14 Programming Languages for Mobile App Development - BuildFire

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Ian Blair

14 Programming Languages for Mobile App Development

How often do you use your smartphone?

According to a survey conducted by dscout in 2016, “smartphone users touch their phones 2,617 times each day, and spend an average of 145 daily minutes on their mobile phones.”

This is good news. Because you can now reach your target audience on the go.

Make no mistakes about it. Mobile users are one of the most active consumers.

If you can reach them via mobile apps, you can get them to try your product, purchase your product, or join your cause.

That’s why you should continually try to generate new app ideas.

As mobile marketing continues to dominate the digital marketing realm, a lot of businesses are capitalizing on the latest mobile technology – mobile apps, to create brand awareness, acquire customers, and increase revenue.

Don’t be left behind. Do you have the courage to take the plunge and build your own mobile app?

Truth is, if you’re just starting out in this whole thing, you need the right tool to produce functional apps, and the right idea to get you the app valuation you want.

But more than that, you need the right programming language that’s compatible with modern mobile platforms. Millions of people use smartphones today. So you need to build compatible mobile apps.

A report by Statista shows the staggering increase in the sales of smartphones from 2009 to 2015. The annual smartphone sales crossed 1.3 billion in 2015 with android being the most used OS for smartphones.

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In another report, it’s been predicted that the smartphone shipment worldwide will cross 1.6 billion by 2020. Again, Android is expected to rule the global smartphone market.

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What do these numbers mean?

If you have to develop a mobile app, this is the most appropriate time. Whether you need to become a developer, or hire a professional mobile developer, this is the best time to get started.

Deciding to jump on the mobile app development bandwagon is not the challenge. The challenge is – choosing the right programming language.

Ultimately, you want to answer these questions:

  1. Where do I begin?
  2. Which programming language do I choose and why?
  3. How do I master it?
  4. What should I look for in a mobile developer?

These are just a few basic questions that come to mind as soon as you think of developing a mobile app.

There are several programming languages to choose from. One of the easiest ways is to select the most popular language. According to codeeval, Python is the most popular coding language in 2014.

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The guide below will help you choose the right mobile app development coding language. By the end of this guide, you will have one thing absolutely clear in your mind – what language you will use.

 

1. BuildFire.js

buildfire-js-top-header

BuildFire.js leverages the BuildFire SDK and Javascript to allow developers to rapidly build mobile apps with the power of the BuildFire backend.

With BuildFire already having plugins that cover 70% or more of the common business use cases, developers only need to build specific functionality that’s unique to the client, rather than build the whole thing from scratch.

That means quicker builds, less headaches and more apps getting built.

BuildFire.js was built to have a flexible architecture to give developers the option to utilize any client-side Javascript framework they like including: jQuery, Angular, React, Underscore and many more.

Key features:

  • Easy to learn and works with existing frameworks you already use
  • Highly scalable
  • Short-cuts the development timeline by 40% or more

Resources:

 

2. Python

Let’s talk about the most popular app development language – Python.

Python is a high-level programming language that is widely used in web development, app development, analyzing and computing scientific and numeric data, creating desktop GUIs, and for software development.

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Python is the most taught programming language at the school and college level for the fact that it has several applications in real life.

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The core philosophy of python language is:

  • Beautiful is better than ugly
  • Explicit is better than implicit
  • Simple is better than complex
  • Complex is better than complicated
  • Readability counts

If there is one language that you should learn for app development, it should be Python because it’s easy-to-learn and it’s great at readability.

Python is a powerful high-level language that can be used to create android and desktop apps from scratch. Just to give you a hint of how powerful this language is, Dropbox is created in Python.

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If this isn’t encouraging enough, here is a list of some other apps and websites developed in Python.

  • Calibre
  • OpenStack
  • Ubuntu Software Center
  • World of Tanks (I’m sure you have played it)
  • BitTorrent
  • Quora
  • Reddit
  • Spotify
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

The list can go on and on…

Well, the potential is there. You can create any type of mobile app with Python. Learning it is not a big deal since it is one of the easiest languages around.

You can get started right away.

Key features:

  • Processed at runtime by the interpreter
  • Object-oriented language
  • Easy-to-learn and master
  • Interactive language
  • Easy-to-read
  • Scalable
  • Supports GUI applications
  • Runs on Windows, Mac, Unix, and Linux

Resources:

 

3. Java

Java is the most used app development language. According to VersionEye, which tracks the open source software libraries, developers complete most projects in Java followed by Ruby.

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According to PYPL Popularity, Java is the most searched language on Google worldwide in the current year.

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Java stands at the number one place with 23.4% share, with Python at the second place with 13.7% share. The difference between the first and second place shows how popular Java is among developers.

