combines both object-oriented and functional programming features within it. Kotlin was developed in the year 2011 by the programmers of a software development company called JetBrains in Russia and then augmented by several open source developers.

Kotlin is relevant today because of two reasons. It has been developed as a solution to the problems that Android developers have faced over a period of time. Therefore, it answers most of the main issues that surfaced in Java, providing developers with inter-operability, safety, clarity, and tooling support.

But the reason why it is touted as a tour-de-force in the Android app development ecosystem is because major tech giant and the parent company of Android – Google, in its annual developer conference ‘Google I/O 2017’ announced that Kotlin is now an official Android language and Google will provide its first-class support for Kotlin on the Android platform. With Google itself becoming Kotlin oriented, major developers, are moving towards adopting it and the fact that many Java apps are being rewritten in Kotlin now, it is being viewed as the future of building Android apps. Just the way Swift ensured the death of Objective C language in the past, today, Kotlin is all set to push out Java from the Android app development ecosystem.

And this is why this language is creating waves in the world of Android app development.

Kotlin’s evolution began in in Russia in 2011. It’s parent company JetBrains was looking for a replacement for Java to use in their products due to some inherent limitations Java imposed on their developers. With little change in sight, they decided to look for a new Java compatible language since they already had a significantly big sized existing Java code base. Out of the several available Java Virtual Machine (JVM) languages, they found Scala to be the most suitable to their requirement of static compilation. But once they started trying out Scala, it ended up being quite slow in terms of compilation speed in addition to lacking a good Integrated Development Environment (IDE) support. Hence JetBrains decided to write their own language known as Kotlin today.

The excitement around Kotlin is generated by the fact that Google has lapped it up as the go-to language for Android app development. The prime reason for this adoption was its modernity – in terms of its power, flexibility, and democratic approach. Kotlin is also interoperable with the existing Android languages. Kotlin takes ideas from the community. It is built from a need to find answers that developers did not get from Java. As an open source project, the fact that Oracle is making Java a paid language will not have any adverse impact on Kotlin’s bright future.

Design Challenges Faced by Kotlin

Kotlin did face its own design challenges in the development of the language. One of the first challenges that Kotlin programmers faced was that of the nullability in the type system. The solutions that came from Kotlin programmers were too much of a hassle. After several iterations, Kotlin team came up with the platform types. This is the current version that Kotlin uses now.

Java Fixes in Kotlin

Kotlin has fixed many of the nagging issues present within the Java language. For example, the null references in Kotlin are controlled by the type system. Kotlin has proper function types and it has no raw types. The arrays in Kotlin are invariant. Kotlin also does not have checked exceptions as Java has.

The Key Benefits of Adopting Kotlin

One of the reasons why organizations today are adopting Kotlin for their Android app development requirements is because it is an officially supported language to write Android apps. But for many developers, Java has been a fairly workable language for years. They need to know of the several high impacting benefits of adopting Kotlin before they can take the plunge. Transitioning to Kotlin is one of the best decisions an organization can make. This is due to the following reasons –

1. Kotlin Offers Brevity

One of the major reasons why developers prefer Kotlin over Java is the brevity that Kotlin offers. Java seems quite verbose in comparison. Brevity ensures that there are lesser errors in code. It also implies a much faster rate of production.

2. It is Open Source

Since 2012, JetBrains declared Kotlin to be an open-source project. As an open source language, a developer can expect high-quality development all the while, by getting considerable support from the Kotlin Slack team.

3. It is a mature language with a great IDE support

Kotlin was first created for use in the year 2011 and finally saw its first official release in 2016. It has gone through several stages of alpha and beta improvements before its final release. This means that even before it released officially, it was already being used in several projects. It was aimed to be practical in usage with proven features from other programming languages and a world-class IDE support. The IDE plugin works smoothly in case of Kotlin and allows several of Java’s popular features.

4. It provides an easier way to develop Android apps

Kotlin is a simple yet powerful language that notches ahead of Java. While Java suffers from some rigid issues, the other programming language Scala is heavy with slow compilation time. The library required to write Android apps with Kotlin is very small and doesn’t increase the method count much.

5. It is a swift language for Android app development

Kotlin is seamlessly integrated with Android Studio and this makes it fast. A Kotlin project can be set up to function in less than 10 minutes, even for a first timer. Android 2.3 simply requires a plugin to integrate seamlessly with Kotlin, while Android 3.0 is fully integrated with it. Just like Java, it can work from the IDE. It can also debug easily without any hiccups. All these features work in tandem with several other things that Java is capable of doing and Kotlin replicates them well.

6. It is reliable due to its evolutionary process

One of the reasons why Kotlin came into existence is because its parent company JetBrains had some specific requirements from a programming language that they were going to use themselves. It also offers practical value for its parent company which uses it for its own line of products. This also makes them interested in further developing it. With Google support, two innovative companies are working together towards its development.

Kotlin has not only put in major efforts in the initial conceptualization of the language as its history suggests, but it is also making significant alterations to it for its future success. Features like the Kotlin Android Extensions, libraries like Anko, continuous library size optimizations, and build times, all of these suggest JetBrains’ commitment towards the further development of Kotlin for Android app development. JetBrains released its first official release in February 2016 and the second one Kotlin v1.2 in November 2017. The team is continuously working on its backward compatibility and is committed towards the release of better and improved versions of the language.

