Kotlin or Java: Which Should You Choose for Android Development?

Written By Premjith B P K

Google announced Kotlin as their official language at the Google I/O conference in 2017. This sudden announcement created confusion in the minds of wannabe Android developers. The major question was whether to focus on Java or Kotlin.

The interesting part is that Kotlin is not a new language overall. It has existed for quite some time now. But Google introduced Kotlin as an additional language so that one can use it for natively developing Android software.

This post will help shine some light on your decision to focus on either Kotlin or Java. And I hope it will help you in your programming career, which is constantly changing. Staying updated is essential for developers.

I think if you’re new to developing, you should go for Kotlin. But if you’ve been around awhile, it’s up to you. Why do I think that? Let’s go through the pros and cons, and then I’m going to tell you what I think is better.

Java: Write Once, Run Anywhere!

The Java programming language was developed by Sun Microsystems (owned by Oracle) based on the object-oriented programming concept.

The Android programming language is similar to Java both in terms of syntactics and semantics. There are various pros and cons when compared to the Kotlin programming language.

Pros of Java

Java helps you to code more in less time. And it can handle larger projects with ease, since it makes use of the accelerated assembly code with Gradle. Also, learning Java is easier because a lot of reference materials are available on the internet.

Cons of Java

The chance of errors and bugs is higher in Java, since you write a lot more code. The Android application programming interface (API) design still creates a problem with Java due to its inherent characteristics. It consumes a lot of memory compared to other programming languages, so it works much more slowly.

Kotlin: A Better Way to Java

Kotlin is an open-source programming language used for Java Virtual Machine and JavaScript. Kotlin was created by JetBrains, the think tank behind IntelliJ, with the idea of developing highly productive Android apps. It supports running in parallel with Java, and can even compile it to JavaScript. This allows developers to update existing Java apps to Kotlin.

Below, check out the various advantages and disadvantages of Kotlin.

Pros of Kotlin

Kotlin is faster in writing code when compared to Java, so it becomes a favorite for developers. Hence the chance for bugs and errors is much less. Kotlin is a delight when dealing with Android API creation, and it supports the usage of Java libraries and frameworks, thanks to the Java bytecodes.

Kotlin allows the use of null, which is absent in the Java programming language. Android makes use of null to represent the absence of a value. Kotlin also provides an Anko library, which helps developers in times of difficulty. Moreover, GitHub provides a vast collection of projects.

Cons of Kotlin

The effort required for learning Kotlin is high due to the tough syntax.

The compilation speed of Kotlin is a bit slow compared to Java, but it still overpowers Java in multiple instances. One such instance is while developing clean builds. Mostly, the developers deal with building partial builds, where the incremental compilation makes large improvements.

Another drawback is the unavailability of learning materials for beginners when compared to Java.

Also, finding experienced programmers or developers in Kotlin is a little difficult, as the majority of them are still learning it. Some features of Android Studio, like auto-complete and compilation, consume a little more time, which is not the case with Java.

Kotlin Is Worth the Effort

Adapting your team to the latest programming language may create some initial confusion, but this can be overcome through a slow but steady process. It’s similar to the situation where iOS development was moved entirely to the Swift programming language.

Kotlin is the promising programming language for Android app development.

Kotlin is highly modern in nature, and it’s sure to become widely adopted in the future, since Google has declared Kotlin as their official language for Android app development.

It is always best to keep your skills up-to-date, and in this case, that’s learning Kotlin. But Java has been around for quite some time and will not be entirely replaced soon. So do the proper research and move on wisely.