Swift – The Preferred Programming Language for iOS Developers
Do you have a passion for mobile development? And do you wish to focus more on building iPhone applications? Then, it is recommended that you consider Apple’s new and popular language ‘Swift’.
Swift will, not only, an alternative to Objective-C for developing on MAC, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and many more devices to be launched, but also, a replacement for C for embedded programming in Apple platforms.
Swift is a new way of programming iOS applications that are built on the best of C and Objective-C. It proves to be effective as it is able to eliminate the constraints of C compatibility. Swift possesses safer patterns for programming and it adds modern features to make programming easier, more flexible, and more fun.
Swift has several new key features compared to Apple’s Objective C.
Thanks to these key features, Swift has the potential to become the de-facto programming language for creating immersive, responsive, consumer-facing applications.
This article explains the ten reasons why Swift is recommended for building your future applications:
1. Increased Readability of Code
2. Files are Easy to Maintain
In Objective-C, you use two file systems, which is an overhead for the programmers – “filename.h” as header and “filename.m” as implementation files. Swift combines both into “filename.swift” file.
Xcode and the LLVM compiler can help to reduce the workload on the programmer. With Swift, programmers do less bookkeeping and can spend more time creating application logic. Swift cuts out boilerplate work and improves the quality of code and features that are supported.
3. Safer Type
In Objective-C, there are not many issues in calling a method with a pointer variable that is nil (uninitialized). Such calls result in the expression being of no use and may result in lots of bugs. The entire functionality may get affected due to some server troubles and unhandled nil values.
Optional types make the possibility of a nil optional value very clear in Swift code. In Swift, you can generate a compiler error as you write incorrect code. You get alerts during the compilation time and get to the code with an intention. Problems can be fixed in-line with coding, and it immensely reduces the amount of time and money spent on fixing bugs.
4. Memory Management
Swift unifies in a much better way than Objective- C. Swift supports ARC completely across procedural and object oriented paths. Objective-C supports ARC within cocoa APIs and object-oriented code paths. It is not available for procedural C code and core graphic API’s.
In Objective-C, it is the programmer’s responsibility to handle memory while working with Core Graphics API. In Swift, memory leaks are impossible to an extent.
So, the programmers can utilize the brain and time, effectively, in designing the application’s business logics.
5. Less Amount of Coding
In Objective-C, string operations are a bit heavy task. Swift introduces certain operators such as “+” for string interpolation. Also, we have type casting in Swift. Compiler can easily figure out the types.
Objective-C requires programmers to memorize special string tokens (%s, %d, %@) and provide a comma-separated list of variables to replace each token. Swift supports string interpolation, which eliminates the need to memorize tokens and allows programmers to insert variables directly inline to a user-facing string, such as a label or button title.
Thereby, the crashes, which occur due to wrong string tokens, are less in Swift.
6. Improved Performance
Dropping old legacy of C conventions, Swift has been improved and is far better than Objective-C. Further, performance improvement is noticed in the new versions of swift (1.2) as compared to the older versions.
7. Lesser Name Collisions with Open Source Projects
In Objective-C, you face problem in managing namespaces. There is a lack of formal support for namespaces. When the name collision happens in Objective-C, it is a linker error, and the application cannot run. Even though there are some workarounds, pitfalls exist.
Swift provides implicit namespaces that allow the same code file to exist across multiple projects without causing a build failure. This feature in Swift makes programmers more productive.
With Swift, namespaces are based on the target that a code file belongs to. This means programmers can differentiate classes or values using the namespace identifier. This change in Swift is huge. It greatly facilitates incorporating open source projects, frameworks, and libraries into your code. The namespaces enable different software companies to create the same code filenames without worrying about collisions when integrating open source projects. Now, both Facebook and Apple can use an object code file called HomeScreen.swift, without any errors or build failures.
8. Interactive Coding via Swift Playgrounds
Swift introduces a feature called playground where programmers can type in the application’s algorithm or logic and see the actual results without creating an application to test them. Apple makes this possible through inline code execution.
Programming is, actually, an iterative process which makes it monotonous for a developer after repetitive executions. But playground creates data visualization before the actual compilations.
Playgrounds can be created from Xcode itself and preserved as an additional tool. Experienced developers can make good use of this.
9. Support for Dynamic Libraries
The biggest change in Swift, that hasn’t received enough attention, is the switch from static libraries, which is updated at major point releases (iOS 8, iOS 7, and so on), to dynamic libraries. Dynamic libraries are executable chunks of code that can be linked to an application. This feature allows current Swift applications to link against newer versions of the Swift language as it evolves over time.
Dynamic libraries have never been supported on iOS until the launch of Swift and iOS 8, even though they have been supported on Mac for a long time. Dynamic libraries are external to the application executable, but are included within the application bundle downloaded from the Application Store. It reduces the initial size of an application as it is loaded into memory, since the external code is linked only when used.
The ability to defer loading in a mobile application or an embedded application in Apple Watch will improve the perceived performance for the user. This is one of the distinctions that make the iOS ecosystem more responsive. Apple has been focused on loading only assets, resources, but now it has compiled and linked code on the fly. The on-the-fly loading reduces the initial wait times until a resource is actually needed to display on the screen.
10. Future Influences
With the introduction of Swift, some people think that Objective C is going to be phased out. That is not the case, fully. Apple will be focusing more on enhancements and making Swift stable. Not many new features or developments will be seen in Objective-C.
Swift provides the development community a direct way to influence a language that will be used to create applications, embedded systems (if Apple ever licenses an embedded framework and chip for third parties), and devices like the Apple Watch.
Advantages of using Swift
From a developer’s perspective:
- More information can be inferred from less code.
- Less compile time (from bugs fixed on Swift 1.2 onwards).
- Less code files to maintain compared to Objective-C project.
- Bridging between Objective- C and Swift files in the same project.
- Interactive coding via playgrounds.
- Better readability of code via simple string operations, and smileys and emoticons used as variables.
- Bug free, crash free code via optional concepts.
- Zero manual code synchronization, and less punctuation mistypes.
- Code is now self-documenting in Swift, with the addition of optional types: a compile-time safety mechanism for returning a value or no value, which is a common issue with asynchronous operations, network failures, invalid user input, or data validation errors. ARC is unified in Swift between, both, procedural C-style code, as well as object-oriented code, using Apple’s Cocoa framework.
- Thanks to dynamic library support in iOS and Swift. Open source projects, third-party SDKs, and frameworks that integrate with home automation, devices, and social services, will be easier to integrate without increasing build times.
Swift is a new way of designing, building, and running computer software. It is considered to be a faster and more effective means of building software applications on iPhone, iPad, and MAC. Swift is known as the de-facto programming language, not only, supporting the development for complex applications, but also, improving the future of embedded systems like Apple watch.
iOS Development Expert, RapidValue Solutions