When it comes to Android app development, Java maintained its undisputed presence for a prolonged period. While Java is still recognised by developers worldwide, there are other languages in this space that has been vying for the attention of developers for some time. Kotlin is a forerunner among other languages.
Even Google recognised Kotlin as a viable alternative to Java for developing robust android apps. Despite the chatter around this Java alternative, many developers are still contemplating making the switch to Kotlin for android app development.
With that thought, we have compiled a list of advantages and challenges that comes with adopting Kotlin, in this blog.
A Basic Overview Of Kotlin
Kotlin is a cross-platform and statically typed programming language which has been created by JetBrains, A Czech Republic-based software development company in 2011. Soon after the language was marked open source. In 2019, Google recognised Kotlin as Android’s official programming language which led to a major shift from Java to android app development.
The objective behind the existence of this programming language is to mitigate the issues developers face in their development workflow every day. Apart from being open source, Kotlin offers more flexibility and supports multiple programming tools.
Reasons to Adopt Kotlin For Developing Cutting-edge Android Apps
Maturity With Excellent IDE Support
Kotlin was created in 2011 and was officially released in 2016. The language went through several stages of alpha and beta stage enhancements before the final version.
This indicates developers already used Kotlin in multiple projects even before its release. It is practical with proven features from other programming languages and excellent IDE support. The IDE plugin works in the case of Kotlin and enables access to a bunch of Java’s popular features.
Less Coding Requirements
One of the major reasons why Kotlin is preferred by many developers is because it comes with minimum coding requirements. Unlike languages such as Java, developers don’t need to invest endless hours to write lengthy and repetitive code in Kotlin. This also tends to minimize the file sizes owing to fewer lines of code. You can use the Android Studio plugin to convert Java files having different sizes and compress them into smaller file sizes in Kotlin.
Additionally, Kotlin is not quite as verbose as Java. It’s concise and legible once you understand the syntax. Moreover, Kotlin has starkly reduced the amount of boilerplate code that android developers write every day which quickens the implementation process.
Easy To Set-up
Until Android Studio 3.0, setting up Kotlin or incorporating it into your project was quite challenging as developers were forced to use a plugin for that purpose. However, with the advent of Android 3.0, it became really simple to set up Kotlin.
This Android Studio update came with a built feature called “Support Kotlin Development.” You must check the “include Kotlin support” box at the time of configuring a new project.
It’s A Comparatively Safer Option
Once developers start working with Kotlin, they realize that modern programming languages make the work processes a lot more efficient and allows them to get creative. Languages such as Java or C have been around for ages and are becoming obsolete.
Using a modern programming language enables developers to think differently, which is critical for them as creativity must reflect in their work. It also enables the developers to be more versatile as their ability to understand and use similar programming languages increases. Having a concrete understanding of modern languages allows developers to add value to their profiles.
Kotlin is Multi-platform and Open-source
The announcement of Kotlin as an open-source language made the process of core product development as easy as a breeze. The endless support from the Kotlin team allows developers to create high-quality apps.
Learning Curve Is Simple
The developers of JetBrains while creating this language focused on simplicity and ease of learning. The syntax of Kotlin is so simple and clean, that developers even without significant expertise with the language, can instantly understand Kotlin code and start working on it.
Novice android app developers can get guidance from a range of IDEs and compilers, to get acquainted with Kotlin development. If you’ve learnt Java, getting familiar with Kotlin is a piece of cake.
Safe and Reliable
Kotlin is safer than Java, at least in terms of code safety. It helps prevent some of the common errors that take place in a code and thus result in better implementation and reduced system failures. It empowers developers in writing robust code that is less susceptible to bugs. It’s safer than Java as it was developed as an improvement of the latter.
Kotlin is also reliable. There are numerous programming languages out there but Kotlin is the most sophisticated and a lot more mature among other languages. Ever since its initial development, the language has been through several alpha and beta tests before JetBrains officially released its final version.
Enhanced Development and Speed Productivity
One of the prominent benefits of utilising Kotlin is enhanced productivity and development speed. The language comes with more expressive syntax, which reduces boilerplate code and makes it simple to read and understand for developers. Kotlin also comes with safety features such as null safety, which prevents null pointer exceptions, a common source of bugs in Java.
These features minimise the time and effort required for debugging and maintenance, allowing developers to focus on implementing new features and delivering better-quality code in less time. The interoperability between Kotlin and Java allows developers to utilise the existing Java code and libraries in their Kotlin projects, which further accelerates development speed.
Kotlin has recognised highly functional programming, which emphasises completing tasks the easiest way possible while maintaining consistency. It offers end-to-end support for functional programming that even java language lacks.
For helping your Android projects to come to fruition, the Kotlin developer community, Google and JetBrains consists of a huge variety of resources, sample projects, and discussion forums. You can find assistance with everything connected to Kotlin from these resources for your app development projects.
Considerations and Challenges When Working With Kotlin
Working with a relatively new programming language like Kotlin is not without a few challenges and considerations.
Upgrading From Java
For developers who are accustomed to working with Java, the transition to Kotlin can be challenging. This is because the syntax of the two languages is quite different. Developers need to become familiar with Kotlin’s functional programming concepts and expressive syntax.
Additionally, Kotlin’s type inference can make the code look more compact and cleaner but with the drawback of possibly increasing the app’s binary size if not utilised carefully. This may be challenging for developers working with devices that support limited resources or dealing with large codebases.
Integration With Third-party Frameworks and Libraries
Developers may come across challenges when integrating Kotlin with third-party libraries and frameworks not extensively designed for Kotlin. In many cases, Java versions of frameworks and libraries may need to be used which can infuse complexity into the project.
Furthermore, when integrating with Java libraries and frameworks, developers need to be careful when using Kotlin’s null safety features. That’s because it can lead to issues if the library or framework is not written to handle null values. This requires in-depth testing of the integrated code to ensure it’s working as expected.
Migrating the Existing Codebases
Migrating an existing codebase from Java to Kotlin can be tedious and time-consuming. Automated tools can convert Java code to Kotlin, but they may seldom produce accurate results, and manual conversion can be erroneous.
In fact, migrating the existing codebase should be thorough to ensure that the migrated code still works as expected. Also, the attempt to make the existing Java codebase null-safe could be sufficient, since in Java, null is an accepted value, while in Kotlin, it is considered a problem to be handled.
This discussion around Kotlin makes it clear that it has revolutionised the mobile app development space. There are multiple advantages of Kotlin which results in feature-rich and sophisticated android apps for businesses. However, it’s also important to take the specific challenges under consideration as well. This will ultimately allow the community of Kotlin developers to expand and thrive.