What’s The Best Languages To Learn To Build Android Apps
If you’re looking to code your own Android app, you need to start by understanding the best language.
Unlike iOS coding languages, which are limited to just a few, Android apps can be built with a broad range of languages.
This provides more flexibility for the developer, but also can make things confusing.
But you don’t need to worry. In this article, you’ll learn exactly which languages you should use to code an Android app. Plus, I’ll show you some other platforms you can use to save time.
By the end, you’ll be a verified expert in Android development languages. Even better, you’ll be one step closer to building your own app.
But first, let’s ask a simple question. Do you really need to learn a new language to code your app?
Do You Need to Code It Yourself?
Before you invest hundreds of hours into learning a programming language, you need to decide if this is something you must do.
Android application programming is a rewarding and useful skill to have. Just keep in mind that it’s a complicated process.
Many different types of phones and tablets will be using your app, and you must test graphics and screen sizes across all of them.
In addition, you’ll need to spend time learning the programming language before you can even touch development work on your app.
Novice programmers often think they’ll be able to learn as they go, but this is almost always a terrible idea. You’ll write bugs due to a lack of knowledge.
Oftentimes, you’ll need to go back and rewrite massive chunks (or even all) of your code.
If you have a great idea for an app and want to get it made immediately, it’s a much better idea to hire a developer or use a drag-and-drop program like BuildFire.
There’s no shame in building a minimum viable product using a drag-and-drop builder to bring your idea to market quickly, then learning coding skills later once the app takes off.
I’ll discuss those alternatives in a minute. But first, let’s answer the big question: what’s the best language for programming an Android app?
The Three Primary Languages for Building Android Apps
All of the different programming languages and their uses can get very complicated–a full overview on languages would require an entire book.
Choosing what language to learn first can be overwhelming and confusing.
The “easiest” language for you to learn will depend on the way your mind works and how much time you put into studying.
Some decide to learn the “hardest” language first so that all other languages will be comparatively easier, though this is a grueling method I can’t recommend.
Similarly, the “best” language for you to learn first depends on your goal and amount of time available to study and practice.
Mobile application programming never requires one language, whether for iOS or Android. Compiling, for example, is a final step and can be done with a variety of different languages.
If your app will use the web or outside APIs (application program interface), you’ll need to use some data storage and connectivity programming languages.
Don’t worry about this too much now, but just remember that you’ll eventually need a few languages under your belt.
The best and most modern programming languages use what’s called object-oriented programming, or OOP.
Older programming languages were very exhaustive and required long lines of code to do simple things. But OOP divides code into objects which then connect with each other.
The two largest OOP languages you can use to program an Android app are C++ and Java.
C++ is not easy to learn and definitely not a recommended starting point. It is an older object oriented language with many rules and limitations.
It is standardized by the International Organization for Standardization, which both helps the language and slows down its development.
There is a wide range of support when you run into issues, but newer functionalities take time to be added due to the review process.
If you’re a brave soul, jump right in! C++ offers the highest level of control with access to C++ libraries and native development. This means your code will communicate directly with the device.
If this isn’t important to you, however, you should start somewhere else. C++ is a complex language to learn, and you can run into serious problems as a beginner.
For one thing, there is no automatic garbage collection. This means objects aren’t removed from the device’s memory. Unless you code this manually, the memory will continue to fill and eventually the app will crash.
C++ is also very unforgiving when you make errors in the code. No error messages or exceptions will be given, your code will crash with no explanation.
Java is a slightly more friendly language for beginners to start with.
Most languages operate by turning the code into language a computer can read. This would be like having an interpreter listen to your English and convert it to Spanish for someone who only understands Spanish.
But the Java Virtual Machine converts your code into another language first, then can convert it to work on any operating system, including Android and iOS.
This would be like having an interpreter convert your English to French, then having multiple interpreters convert the French into Spanish, German, or any other language.
This makes converting Java code for Android to iOS and other devices much easier. However, coding in Java means you are communicating with the Java Virtual Machine and not natively.
Unlike C++, Java gives error messages and helps you define what is wrong with your code. This makes it easier for beginning programmers.