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Android OS is written in Java so if you learn Java, you will be able to create Android apps of all types and this will put you in the driving seat because you will be in control over the future of app technology.

Java is the most suitable mobile app development language because it runs on all the platforms including the all-famous Android.

Uses

Java is used in development of:

  • Android apps
  • Server apps
  • Web apps
  • Embedded space
  • Big data technology
  • Scientific apps
  • Websites
  • Games

Some of the most famous Java applications include:

But nothing beats the Android operating system.

Java is believed to be everywhere since it is hooked to the Android operating system. It’s open source, it’s independent of platform, and has several uses in the real world.

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Key features:

  • Object oriented language.
  • It runs on all the platforms.
  • Supports APIs that make integration a piece of cake.
  • It is easy-to-learn and read.
  • Hundreds of open source libraries available.
  • Easy to get expert help from Android communities.
  • Powerful IDEs make coding easy and error-free.

Resources

 

4. PHP

Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) is a server-side scripting open source language. It was designed by Zend Technologies in 1995. It was developed for websites, but it’s used for general purpose development today.

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Besides server side scripting, it is used for command line scripting and for coding applications.

PHP primarily is a coding language used for creating dynamic websites, but you can create android and iOS apps in PHP, according to Zend.

With PHAP, it is possible to write complete android, iOS, and windows apps. Suman Tripathi shares a three-layered model for developing stunning apps in PHP for mobiles.

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PHP is the most popular programming language as reported by Jobs Tractor. Java is the second most popular programming language.

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Imagine if you learn PHP, you will be in a position to create dynamic websites, web applications, and all types of mobile apps. It’s the single most used programming language out there that’s supported and used by 78.6% developers.

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Better yet, you can create stunning Facebook apps like Family Tree and eBuddy. You can create the next big app all in PHP, who knows?

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In case you aren’t aware, some of the biggest websites that you visit daily are coded in PHP such as Facebook, Wikipedia, Flickr, Yahoo, Tumblr, and several others.

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Uses

Not just apps, you can use PHP for a whole lot of development including:

  • Ecommerce websites
  • Create GUI
  • Code project management tools
  • Create Facebook apps
  • Image processing
  • Mobile app development
  • Content management systems such as WordPress and Drupal
  • Dynamic websites
  • WordPress plugin development
  • Creating PDFs

Key features:

  • Open-source
  • Independent of platform
  • Uses procedural and object oriented
  • Easy-to-learn
  • Numerous applications and uses
  • Server compatibility
  • Easy database integration

Resources

 

5. Swift

If there is one programming language that has the potential to reshape the future, it is Swift.

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It was released by Apple Inc. in June 2014 for iOS (and supporting systems) and Linux. It is the primary programming language used for developing iOS and OS X apps.

Swift is the fastest growing language, according to TNW. The demand for Swift developers has increased 600 percent making them the most hired developers.

Did I tell you that the Swift developers make serious money? Swift developers have the highest average salaries in the US.

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There couldn’t be any better time to learn and code a mobile app in Swift.

Google is also considering to make Swift its first-class language instead of Java. If Google shifts to Swift, the demand for Swift apps and developers will skyrocket and there will be no other competing language.

Swift means business.

One of the most famous examples of Swift apps is none other than SlideShare iOS app, which is completely built in Swift.

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For now, Swift is only available for iOS development but since it works on Linux and is open source, which means it can be used by anyone. It is still new and those who will shift to Swift early will have the advantage.

Key features:

  • Extremely easy to learn especially if you know Objective-C.
  • It is open source.
  • It is a simplified version of Objective-C.
  • Easy-to-code.
  • Maintenance is super-easy.
  • It is the future of iOS development.
  • It needs less coding as compared to other languages.

Resources

 

6. C#

C# is known as C Sharp. It is a multi-paradigm programming language, which is object and component oriented. It’s a general-purpose programming language developed by Microsoft.

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You can create pretty much anything in C# ranging from server applications to web services to games to mobile apps and more. If you’re planning to develop a game app, C# is one of the best languages to go for since it is supported by Unity3D.

Most of the experts believe that the demand for C# is dipping and there are not enough jobs available in the market for C# developers.

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Xamarin is the platform that has changed the expectations of the experts and the developers. It’s an app building tool that makes it simpler for C# developers to create apps for Android and iOS.

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But mobile app development isn’t the only thing that developers are doing, C# is used widely in business and productivity tools, enterprises, utilities, games, etc.

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There’s a lot of potential for C# since it’s used for everything that you can think of: Visual Studio, AutoCAD, Office 365, and SharePoint are just a few examples of software built with C#. It’s mostly used in the development of enterprise-level programs.

Just to give you a hint of how easy it is to create a mobile app in C# using Xamarin, Nish created an app in just one day.

