Top Programming Languages for Android App Development

If you’re curious about Android and Android app programming, either you want to develop Android apps or get one built for you and want to know more about your app technology. Either way, this article will answer all the questions you have about Android app programming.

Learning to code can be complicated and a daunting experience. Most of the time it’s not even clear where to start, but you’ll probably have a slew of questions to answer before you even get started.

Learning about different types of languages gives you a fair idea of what kind of programming language you need to choose for different kinds of apps. Although Java is the official language, an Android app can be built with other languages. Since you’re interested in how to create Android apps predominantly, here are a few options to take into account.

If you want to develop Android apps, step one is picking a language. The differences between the various Android programming languages can be a little complex and nuanced. Choosing which one to start with requires an understanding of their individual strengths and weaknesses.

Below are the programming languages which are currently used for Android development:

  • Java – Java is the official language for Android development and is supported by Android Studio. It has a steep learning curve, however.
  • Kotlin – Kotlin is the most recently introduced Android language and the secondary official Java language; it is similar to Java, but in many ways, a little easier to get your head around.
  • C/C++ — Android Studio supports C++ with the use of the Java NDK. This allows for native coding, which can be handy for things like games. C++ is more complicated, though.
  • C# — C# is a slightly more beginner-friendly alternative to C or C++ that obfuscates more code.  It’s supported by some very handy tools like Unity and Xamarin, which are great for game development and cross-platform development.

The best way to develop an Android app is to go ahead and download Android Studio. This is a piece of software called an IDE, or Integrated Development Environment. It is offered as a package with the Android SDK, which is nothing but a set of tools used to facilitate Android development. This will give you everything you need in one place to get up and get going.

The official tutorials and documentation from  Google are referred to in this method and you will find the largest number of libraries and free code to enhance your apps, and tutorials that focus on this method.

Life is much better with Android Studio, which has been gathering strength over the last few years. Features like the visual designer and suggestions make the process smoother, while advanced, powerful features are being added all the time to give developers access to things like cloud storage with easy implementation.

Java

For any mobile app developer around the world, the first and the most preferred programming language for an Android app is Java, one of the reasons being that it’s simply the official language of Android app development, which means it is one of the most supported languages by Google and the one that most apps in the Play Store are built with.

Java itself was developed by Sun Microsystems way back in 1995, and it is used for a wide range of programming applications. Java code is run by a virtual machine, which runs on Android devices and interprets the code.

Unfortunately, Java is also a little complicated and it’s not a great language to deal with if you are a beginner. This is the biggest hurdle faced by people who plan to get into Android app development. Java is an object-oriented programming language with confusing topics like constructors, null pointer exceptions, checked exceptions, and a lot more. It’s not terribly readable and you’ll use a lot of code for simple things.

If you add in the Java SDK, things might get more complicated still – a first-time coder can struggle to know what’s Java and what’s Android! Development using this route also requires a basic understanding of concepts like Gradle, like the Android Manifest and the markup language XML. There are a lot of communities in Java for this reason, and it’s also one of the most versatile and widely used.

So, is it the best programming language you need to learn? Definitely — especially for those who want the full Android development experience, diving into Java is the best place to start, if you ask me.

For those who are worried about the complex code, it’s possible to work largely with the designer and to follow tutorials for anything more complicated. But, if you’re a beginner and you’re looking forward to making a game, or you just want to start learning for the sake of learning and you’d like to get some rewarding projects off the ground, then I recommend you start with something easier and come back to this once you’ve got a bit more grounding.

Kotlin

Kotlin recently burst onto the scene as the “other” official language for Android development. Some speculations suggest that this was likely to raise the language’s profile and that it could possibly become the next Swift.

Just like Java, Kotlin runs on the Java Virtual Machine. It’s also completely interoperable with Java and doesn’t cause any hurdles or increase in the size of the files.

The main difference is that Kotlin requires less “boilerplate” code, which means that it is a more streamlined and easy-to-read system. It also does away with errors like null point exceptions and even excuses you from ending every line with a semicolon. This is a great programming language if you’re just learning to develop Android apps for the first time.

With that said, you know that Kotlin is definitely an easier starting point for beginners, and the fact that you can still use Android Studio is a big plus. It’s still not quite as simple to pick up as, say, C# with Unity, though, and the community support is in its relative infancy. In fact, you currently need to download a beta version of Android Studio in order to get the out-the-box support.

But still, Kotlin should definitely be on your radar and could offer an easier entry point to “proper” Android development, which is likely why Google introduced it in the first place.

C/C++

If you ask me, it’s not really recommended to choose this route to develop an Android app. Android Studio offers support for C/C++ using the Android Native Development Kit. this means you’ll be writing code that doesn’t run on the Java Virtual Machine, but rather runs natively on the device and gives you more control over things like memory.

For more intense applications like 3D games, this will let you juice out some extra performance from an Android device, which also means that you’ll be able to use libraries written in C or C++. However, it also tends to be much harder to set up, it introduces more bugs, and it is less flexible. And if you did want to create a game for a computer, you’d probably be better off using a ready-made game engine.

C#

C# is basically an easier, purely object-oriented version of C and C+ development by Microsoft. Microsoft’s basic aim was to bring the power of C++ and the ease of Visual Basic, and it reads a little like a simplified version of Java.

Similar to Java, C# is garbage collected, meaning you don’t need to worry about things like memory leaks and freeing up memory yourself. At the same time, though, C# is more modern than Java with a cleaner syntax — though this may just be my own bias coming through. The best language to develop Android apps often just comes down to taste.

If you want a particularly easy and welcoming introduction to Android app development, though, then I recommend the combination of C# and Unity.

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