Kotlin VS Java: Which to Use for Android App Development?

You've decided to create an app for Android devices. This may be a project for your company, or just a hobby to make some spare change. Yet what type of language should you pick to build the app? Should you go with Java that has been around for 20 years, or the more modern Kotlin programming language?

It can be a tricky question, especially for new developers who want to keep up with current technologies while not being left behind when newer languages appear on the scene. In truth, both languages have their strengths and weaknesses, and the decision will typically come down to personal preferences. So let's go into what makes both of these languages great and some problems you may encounter.

Java for Android

Java has a distinct advantage when it comes to Android development because Android was written with this language. Sun Microsystems's object-oriented language has a 20-year lifespan and doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Its popularity is well-known, as developers enjoy its huge open-source ecosystem, flexibility and how easy it is to learn.

If you plan on making a cross-platform app, Java is definitely the way to go. It also has a faster build process and you can code more in less time. You can have lighter and compact apps with Java.

Cons with Java

Of course, even with 20 years under its belt, there are still some issues with Java. You'll see limitations with Android API design which simply can't be avoided. Also, you have to write a lot of code for Java. So if you aren't exact, you'll have errors and bugs in the app.

What is Kotlin?

Based on Java Virtual Machine, Kotlin is an open source statically-typed language. It is the newer language that came on the scene from JetBrains programmers as it can also be compiled on, and interoperated on, Java Script. In 2017, it was named the official language for Android.

So what stands out about Kotlin? First, you can build clean APIs and it is faster to write. You only need a few lines of code in Kotlin versus the 25-50 lines needed in Java. Kotlin also allows you to use the Java frameworks and libraries, as well as the Anklo Library. Developers can also find 2,000 projects using Kotlin on Github.

Second, the one thing that you will notice immediately is that Kotlin has a null in the type system. So you'll avoid the null issues that are common in Java. Lastly, Kotlin is more concise versus Java.

Cons with Kotlin

With all these great features, there's still some issues that you will encounter with the Kotlin programming language. Since it is still relatively new, there is a small developer community and finding someone to teach you this language can be tricky. But you'll definitely want to find someone who is well-versed because Kotlin has a really steep learning code because of the highly concise syntax. Kotlin also has a slower compilation speed and elements in Android Studios, such as auto-complete, also run slow as well.

Picking Between Kotlin VS Java

In all honesty, there’s nothing to stop you from learning both languages. If you are new to app development, start with Java and move to Kotlin. If you already know Java, it is probably in your best interests to know Kotlin to keep up with future changes. Simply pick the language you are most comfortable with and create amazing new Android apps.


Frequently Asked Questions

Java and Kotlin both have advantages and disadvantages. As far as usability goes, both are statically written, object-oriented languages. The creators of Kotlin have intentionally removed some of Java’s inadequacies and replaced them with something better. Arguably, this gives Kotlin an edge on usability. However, Java has been the choice for learning programming for decades. Even if Kotlin does offer some improvements on Java, it can’t take its place. Indeed, the two seem to be similar where ease-of-use is concerned.

Even though Kotlin and Java share many similar features, they aren’t based on the same system. Kotlin was developed by IDE Jet Brains, while Java was developed by Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle. The creators of both languages have chosen an object-based approach. Additionally, both languages are statically written. However, it is not critical that you know Java before learning to code Kotlin. Nevertheless, if you decide to learn the basics of Java, it might give you an edge when coding with Kotlin.