After the 2017 chapter of Google IO, the Android developers worldwide have two programming language options, respectively Java and Kotlin. Google announced Kotlin as the first language for Android development. Kotlin in that same event was introduced as the official language for Android app development. But this also made the beginning of a dilemma, whether the Android developers should learn Kotlin or Java.

Many would suggest that Java is still irreplaceable if you are a beginner in Android app development. But in case you are a seasoned Android developer who has already mastered the Java skills for building apps, learning Kotlin should be given a priority for the sheer advantage of being more productive and fast-paced. Let us explain this first before going to mention the key differences between the two languages and their respective pros and cons.

Why Android Beginners Still Should Learn Java? 

Java has been a programming language that has seen an entire round of evolution for more than two decades and as a language, it played an instrumental role in the development of many other programming languages, tools, and OS platforms. The core concept of Android and all its attributes can be ascribed to the brilliance of Java. So, beginning with Java means a new developer will be in a solid ground to prosper as a developer while always remaining open to learning new languages. Obviously, beyond Android app development service, Java developers will have a whole array of opportunities.

The second most important thing is that Java boasts of a huge community of developers who will always come to the rescue from any technical issues or development problems or dilemma experienced by a beginner. Moreover, as and when you search on Google for a problem related to Java, you are likely to get hundreds of answers, suggestions, content and blog posts with relevant insights or guidance. The same us very unlikely to happen with a new language like Kotlin.

Why Java Developers Should Learn Kotlin? 

Let us now address the second proposition, why Android developers with Java skills should learn Kotlin? Well, the reason is quite simple and already overemphasised. Kotlin programming language boosts productivity to the never-before proportion giving Android projects a competitive edge.

With Kotlin the programmers need to learn a lot less. For example, if a class is written with 50 lines of Java code, the same can be written with just one line. This becomes possible because Kotlin allows you to do away with all the boilerplate code, equals, hashcode or toString methods.

Now that the basic value propositions of both Java and Kotlin are clear to us, let us explain each programming language in their own light along with the features and respective pros and cons.

Java

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Java developed way back in ’90s by Sun Microsystems and presently owned by Oracle is basically an object-oriented programming language. Having passed through decades of evolution Java has become one of the most matured programming languages that has an elementary role to play way beyond the Android development. If you are not focused to become only an Android developer and want to try other programming facets, Java is a valuable language option.

Let us explain the key pros and cons of Java.

-> Pros

  • Robust programming language for multifaceted use.
  • Manageable learning curve.
  • Great language for both native and cross-platform apps.
  • As Android is built with Java, the developers have wider access to Java libraries.
  • Java with plenty of libraries offers a free and open-source ecosystem.
  • Java ensures building lean and fast apps with sophisticated user experience.
  • Accelerated assembly with Gradle helps Java developers to bring together large projects easily.

-> Cons

  • Java as a language that requires typing a lot of code enhances the chances of committing errors and consequent bugs.
  • Java required to write a lot more code actually makes the development process slower.
  • Java because of its own limitations cannot work well with the Android API design.
  • Because of the huge volume of code for simple functions, Java actually grabs more memory than other languages and this often results in slower speed of the app.

Kotlin

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Kotlin was introduced to the Java developers just when age-old Java development practices needed a fresh breath of energy.  Developed by JetBrains, Kotlin came as an open-source, productive language based on Java Virtual Machine (JVM). The best thing about the language us that you can compile the same with JavaScript and interoperate it with Java. This allows the old Android apps built with Java to be updated with Kotlin besides allowing the developers to update the old Java code to Kotlin.

-> Pros

  • Kotlin offers a faster pace of coding as the language requires lesser lines of code. 50 lines of code written in Java can only take 1 or 2 lines of code. This gives Kotlin an edge in terms of productivity.
  • Less lines of code also help Kotlin apps with a lesser scope of bugs and errors.
  • Kotlin also helps in building lean and low-footprint APIs
  • Kotlin is highly interoperable with Java. By using Java bytecode, the Kotlin developers can always use Java libraries and Java frameworks.
  • Kotlin by using the null value in its code type system makes Android development easier when you need to represent the absence of a value.

-> Cons

  • It involves a steep learning curve because of the highly concise and stripped-off syntax.
  • When it comes to the compilation, Kotlin is much slower.
  • Kotlin still boasts of a very small community of developers with least exposure and experience.
  • With a lack of community support, often finding mentors and guidelines online for programming issues becomes difficult.

Conclusion: So, Java or Kotlin? 

As a conclusion, we should meet this question head-on. To be honest and precise, Kotlin as the most advanced programming language for Android can no longer be avoided but a seasoned and expert Java developer can always stick to his gut instinct and build apps in Java. While Java will continue to remain popular for years to come, developers need to update first to Kotlin for a better competitive edge.

At the same time, it is about being comfortable as well. The learning curve of Kotlin may take some time for Java developers to switch. But once one can switch to Kotlin, the productive advantages instantly appeals to his understanding. So, making a choice between these two programming languages is still relative in spite of the fact that Kotlin offers an edge over Java.

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