7. It is critical that developers move away from becoming obsolete

Once developers started using Kotlin, they came across the fact that using a modern language made their work processes more efficient and their minds more creative. Java has been around for ages, and in a way, has become obsolete. Using a modern language allows for different ways of thinking, which is critical for a developer as it reflects in their work. It also makes the developer more versatile as their propensity to understanding and using similar programming languages increases. All these elements add value to a developer’s profile.

8. It is much safer than Java

Kotlin is considered to be a much safer option than Java. One of the major problems with Java lies in the design of the language itself, which leads to extra work. Hence more money and time being spent on the project. For example, nulls are the most error-prone points when working with Java. In fact, bug managers face 90% of the errors being the ‘Null Pointer Exception’. Whereas in Kotlin, nulls do not exist unless otherwise stated. No variable by default can be set to ‘null’ in Kotlin. If a developer wants a variable to accept ‘nulls’, he has to mark the type with a ‘?’. From there on, the compiler will force the developer to check the ‘null’ before doing anything with the variable. Due to this, a ‘Null Pointer Exception’ does not occur in Kotlin.

9. It is easy to learn

Being similar to other Java compatible languages, Kotlin is easier to learn. It is also easily understood and read by someone stranger to the language as the code is easier to understand. This, in turn, helps it keep away from errors as well. JetBrains kept it a priority to ensure that the transition from Java was simple to do, as they had to implement it for their own products. It is a language that closely resembles what a Java developer already understands. The only complex part of Kotlin are those elements that Java lacks. Kotlin opens up possibilities for developers to be more creative and solve problems differently. This also makes it fun to learn.

Why Businesses are Gravitating Towards Kotlin

For a business, moving to a new tool is a well-thought decision. Any new tool being deployed aims to solve an existing problem in a simpler and better way. Several businesses recently have shown their support towards Kotlin by embracing it for Android app development. There are several reasons for this adoption.

One of the reasons is the confidence that has been built-up around Kotlin due to Google officially supporting the language. This support will widen the Android app development Eco-system that will provide enhanced technical support and other capabilities to the businesses. It also means more sharing of knowledge across the community of Android app developers.

Secondly, businesses can migrate to Kotlin incrementally making the whole process easier on everyone. This along with the ease of learning the language removes any adoption related barriers.

Kotlin is all set for a bright future in the Android app development eco-system. The lower cost of development and maintenance of Kotlin projects is a big plus for any business. It has a plethora of great language features and offers a brevity that ensures higher quality with a faster turn-around time.

Finally, as the Kotlin ecosystem expands further, the availability of Kotlin developers would also not be an issue anymore.

As more businesses gravitate towards Kotlin, Google and the Android community will continue to promote Kotlin and place less emphasis on Java. Also, the fact that Java is moving to a paid model is no more an issue with Kotlin being an open-source project.

Kotlin is here to stay and businesses must take cognizance of that if they haven’t already. Therefore, choosing an appropriate android app development technology stack is an important step towards the app development for any business. Kotlin provides an effective solution due to the speed, accuracy, scalability, and stability it offers to solve complex business challenges.

Kotlin has already been adopted by several major organizations like Prezi, Basecamp, Amazon Web Services, Pinterest, Coursera, Netflix, Uber etc. Developers like Expedia, Flipboard, Square, and several others are also using Kotlin majorly for their Android productions.

Why Net Solutions Chooses the Kotlin Mobile Technology Stack for a Business

Like all leading businesses, Net Solutions has also moved on to adopt Kotlin as an Android app development language for its projects. We consider Kotlin to be a good fit for our app development process due to a variety of reasons.

Kotlin is a more efficient language for the development of Android apps due to the range of features it offers. It is a mature language with a high-quality IDE support. The great support that comes up with the Kotlin eco-system is another big plus that works for us. The fact that it is open-source makes it impervious to the fact that Oracle is turning towards the paid model for Java now. Kotlin’s powerful and clean syntax results in less coding than Java. It means fewer errors and less time taken for the same output of work. Kotlin being an ideal developer’s language, lets us extend these benefits to the clients with more stable and high-caliber apps delivered at a much faster rate.

In addition to the above benefits, Kotlin’s cost efficiency is another element that positively impacted our decision to move to the language. We know how Objective-C was made obsolete by Swift and then the maintenance of Objective C projects proved to be a cost sinkhole. There is a high possibility that staying on Java for Android app projects could lead to mounting maintenance expenses. At Net Solutions, we want to ensure that does not happen to any of our clients.

Finally, we are well aware that the development of Kotlin is a result of the developer community ‘s feedback over the years. This makes it more intuitive to developers’ requirements. It is largely focused around the development of the Android ecosystem and is helping it to evolve further. This makes us sure that moving to Kotlin is a must requirement in the days to come and that is why Net Solutions widely uses Kotlin for its Android projects now.

To Sum it up!

Kotlin is 100% interoperable with Java, which means it is possible for small to large organizations to transition themselves to Kotlin. However, it needs to be a well-planned task and requires the expertise of developers and their experience in dealing with similar projects in the past. A good way to start is to start step-by-step and thereafter build on it. Kotlin is a developer friendly language and it will allow them to conceive newer solutions to regular problems.