On the downside, Java has many rules and requires a deep understanding of inheritance and hierarchies, which may be difficult if you’re just starting.
If C++ and Java seem too complicated, however, there is a third language that might be your best bet if you’re just starting out.
Kotlin is a newer language developed by Google. Since it was developed by Google, it works seamlessly with Android and Java.
This new language is inspired by Java, C++, and all of their precedents, so you can think of it as an improved version of these languages with newer features added.
Of the three we’ve discussed, Kotlin is by far the most approachable. It is a very clean and relatively simple language, with fewer formalities and rules than C++ and Java.
While you still need to understand basic programming concepts and structures, you can generally achieve the same result with fewer lines of code.
As Kotlin website states, “rough estimates indicate approximately a 40% cut in the number of lines of code”.
This is definitely a plus for beginners, though this means more weight is placed on each line of code that you do write.
Kotlin is also in the process of becoming fully compatible with iOS, which is another huge plus.
Unfortunately, since this language is new and not standardized, there is less support and troubleshooting available, which might make it difficult for beginners.
Overall, however, it’s a great starting point if you’re venturing into the vast world of Android development.
With that under your belt, where should you start?
Setting Yourself up for Success as a New Programmer
If you have a genuine interest in programming and some time to learn, start with Kotlin and work your way up to C++.
Kotlin is a language made by developers for veteran and novice programmers alike. It will give you a friendly introduction to computer science and teach you some Java along the way.
Since Kotlin is so new, many developers are not familiar with it. Learning it now will give you an advantage over other developers when applying for jobs or doing freelance work.
Java is the predominant language of Android programming and the second language many developers learn. Both Kotlin and Java are official programming languages for Android. If you have the time and drive, Java is a great first language to learn.
C++ is not an official programming language for Android and much harder to learn. This should be the last language you learn, if at all.
How to Set up Your IDE
You may have wondered where you actually type the code you’ll be working with. The answer is your integrated development environment, or IDE.
IDEs are where you’ll write, compile, and run your code. The most common of these is Android Studio, which has a simulator that renders a phone for you to test your app.
You can also connect your phone to Android Studio and test it in real life, which many developers prefer.
To design the layout of the screen, Android Studio uses XML, or extensible markup language. This is another simple language you’ll need to learn in addition to Kotlin, Java, or C++.
Plan Your App for Massive Success Before You Start
Before you get started coding away in the IDE, however, you need to carefully plan the app you want to create.
Nothing is more frustrating than starting too soon and needing to erase code you spent hours writing and debugging, or finding that a feature isn’t needed after all.
Before you start programming, focus on the user interface and experience of your app. Figure out all of the buttons, functions, and screens the app will have before you even start coding.
Spending hours coding a feature that you later realize you don’t need becomes very frustrating very quickly.
Follow the design process. It starts with an idea, which you probably already have. You’ll need to write up its functions in a spec document, then wireframe the layout.
Add the basic functions as a prototype, then develop the processes and the visual design at the same time, building the app from the ground up.
If you’ve set this up correctly, you’ll save yourself countless hours down the road.
Slash Your Learning Time and Start Programming Quickly
Learning a new programming language on your own can be hard, but there are many great online resources.
For examples and practical applications, Lynda is a great place for step-by-step tutorials.
You can begin your programming journey by watching and following tutorials on how to create applications like a Tic Tac Toe game or a simple calculator.
This will help you familiarize yourself with the language, syntax, IDE, and real world applications of whatever language you’re learning.
If you’re looking for more structured learning, try Codecademy. You will have access to courses on a variety of languages. They come with easy-to-follow tutorials and tech support. An account costs a monthly membership fee of $20.
Treehouse is a similar option, though their monthly fee is $25.
After you’ve played around with coding, I suggest you delve into some theory and textbook computer science knowledge.
If you’re trying to learn mobile app development in a pinch, it’s going to be a struggle! It takes years to familiarize yourself and be fluent in any language, whether it’s Python or French.
Yes, you can learn the basics much more quickly. But if you want your app’s code to stand up to a world-class standard, you’ll need to study coding for a long time.
