Modern Android app development has undergone a lot of changes over the years. Based on developer feedback, seeking openness and ease of use, Android has decided to come up with a new approach – Modern Android Development. Kotlin and Jetpack Compose are a direct consequence of this approach. In this blog, we have a look at the new features of Modern Android Development.
While Java is the official language for Android, many other languages can be used for Android App Development. Details about these are provided below to help you make an informed decision.
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Firstly Java was the official language for Android App Development (but now it was replaced by Kotlin) and consequently, it is the most used language as well. Many of the apps in the Play Store are built with Java, and it is also the most supported language by Google. In addition to all this, Java has a great online community for support in case of any problems (And trust me, there will be problems!).
However, Java is a complicated language for a beginner to use as it contains complex topics like constructors, null pointer exceptions, concurrency, checked exceptions, etc. Also, The Android Software Development Kit( SDK) increases the complexity to a new level!
All in all, Java is a great language to experience the full joys of Modern Android App Development. However, it may be a little complex with beginners who would prefer to start with something easier and then return to it.
Why is Platform Independence Important?
With many programming languages, you need to use a compiler to reduce your code down into machine language that the device can understand. While this is well and good, different devices use different machine languages. This means that you might need to compile your applications for each different device or machine language—in other words, your code isn’t very portable.
This is not the case with Java. The Java compilers convert your code from human-readable Java source files to something called “bytecode” in the Java world. These are interpreted by a Java Virtual Machine, which operates much like a physical CPU might operate on machine code, to execute the compiled code.
Although it might seem like this is inefficient, much effort has been put into making this process very fast and efficient. These efforts have paid off in that Java performance is generally second only to C/C++ in common language performance comparisons.
Android applications run in a special virtual machine called the Dalvik VM. While the details of this VM are unimportant to the average developer, it can be helpful to think of the Dalvik VM as a bubble in which your Android application runs, allowing you to not have to worry about whether the device is a Motorola Droid, an HTC Evo, or the latest toaster running Android. You don’t care so long as the device is Dalvik VM friendly—and that’s the device manufacturer’s job to implement, not yours.
Why is Java Secure?
Let’s take this bubble idea a bit further. Because Java applications run within the bubble that is a virtual machine, they are isolated from the underlying device hardware. Therefore, a virtual machine can encapsulate, contain, and manage code execution in a safe manner compared to languages that operate in machine code directly.
The Android platform takes things a step further. Each Android application runs on the (Linux-based) operating system using a different user account and in its own instance of the Dalvik VM. Android applications are closely monitored by the operating system and shut down if they don’t play nice (e.g. use too much processing power, become unresponsive, waste resources, etc.).
Therefore, it’s important to develop applications that are stable and responsive. Applications can communicate with one another using well-defined protocols.
What is Kotlin and why use it? Kotlin is a modern, concise language built to provide high-quality language support. By eliminating overheads, it creates a beautiful app-creation experience for the developer. As of now, more than 60% of the top 1000 apps on the Google Play store use Kotlin.
This has been possible due to the following reasons:
1- Integration with JetBrains for faster compile speeds.
2- Better IDE typing latency
3- R8 optimizations that are aware of Kotlin specific byte-code patterns
4- Better support for languages like Java and C++.
Being compatible with existing Android apps, Kotlin language allows apps to run faster by optimizing the existing code. In addition, there is full IDE support.
Now Kotlin is the official language for Modern Android App Development declared by Google since 2019. Kotlin is a cross-platform programming language that may be used as an alternative to Java for Modern Android App Development. It has also been introduced as a secondary “official” Java language in 2017. Kotlin can interoperate with Java and it runs on the Java Virtual Machine.
The only sizable difference is that Kotlin removes the superfluous features of Java such as null pointer exceptions. It also removes the necessity of ending every line with a semicolon. In short, Kotlin is much simpler for beginners to try as compared to Java and it can also be used as an “entry point” for Modern Android App Development.
