If we talk in particular about Android apps, Java was until quite recently the default choice. Then Google extended support to Kotlin as an official language for Android application development. Now the natural question that everyone’s bound to ask is- is Kotlin better than Java? If so, why? If not, why not? Let’s try and answer each of these questions:
With decades of development experience and millions of developer community behind it, Java doesn’t really need an introduction. Parts of Android as an OS itself has been written in Java and given its wide usage, has a very robust community and resource pool.
What makes Java Special?
Java is platform-independent and thus comes in handy while building cross-platform apps.
Since parts of the Android SDK is written in Java, there are no compatibility issues.
Being a product of Oracle, it gets regular updates
Java is fast. It compiles faster than most of the languages around
Given its maturity, it has got a wealth of support tools like frameworks, IDEs, libraries, etc.
Problems with Java
Too much boilerplate code
Compilation, at times, is slower
A product of JetBrains, Kotlin dates back to 2011 but it was only in 2017 that it was sponsored by Google as an official language for Android. Thereafter it has registered an exponential growth in popularity and user community. The language is completely interportable with Java that means any Kotlin code you write would be direly compiled to Java Bytecode.
What’s special about Kotlin?
It solves the pain of null errors by including it in its type system
Much more concise than Java that converts to fewer lines of code that in turn converts to shorter development time and cost
Includes smart extensions that come in handy while building APIs
Completely interportable with Java
Problems with Kotlin
Steep learning curve
Relatively non-existent developer community
Kotlin solves two of the most prominent problems of Java- its verbosity and null errors, something that everything that every developer would appreciate once they start using Kotlin.
But to start using Kotlin is perhaps the biggest challenge. App development companies who employ the finest of Java developers won’t just spend resources to solve the problems that expect developers are comfortable with anyway. For new developers, the problem is the exact opposite- they suffer from the problems of Java but simply won’t find expert Kotlin developers as a mentor.
This essentially creates the proverbial chicken and egg problem. Java developers won’t switch to Kotlin until it has a vibrant community. But it won’t have a vibrant community unless developers switch to it.
Now that you have better insight into the comparison of Kotlin vs. Java, the answer to which one’s better is as always- it depends. The momentum that Java has built over the years is its greatest strength. It simply is time and resource-consuming to shift entire teams from Java to Kotlin- thus pushing up the cost of Android app development. On the other hand, if you are just starting out, Kotlin is definitely a better bet for the future.