You can create your next mobile app in C# fairly quickly.

Key features:

  • Easy-to-use and a simple language
  • Used extensively in the development of web applications and large tools
  • It is a type-safe language
  • It is scalable
  • Access to .NET framework

Resources

 

7. Objective-C

Objective-C is an object-oriented general-purpose programming language that is derived from C. Objective-C was the core programming language used by Apple for iOS and OS X development prior to Swift.

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Though Swift is replacing Objective-C, but the queries at StackOverflow show that the developers are still working on Objective-C.

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Same is the case with Github, developers are still creating their projects in Objective-C.

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The transition will not be instant.

Objective-C isn’t going anywhere any soon, says Paul Krill, for two main reasons. First, there has been a lot of investment in it in terms of apps. Second, the frameworks of the apps still rely on Objective-C even after the launch of Swift.

Therefore, learning and creating a mobile app in Objective-C will still pay off. You can create all types of apps in it, not really a big deal.

Key features:

  • Simple to use
  • You can use C++ and C while using Objective-C
  • It uses dynamic run-time
  • It supports dynamic typing
  • Works smoothly with Apple Inc.

Resources

 

8. C++

C++, pronounced as C Plus Plus, is a general purpose object-oriented programming language with low-level memory manipulation feature.

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C++ inherits its syntax from C and it is an extension of the C. If you know how to use C, C++ will not be a big deal. The two languages share all the features but C++ is more comprehensive.

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The demand for C++ has always been there. It’s not just about developing mobile apps rather it is a powerful language that is used in all the sectors ranging from finance to manufacturing to banking and several others.

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In terms of mobile apps, C++ has been doing exceptionally well since it helps develop cross-platform mobile apps easily with its unified debugging experience and powerful environment. It can be used to create stunning apps for Android, Windows, and iOS.

Not just mobile apps, but C++ has the potential to create some of the biggest tools like Google Chrome, Amazon, PayPal, World of Warcraft, Photoshop, and many others.

Learning C++ means you will be able to smoothly code games, apps, and commercial software.

Some of the major uses of C++ (and C) include:

  • Development of operating systems
  • New programming language development
  • Graphics and designs
  • Game development
  • App development
  • Web browsers
  • Development of compilers for programming languages
  • Medical, mathematical, and engineering applications
  • Enterprise tools
  • Computation platforms

Key features

C++ is one of the most powerful languages out there with tons of features.

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  • It is simple and efficient
  • Object oriented
  • Massive library
  • Portable
  • Extremely fast

Resources

 

9. JavaScript

JavaScript is a high-level interpreted programming language. It is a multi-paradigm language that supports object-oriented and functional programming.

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JavaScript is ranked third by the number of programming jobs it offers.

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JavaScript is not primarily a language for app development instead, it is the language that is run by browsers which is used to develop and control web pages. Creating mobile apps with JavaScript is possible but it has to be used with CSS, HTML, and AJAX.

There are several frameworks that can be used to create a professional JavaScript app such as PhoneGap, jQuery Mobile, and Ionic.

Creating apps in JavaScript is easy because you have to code the app once and it can be released on all the platforms (Android, iOS, and Windows).

Key features:

  • One of the easiest languages out there that you can be learned in a few days.
  • Fast and efficient.
  • It is executed on the client-side which means it saves bandwidth by not using the server.
  • Used for dynamics and creating animations on otherwise dull and boring websites.

Resources

 

10. HTML5

HTML5 is the fifth version of HTML (HyperText Markup Language). HTML5 is used to present content on the internet.

HTML5 is not essentially a mobile app development language. In order to create an app in HTML5, it has to be used with other languages such as JavaScript.

You can create Android as well as iOS apps in HTML5. The only requirement is using a powerful framework such as PhoneGap.

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Joe Wolf shares some great tips and reasons for creating HTML5 apps. You can create a mobile app in HTML5 (CSS and JavaScript) or you can use it in combination with APIs. In any case, HTML5 apps are responsive and work smoothly on all devices.

Code once, and use on multiple devices.

There are hundreds of web apps that are created in HTML5 that you use every single day. The all-famous Google Docs and Google Drive are mostly coded in HTML5. That’s not all, the Zoho app collection has over 33 productivity apps and most of them are developed in HTML5.

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So why bother creating a mobile app in HTML5 when there are more sophisticated programming languages available to choose from?

Here are a few reasons to learn and code in HTML5:

  1. HTML5 has been fully adopted by mobile (and desktop) browsers.
  2. Cross-browser support.
  3. With its cross-browser support and responsiveness, anything created in HTML5 works on all devices painlessly.
  4. Use canvas tag to develop games in HTML5.
  5. Easy and clean coding.
  6. It fully supports videos and audios.

