MainSoftware Technology Solutions BlogSwift vs Objective-C: differences explained simply

Swift vs Objective-C: differences explained simply

Swift vs Objective-C: differences explained simply

There are only a few businesses that wouldn’t benefit from having a mobile app dedicated to their services. Apps increase coverage, sales and make products more accessible. iOS is a popular system for native app development.

Basically, if you want an optimized, efficient application, you’ll have to pick one of the systems (Android & iOS being the most popular) and create an app specifically for it using one of the supported programming languages. Should you pick the latter for any reason, you’ll have to choose between Swift vs Objective-C.

What are they?

Although there are many languages that will allow you to create a mobile iOS app, both Swift and Objective-C are more effective because they are used by Apple to create their software. For this reason, many typical problems of developing for iOS can be solved by these two languages with ease.

Yes, these languages have been used to create Apple systems and are thus best suited to create apps for iPhone, iPad, and other products of this company. So, what’s the difference between Objective-C and Swift? The key difference is that Objective-C is older, while Swift is a younger language made to be intuitive and easy to master.

Objective-C explained

This language has been purchased by Apple in the 80s specifically to develop their earlier software.

It’s an object-oriented language, like many of its counterparts (including Java, C++, C#, and others). However, due to its complex structure, it’s much harder to master. Back then, it was amongst the best coding solutions you could find, especially for mobile software. Now, there are lots of easier languages that will get you the same results.

Objective-C is based on the C language. It’s actually a modification of the latter, much like C++. They are rather similar, but due to specific syntax and semantics, it’s better for development for Apple products. Besides them, however, it’s not used too widely. Even within the iOS community, it’s falling out of favor.

Swift explained

Swift is the language many developers abandon Objective-C for. It has actually been developed by Apple as a much simpler iOS language and released in 2014.

Since then, it’s been steadily gaining users at the expense of its older counterpart. It’s much easier to master and faster. You can create a functional string of code in less time because the syntax (the words used for coding) is more comprehensible and concise.

Swift is also based on C and Objective-C, which is why if you know how to use C++, C#, or other languages, you’ll have an easier time figuring out both Swift and Objective-C.

Advantages of Objective-C

Although older and seemingly obsolete, Objective-C still has a few advantageous aspects in the comparison of Swift vs Objective-C that Swift can’t easily replicate.

Vast background

The Objective has been developed a long time ago. The last update for the language came out in 2006, which makes it an unchanging monolith with an ever-increasing pile of know-how.

People have been working with it for more than 30 years, and in all that time billions of strings of code have been written. It’s valuable to the new users because they can tap into this huge library of knowledge and use it to make their work easier. There are many educational materials that help you get better at coding on Objective.

However, you can also take the ready-made code from other software that sits collecting dust in open access all over the internet. You can’t really do that with Swift because it’s been out only several years. Many iconic applications (and many more obscure ones), however, were created using this very programming language.

Older versions support

Since Objective-C has been the main coding solution for many iOS versions throughout the years, it obviously supports them fully. The number of these older versions decreases each year, but there are still a lot of users that cling to the ancient ways.

If you want to make sure they can use your app alongside newer users, you can use Objective to develop it. That being said, you might want to reconsider developing for the truly old versions because it’ll force you to create a lot more code, and this one is already not a very speedy programming solution.

User assistance

Although it’s truly a hard language, there are several provisions that help users compile their code without extra hassle. The dynamic filling is one of these provisions.

Basically, whenever you try to manually complete the string, Objective will attempt to finish it for you. In many cases, it’s remarkably helpful and shortens the creation of some more mundane parts of the application with less effort and time consumed. It also enables you to update parts of the code much easier if you already wrote it before.

Permanence

An often-overlooked advantage of this language is that it won’t be updated any time soon. It may sound like all the issues have been abandoned for the users to deal with alone, but, in fact, most issues have been fixed. Apart from disadvantages that can’t be helped due to being integral to the language, most issues are remedied.

Nowadays, it’s the best version of itself that ever existed, and its permanent unchanging state means you won’t have to worry about rewriting code if they release another version of Objective. It’s a refreshing sense of stability that can’t be experienced with many other languages.

Swift vs Objective-C: differences explained simply

Disadvantages of Objective-C

As expected, there are some issues within this language that can’t be helped. It’s just too old and newer languages outpace it in most scenarios.

Hard to master

By far the most notable downside of having to deal with this language is that it’s hard to learn. On its own, its structure is complex because of the complicated syntax and semantic structure that benefit development for Apple products and a few other things. Yet, compare it to other languages, and you’ll see a stark contrast.

Even other old languages, such as C++, are improved all the time to be more intuitive and fit modern needs. Considering that the hard parts are integral to the working process of Objective, you can’t really make it easier. So, it’s stuck in the time when languages had to be complex because they didn’t know better.

In short, it takes a long time to figure out this language, and then a long time to write code on it. It’s not really an ideal environment if you want to create an app as soon as possible.

Limited access

Although you can download the language easily enough from anywhere on the internet, the language is not in the open access as many of its counterparts, including Swift. It means that, for a licensed experience, you need to buy it. There are open-source Objective-C modifications, but they aren’t really the same.

Even though it’s not a big deal and doesn’t alter the coding experience itself, this fact can further discourage people from trying this already unintuitive language. There are simply better solutions in this sphere.

Outdated performance

Obviously, each year the apps get new features. While they are easy to account for with newer languages, Objective is simply old. There is simply no way to make some of them work, which means outdated performance and poorer structure compared to the newest language versions.

You ought to remember that Objective has been released in 2006, and it won’t ever be updated again. There have been many new concepts since then, and while some can be realized with this language, many cannot.

Advantages of Swift

Swift is a much newer language, which means it simply suits the modern expectations of what a programming language can do, but it also has its own tangible advantages.

Easy to master

Especially compared to Objective, Swift is a much simpler alternative. They made the code strings much less demanding and much better structured. It means you can understand what you need to do faster and also create code at a faster pace. What it means for the community is that new developers can now get into coding and stay.

A lot fewer of them will now drop the development process solely because the requirements don’t make much sense. Thanks to Apple’s own insight and effort, Swift has become an intuitive, simple solution.

Free access

Swift is an open-source language. What it means is that all the necessary tools are just free for the taking. You can claim the whole package at any time and pay no money for it regardless of how you aim to use it. This stance boosted the number of people ready to spend time learning the language and increased the number of active developers.

Advanced capabilities

This language accommodates a lot of the newer features people expect to find in modern coding solutions. There are many of them, but Swift is basically easier to use, more comfortable, and helpful thanks to all these additions. It’s also compatible with many other C languages.

Disadvantages of Swift

Swift seems like a reasonable option, but it’s also not perfect. There wouldn’t be this whole comparison if the choice was one-sided and completely in favor of Swift.

  • Frequent changes

While the positive changes are welcome and exciting, they can really break your code. That’s why after each major change, you’ll have to make sure every bit of your app still makes sense. Apple tries to make these updates as unobtrusive as possible, but it’s impossible to break nothing in the process.

In conclusion

Objective and Swift can basically do all the same tasks when it comes to developing stuff for Apple products. However, Swift is much simpler, more comfortable, and friendlier to new developers. Objective-C is still good for many purposes, especially if you aim to develop for older software versions.

Yet, as far as modern programming goes, Swift is much better. All the more so, considering that they are currently working to make Swift compatible with Android. So, in the Swift vs Objective-C battle, the first is rather more favorable.

Ivan Kolesnikov

About the author:

Ivan Kolesnikov

Experienced professional in programming.