Kotlin vs. Java: Which one to choose for your next Android chat app

Elena Kvitkovska
Elena Kvitkovska
14 Feb 2020

When it comes to Android app development, Java is probably the most widely used language. It was number one in native Android development up until the Android team introduced support for another official language, Kotlin.

Kotlin emerged as a leading programming language offering important benefits in Android app development. Although it is still developing, Kotlin is already considered a mature ecosystem. According to Statista, Kotlin had a market share of 6.1% and Java had an enormous 41.1% in early 2019. The popularity of Kotlin has increased over the last two years. Over 50% of professional Android developers now use Kotlin as the language to develop their apps. According to Stack Overflow developer survey, Kotlin is the fourth-most-loved programming language.

So, which one should you choose for your app development project? Kotlin or Java? Both offer strong competition to each other. QuickBlox provides a detailed analysis and comparison of Java and Kotlin. We will discuss the advantages and main differences between languages.

What is Kotlin?

Kotlin was developed by JetBrains team and is officially supported by Google. It is an open-source, statically typed language based on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). It is both an object-oriented (OOP) and a functional language. It has great support for higher-order functions, function types, and lambdas, so it can be used both in object-oriented and functional programming styles.

The inventors of Kotlin claim that Java has collected a lot of unsuccessful solutions that can not be changed in any way. Developers require a brand-new language with a more friendly syntax. They believe that Android development can be faster, and the language community is constantly growing.

Pros of Kotlin

Why has Kotlin become the first-class language in Android so quickly? Kotlin provides several improvements over Java. No surprise, Kotlin offers many advantages for building Android apps.

Write less code

Kotlin’s intuitive and precise syntax leads to an increase in team efficiency. Writing and deploying a program requires less time and fewer lines of code.

Full compatibility with Java

It is easy to maintain because it is compatible with the majority of IDEs (Integrated Development Environments), including Android Studio. Kotlin supports modern programming concepts like extension functions, higher-order functions, delegates, and more out-of-the-box features to help devs build clean APIs.

Multi-platform compatibility

Kotlin suits for cross-platform development. It provides Gradle and JavaScript support. Kotlin upholds interoperability so that it can be called from Java code, or decompiled back to Java. JetBrains is developing Kotlin/Native, which allows building iOS applications.

Cons of Kotlin

Like any other programming language, the Kotlin also has some limitations:

  • Kotlin’s compilation speed is slower than Java’s one, even though it works faster than when performing incremental constructions.
  • As Kotlin is relatively a new language, the community support is still young and not as great as in Java. But the Kotlin developers work on expanding its knowledge base and providing more documentation.

Kotlin use cases

Pinterest – the popular photo-sharing app. Pinterest is one of the biggest names that have used Kotlin for Android App Development. Among the other apps that used Kotlin to build their Android platforms are Evernote, Trello, WeChat, Twidere for Twitter, Netflix, Expedia, CarLens, Uber, Coursera and many more.

What is Java?

Java is an object-oriented programming language that follows and Write Once Run Anywhere approach. Java was created for app development and did not depend on particular hardware or software. Today Java is used for desktop, web, mobile applications. Its ecosystem covers almost everything you may need for Java development. It includes:

  • Java Development Kit (JDK) – use it and any code editor to write and run/compile the code
  • Java Runtime Environment (JRE) – software distribution tool containing a stand-alone Java Virtual Machine, the Java standard library (Java Class Library), and a configuration tool
  • Integrated Development Environment (IDE) – a software application that helps run, edit, and compile the code.

Pros of Java

Despite the high competition with other technologies, Java doesn’t lag behind. Its advantages can persuade anyone to make the choice in its favor. Let’s find out what are the benefits of this technology.

Reliable

Java is said to be the most reliable and powerful language. Due to its solidity and scalability, it is found on mobile, desktop and large-scale industry servers and applications. Recently, Java has been gaining credibility in the area of Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud development.

Cross-platform

Java is not limited to Android and also great for cross-platform development. All major operating systems including Windows, Mac OS, and Linux support JVM. Due to the JVM, Java code runs on any machine that doesn’t need any special software.

Strong community

The Java community is one of the most important in the world of development. Since it is an ultra-popular and open-source language, there are millions of Java developers around and a big community is there to meet any needs. Online forums, such as StackOverflow, consists of Java developer experts who are ready to help with any urgent issue. Thousands of different libraries and frameworks which can be used and, as a result, speed up the development process.

Multithreading

Multithreading function allows writing programs that can perform many tasks at a time. An introduction to the Java language of this design feature allows developers to create robust interactive applications. Threads share the same memory area so switching between them takes little time. This is especially useful for gaming and animation-heavy programs.

Cons of Java

All programming languages have some drawbacks and Java is not an exception. Let’s see some of them:
Java requires far more code to be written than Kotlin. That results in a higher risk of errors.
To build a program’s graphical user interface (GUI), developers use different language-specific tools. Thus, for Android apps, there’s an Android Studio that helps create apps that look and feel native. However, when it comes to desktop UI, Java is noticeably lagging behind. To find a tool that will be just fine to create GUI might take time and effort.

Java use cases

The Java language continues to be the most important programming language for Android app development. Many popular services use Java for their Android apps, including Spotify, Twitter, Signal, and CashApp.

Conclusion

So, which language should you choose for the next Android chat app? For different tasks, there may be different programming languages to solve them. Whether you prefer Java or Kotlin, QuickBlox provides all the necessary toolset to build a chat application on a language you like.

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