Time to take HTML5 seriously.

Key features:

  • Easy-to-learn
  • Support for mobile
  • Responsive design with support for all the devices
  • Drag-and-drop feature

Resources

 

11. Ruby

Ruby is a general-purpose object-oriented programming language. It was developed by Yukihiro Matz Matsumoto in 1990s. It supports multiple paradigms.

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The demand for Ruby developers is five times more than the demand for Python developers. It is the fastest growing programming language and an average Ruby developer earns $77K per project while some earn as high as $112K.

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Analysis of over 50 repository servers shows that Ruby is the second language that has most projects completed while Java is at the top.

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You cannot create a mobile app on Ruby without using a framework such as RubyMotion or Rhodes. Using one of these frameworks, you can create apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and OS X.

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If there is one language that is easiest of them all, it is Ruby. You can create an app in 10 minutes on Ruby. It is not just easy to code but it is no less than a ghost.

Some of the biggest websites are coded in Ruby like Fiverr, Airbnb, Pixlr, Groupon, Basecamp, Scribd, Bloomberg, ThemeForest, and many others.

It is easy and insanely powerful. Why not use it to create a next level mobile app.

Key features:

  • It supports dynamic typing.
  • Object oriented language.
  • Easy coding. Anyone can do it.
  • Best for beginners.
  • Use existing codes.
  • Helpful community.

Resources

 

12. Perl

Perl is a combination of two languages (Perl 5 and Perl 6). This is a high-level dynamic programming language family. It uses features from other programming languages like C, sed, AWK, and others. Both Perl 5 and Perl 6 run and evolve independently.

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Perl is used for a whole lot of applications such as automation, bioinformatics, website development, app development, games development, and others.

LiveJournal, IMDB, and Booking are a few most popular websites developed in Perl.

Developing Android apps in Perl is easier than before since Google now has its APK available for Perl developers.

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For iOS app development, you have to use a framework. Catalyst, Dancer, and Mojo are the three most famous frameworks for Perl mobile app development.

Key features:

  • The most powerful feature of Perl is CPAN which is the comprehensive Perl archive network.
  • It is fast, reliable, and personal.
  • It is fun. Perl has the happiest users.
  • If you learn Perl, you will be operating in a low or no-competition zone.

Resources

 

13. Rust

Rust is a compiled programming language by Mozilla. It is a multiple paradigm general-purpose language.

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Recently, Rust received the Most Loved Programming Language 2016 by Stack Overflow developer survey.

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Rust is like C and C++ but it is safer and better. It has a powerful management tool that makes it better than other programming languages such as Ruby and Python.

More than 64% of developers are using Rust which makes it quite a popular programming language among developers.

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Rust is still a new language that is not fully mature but it has a great future. There are developers who are using Rust to create mobile apps such as John Gallagher who has created an iOS app in Rust.

Mozialla’s browser engine, known as Servo, is developed in Rust. This is not all, there are some other big projects completed in Rust, for example, Piston, Zinc, and Maidsafe.

Learning Rust at this time and creating a mobile app will put you in the driving seat. Rust has the potential to take over C and C++ in near future.

Key features:

  • Not an easy language to learn.
  • Safer than most of the other languages.
  • It is fast.
  • It can be used to create a whole lot of applications in different fields.
  • Cargo, the build system, is very famous among developers.
  • Developers are in love with Rust.

Resources

 

14. SQL

Structured Query Language (SQL) is a programming language that is used for managing relational database management systems, database analytics, and for data processing.

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SQL is not a language that is used for developing mobile apps but it supports applications.

Mobile apps where you have to access data from the server, SQL will be used. Essentially, it is the single language that will be integrated with most of the mobile apps. Learning SQL is, therefore, crucial.

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Key features:

  • The best thing about SQL is that it doesn’t require any coding.
  • It is portable and works on all devices.
  • One of the easiest languages to learn.
  • SQL standards make it even easier to understand and manage databases.
  • Works as a programming language and interactive language.
  • Both client and server side language.
  • Smoothly integrates with Java.

Resources

 

Conclusion

You’ve got to understand that most consumers begins their search experiences on on their mobile devices, and not on their computers. Therefore, you need to build mobile apps that caters to these consumers.

Create an amazing app icon too.

Then you’ve it. The thirteen programming languages for developing a mobile app, which one will you choose?

No idea…

Let me make it easier for you.

I’d recommend using (or learning) either Swift or BuildFire.js. Why?

These are the two programming languages that will redefine the future of programming – sooner or later.

If you choose to hire a professional mobile app developer, conduct a proper research, and hire someone who will understand your idea and goal, and design an app that communicates clearly with your target audience.

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Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.