For those with no coding experience, expect to spend at least six months of everyday study before you’re proficient in a programming language.
If you’re going to learn quickly, you need the ideas behind the languages first.
When teaching children computer science, educators often focus on introducing concepts like strings, conditionals, and logic above all else.
It is important to understand the way we need to communicate with computers, as this is very different than anything in real life. Once you are familiar with this, programming any language should be easier.
Many beginners are excited to jump straight into coding, but fail to recognize the importance of basic concepts.
Computer science can be difficult because many words look familiar but have a completely different meaning.
For example, system alerts that appear and disappear independently on Android are called toasts. How do you mentally disconnect that word from a piece of bread?
Study tools like Quizlet facilitate learning these concepts and new words. Users can create flashcards and tests for themselves or they can use study sets already made by others.
To save time, consider doing this during a commute or waiting in line. Incorporate the material into your life in a variety of ways for maximum success.
Get used to thinking as a developer. When you download a new app, think about what’s going on with the code and why the developer chose to organize the user experience this way.
Another important strategy for beginners is to have a support team. You need someone or someplace you can go to when you have questions or need help troubleshooting.
If you’re not in college or within any academic circles, this can be difficult. Online forums and Stack Overflow are great, but they won’t always be able to help you.
Finding a mentor, veteran programmer, or friend who is beginning their programming journey will help you speed up the process of learning how to program for Android.
All of or the first few classes are usually free if your income is under a certain amount. Even better, your age or coding experience doesn’t matter.
These are great ways to kickstart your programming journey if you prefer learning hands-on and not online.
If you’re willing to spend some money, you’ll find there are hundreds of online programming schools and courses.
Some colleges, like DeVry University, even offer online courses on mobile application development and are worth considering.
While you don’t have to spring for online colleges, you should expect that not all of the resources you need will be free.
If you’re serious about becoming a programmer, you’ll need to spend some money on books, online classes, or even a better computer.
As with learning anything, you’ll encounter a lot of difficulties early on. Try not to get too frustrated and focus on why you’re building your app in the first place.
Libraries are your best friends when you run into problems. There’s no shame in finding and adapting existing code for your specific needs.
Reinventing the wheel is a waste of time when the code is already written. You should still understand the code, though you don’t need to write every single line of your app yourself.
Other Alternatives That Will Save You Time and Money
If you’re truly in a business venture mindset, learning to program isn’t the best use of your time.
Consider hiring a programmer to build your app so you can focus on design, user needs and experiences, and monetization.
If you do have an interest in code, this would also be a great opportunity to look over your developer’s shoulder and learn Android programming.
Of course, the downside to hiring a developer is the cost. Developing an Android app can cost from $10,000 all the way to six figures and beyond.
The Instagram app, for example, cost half a million dollars in venture funding to develop.
If this is outside of your budget but you don’t have time to learn to code from scratch, consider a drag-and-drop app build like BuildFire.
With BuildFire, you can create an app with absolutely no coding experience. Just start with a template, add the key customizations you need, and publish the app quickly.
You’ll even generate iOS and Android versions of your code, so you can create apps for the Apple Store without extra coding work or hassle.
BuildFire will also help you get your app to the Google Play Store and ensure you meet the quality standards required.
If you’d rather not even worry about that, you can also hire BuildFire’s pro-services to create your app for you.
This is a great option if you’re looking to have someone else design your app, but not willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Bottom Line on Android Development Languages
If you’re just thinking about starting Android app development, there are three main languages you can learn.
The top choices are C++, Java, and Kotlin. Of these, the best for beginners is Kotlin. It’s a newer language with lots of opportunities for novice programmers.
Once you know what language you’re going to use, you’ll want to get started by setting up an IDE and planning your app before you start coding. Don’t make the mistake of coding before you’re ready.
There are plenty of online resources to help you learn how to program. Use these to develop skills and learn new techniques. You should take time to study a little bit every day.
If you’d rather not invest months into learning a programming language, consider taking a shortcut. You can hire someone to do the work for you, or use an app builder.
Whatever you decide, building an app is an eye-opening process that will change how you view technology forever.
Get started today!