Mobile applications on iPhones and other Apple devices require knowledge of programming languages specifically suited for iOS operating systems. iOS developers learn Swift or Objective-C — or both — to create apps for iOS devices.
If you’re interested in becoming an iOS developer, knowing the similarities and differences between Swift and Objective-C can help guide you on which language you should learn first or prioritize.
Ultimately, while these two languages are both needed for developing iOS apps, they vary greatly when it comes to their history, syntax, and performance.
Swift vs Objective-C: Similarities and How They are Used
Before delving into the differences between Swift and Objective-C, it’s important to note a few similarities between the two programming languages. Both have been used as primary programming languages for iOS. Hence, they have a few overlapping traits that notably puts them at the top of every iOS developer’s skill list.
First and foremost, Swift and Objective-C are general-purpose programming languages, which means that they were developed for writing software across different application domains.
In comparison, domain-specific programming languages can only be used in one domain. HMTL and SQL are examples of domain-specific programming languages, used for web development and database management respectively.
Both programming languages are also object-oriented. This means that developers are using objects to create software.
Swift and Objective-C programming languages can also integrate with XCode. XCode is an integrated development environment (IDE) with software development tools. It is an essential hard skill for building iOS apps.
Swift vs Objective-C: History
Objective-C has been around for a long time. Created in the 1980s, the program was the first choice for software and mobile application development for many years.
Meanwhile, Swift is a fairly new coding language. Created in 2014 by Apple, the programming language was specifically designed to develop software for the iOS system and serve as an alternative for Objective-C and C programming languages.
Since Objective-C has been used for a much longer time than Swift, many experienced professionals have used Objective-C. They can provide guidance and answers about anything related to the program.
Meanwhile, Swift’s community is smaller but is fast-growing due to its rising popularity. Programmers may not know all the kinks and solutions of the programming language, but there are many eager and determined professionals willing to explore it.
Swift vs Objective-C: Syntax
Swift has a simpler and easier syntax than Objective-C. Therefore, it takes fewer lines of code to execute the same objectives. According to an article by Fast Company, when Lyft converted its code from Objective-C to Swift, it used about one-third of the original code.
Objective-C may be more complex, but it has many similarities to the programming language C. People who have experience coding with C may find that Objective-C is an easier language to learn.
Another smaller detail to note is that Objective-C requires the use of semicolons at the end of every statement, whereas Swift doesn’t. If you’re more likely to get bogged down by extensive coding rules, then Swift may be the preferred option.
Swift vs Objective-C: Performance
When it comes to performance, Swift can’t be beaten. Swift has more efficient code, so it is faster than Objective-C.
While both programming languages have many software development tools readily available to help create iOS apps, Swift pulls ahead due to its rising popularity. Many new tools are being released to help developers become proficient in Swift, while Objective-C is beginning to fall behind.
If you are working on a complex project or working with an older project that uses Objective-C, however, Swift may not be the best option. Swift undergoes frequent updates and requires iOS 7 or newer.
Swift vs Objective-C: Which One Should I Learn?
Swift is a rising star among iOS developers and likely to encapsulate the future of mobile development beyond 2021. However, some complex projects that already involve Objective-C coding will require expertise in the older programming language.
Deciding between learning Swift or Objective-C will depend on your current skill set and goals. Both programming languages have their pros and cons in history, syntax, and performance so depending on your project, one may be more suitable than the other.
Swift and Objective-C serve as pillars for iOS app development. Their role and history in the creation of apps have allowed for the wide variety and access that is available today for any Apple user.
If you’re eager to take on the challenge, you can also choose to learn both. There is interoperability between the two languages, which allows the opportunity to explore both. Designed with Apple iOS-powered devices in mind, our Mobile Application Developer training program trains students in both Swift and Objective-C programming languages. Learn more about becoming an iOS App Developer with a curriculum developed by WOZ.
Sophia Acevedo is a journalist based in Southern California. She is a 2020 graduate from California State University, Fullerton, and a proud Daily Titan alum.