Benefits of Kotlin Language:
- Kotlin programs can use all existing Java Frameworks and Libraries.
- Kotlin can be learned easily and it is approachable. It can be learned easily by simply reading the language reference. The syntax is clean and easy to use and understand.
- Kotlin is Open Source and it costs nothing to adopt.
- Kotlin’s null safety is great. This type of system helps us to avoid null pointer exceptions by refusing to compile code that tries to assign or return null.
- Kotlin much more focuses on readable syntax so code reviews are not a problem.
Some Facts about Kotlin:
- The currently released version is 1.1.3-2 published on July 4, 2017.
- Kotlin is free, has been free and will remain free. It is developed under the Apache 2.0 license and the source code is available on GitHub.
- Kotlin is more concise when compared to Java and is 100% interoperable with it.
- Kotlin is supported as a first-class language on Android though it can be used for any kind of development, be it server-side and client-side web.
- Kotlin is supported by all major Java IDEs including IntelliJ IDEA, Android Studio, Eclipse, and NetBeans.
C++ can be used for Android App Development using the Android Native Development Kit(NDK). However, an app cannot be created totally using C++ and the NDK is used to implement parts of the app in C++ native code. This helps in using C++ code libraries for the app as required.
While C++ is useful for Android App Development in some cases, it is much more difficult to set up and is much less flexible. It may also lead to more bugs because of the increased complexity. So, it is better to use Java as compared to C++ as it does not provide enough gain to offset the efforts required.
C# is quite similar to Java and so it is ideal for Android App Development. Like Java, C# also implements garbage collection so there are fewer chances of memory leaks. And C# also has a cleaner and simpler syntax than Java which makes coding with it comparatively easier.
Earlier, the biggest drawback of C# was that it could run only on Windows systems as it used the .NET Framework. However, this problem was handled by Xamarin. Android (formerly Mono for Android) which is a cross-platform implementation of the Common Language Infrastructure. Now, Xamarin. Android tools can be used to write native Android apps and share the code across multiple platforms.
Python can be used for Modern Android App Development even though Android doesn’t support native Python development. This can be done using various tools that convert the Python apps into Android Packages that can run on Android devices.
An example of this is Kivy that is an open-source Python library used for developing mobile apps. It supports Android and also encourages rapid app development (which is a win-win situation according to me!). However, a downside to this is that there won’t be native benefits for Kivy as it isn’t natively supported.
Below are some facts about Python Programming Language:
- Python is currently the most widely used multi-purpose, high-level programming language.
- Python allows programming in Object-Oriented and Procedural paradigms.
- Python programs generally are smaller than other programming languages like Java. Programmers have to type relatively less and the indentation requirement of the language makes them readable all the time.
- Python language is being used by almost all tech-giant companies like – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Uber… etc.
- The biggest strength of Python is its huge collection of standard library which can be used for the following:
- Machine Learning
- GUI Applications (like Kivy, Tkinter, PyQt, etc. )
- Web frameworks like Django (used by YouTube, Instagram, Dropbox)
- Image processing (like OpenCV, Pillow)
- Web scraping (like Scrapy, BeautifulSoup, Selenium)
- Test frameworks
- Scientific computing
- Text processing and many more…
Corona is a software development kit that can be used for developing Android apps using Lua. It has two operational modes, namely Corona Simulator and Corona Native. The Corona Simulator is used to build apps directly while the Corona Native is used to integrate the Lua code with an Android Studio project to build an app using native features.
While Lua is a little limited as compared to Java, it is also much simpler and has an easier learning curve. Moreover, there are build in monetization features as well as various assets and plugins that enrich the app development experience. Corona is mostly used to create graphics applications and games but is by no means limited to that.
Now, it’s time to go forth and conquer Android!!!
There are a lot of apps such as Chat Messenger. Music players, Games. Calculators. etc. No language can be called a “correct language” for Modern Android App Development. So, it’s upon you to make the correct choice of language based on your objectives and preferences for each individual project.
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