Released by Apple in 2014, Swift is the leading language for development on Apple’s iOS, OS X and Watch OS environments. Swift was initially presented as a proprietary alternative to Objective-C, with a library tailored to Apple’s environments and better forgiveness for errors and issues, making it more applicable to rapid development. It was designed to be both safer and more concise than Objective-C, at the expense of some performance issues, and has been released as an open source language as of 2015.
Swift for New Developers
There are many benefits to Swift development that make it the preferable choice for those new to app and software development. Compared to the other major alternative, Objective-C, Swift is more concise, easier to read and more manageable to maintain. In many respects it is a more modern language that has more to offer, from dynamic libraries to better memory management. Thus, new developers who are interested in app development may want to get their foot in the door with Swift. Though Swift may have much in common with Objective-C, there is no need to learn Objective-C before Swift; each language can stand on its own.
Swift for Objective-C Developers
For developers already experienced in Objective-C, the benefits to Swift are slightly less obvious. Though Swift is inherently the more modern, tighter language, there is little that can be done in Swift that can’t be done in Objective-C (though the opposite is also true). It will come down to the preference of the developer. But as all experienced programmers know, being competent in a multitude of languages is always helpful within the field, especially for those within particularly competitive markets. Objective-C developers will also find Swift easier to acclimate to than those who are being introduced to Swift with no prior experience. For those who wish to continue their career heavily within iOS development, Swift is likely the better of the two options.
Up until now, we’ve been talking primarily about iOS development. And that makes sense, because Swift is an iOS language. But the mobile world is broader than just iOS. In fact, the vast majority of apps used and downloaded today are Android applications. This calls attention to one of Swift’s primary limitations: it’s designed for iOS exclusive applications. Objective-C is still the best choice for cross-platform developers, in addition to a multitude of other options, such as HTML wrappers and frameworks. There are many development kits open to Objective-C, Java, Python and other languages that compile to iOS, Android and other platforms. Thus, Swift only makes sense to developers who are specifically interested in the designing of iOS apps from the ground up, and that’s where its usefulness and usability may falter.
Is Swift worth learning? If you’re interested in focusing in iOS app development, it almost certainly is. Though the language bears many similarities to Objective-C, it also conveys significant benefits over its older predecessor. But Objective-C is a general purpose layer on C and Swift is a language developed for iOS, and that is where the differences lie. Developers interested in apps for all platforms (including the Android platform) may be better off sticking with their old Objective-C.