6 Best Programming Languages for Mobile App Development (2020)

best programming languages for mobile app development

How much time did you spend on your phone today?

An average smartphone user spent 2 hours and 55 minutes on a smartphone every day in 2019. This is longer than the time spent watching TV, or engaging with any other media.

About 90% of this time was spent in apps. Clearly, mobile apps are the biggest medium your customers are engaging with digitally.

Smartphone users have an average of 80 apps installed on their phone and use at least 40 of them every month.

40 a month is quite a lot. Maybe you could create an app that breaks into this top 40!

That’s right. 2020 was predicted to be a great year for app development anyway. But with the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become even more crucial that innovators like you step up to build more digital solutions like mobile apps to help the people and the economy.

A mobile app is the best way to either build a business from scratch, or increase your existing business and give it a digital edge. Because studies have proven time and again that businesses that have a mobile app engage customers better and see bigger revenues.

Backing that up is data from App Annie, stating that 90% of customers who enjoyed an app interaction will continue to buy from that company in the future.

In fact we have a wonderful post on out blog that gives you excellent statistics proving why apps are good for business.

So now that we’ve established all the reasons why you need to stop procrastinating and dive into app development right now, it’s time to get busy.

To bring your next-big-thing app idea to life, all you need is a good mobile app programming language – one that is easy to learn, futuristic and scalable. A good coding language for apps must have certain properties that not only help develop high performance apps but also make the developer’s life easier. How do they do that? I’ll answer that as we go through this post discussing the best programming languages for apps.

There are literally dozens of programming languages for mobile apps. If you had to wade through a list of 30 different coding languages to choose one for your app, you’d spend days just doing the research. To save you that precious time and trouble, I have compiled a list of top 6 languages, any of which will help you develop a fantastic mobile app.

Further, I’ve divided this list by the type of app you want to develop – iOS, Android or Hybrid – making the selection even easier for you. This way, you spend less time researching and more time actually developing your app.

So without further ado, let’s dive in.

Best programming languages for Native Android App Development

1. Java

25 years on, Java still remains the most popular programming language among developers, despite all the new entrants that made their mark. In a world where new technology quickly replaces old ones, none has been able to replace Java.

One of the biggest reasons why Java is the first choice of all app developers is because it is very easy to learn and get started with, and also offers wide-reaching community support which is an added help to new developers.

Don’t let the ease of learning, Java is a power-packed programming language for mobile apps. Some of the best Android apps have been developed using Java, including Spotify, Twitter and of course, the Android Operating System.

With the Android OS itself being developed in Java, you will be able to easily develop all android apps once you master Java. Some of the best features of Java include:

  • The simple, easy to understand syntax of Java is much more readable than Python and other coding languages used for mobile app development.
  • Being an Object-Oriented programming language, it handles the complexity of real-world applications better.
  • With its rich API, Java allows you to integrate much more into your app.
  • Java’s rich community support helps new developers truly hone their skills and never be stuck without any form of help. You can expect to find answers quickly and in adequate detail.
  • Another thing you’ll love about Java is that it is a strongly typed language. This means that it will catch many mistakes you make as a newbie.

To sum up, Java is one of the best programming languages for app development, especially if you’re starting out in the field of app development and need an android programming language that delivers on all counts.

2. Kotlin

If Java is the trusty old Corvette that never let you down, Kotlin is the efficient new Corvette Stingray that combines all the reliability of the old with the modernity of the new.

When Google announced Kotlin as a 100% first class language for Android development, app developers across the world were overjoyed.
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Kotlin takes the best of Java and goes a step further to make it even better. One of the things app developers love the most about Kotlin is its ease of use and setup. It is open source and completely free to use and works on any platform. Moreover, it supports almost all development environments.

Thanks to its being completely interoperable with Java, if you have some of your code already written in Java, you could just as easily use Kotlin for other parts of your project, without affecting any factors.

Kotlin could be one of the easiest coding languages to begin with as it is one of the cleanest statically typed programming languages used to create apps.

The documentation for Kotlin is extremely easy, detailed and fun, making for a fantastic learning experience as you begin your journey into coding languages for apps.
The Kotlin community is a large and thriving one with some renowned experts frequently available on GitHub and other forums, happy to answer any queries from other developers.

In fact, there’s even a Kotlin Slack Group where you could easily have your questions answered by some of the best known developers out there.

Jetbrains – the makers of Kotlin ensured that developer concerns were on top while developing the language. A safe Nullability system, Method references, Lambdas, a built-in Mutability/Immutability system and easy to use stream operators are just a few of the features developers always wanted, making Kotlin the best Android programming language.

Best Programming Language for Native iOS App Development

3. Swift

Soon after its release in 2014, Swift had an exponential rise in popularity and was rated the most loved programming language on Stack Overflow in 2015. Back then, Apple said their goal for Swift is “total and complete world dominance”, calling it a “modest goal” at that.

Now about six years later, we can already see Apple reaching towards that goal. Apple’s App store has nearly 500,000 apps written at least partially in Swift.

The very initiative with which Swift was created was Apple’s “Anyone Can Code”. Clearly, if you’re looking to get started in app development, Swift is your best programming language.

Some of the best apps you’ve heard of including Uber, Lyft, Square and Airbnb use Swift as their primary programming language for iOS apps.

Going by the Stack Overflow’s comprehensive developer survey, Swift programmers make an average of $120,000 in annual salary.

For anyone thinking about learning to code, Swift is the absolute best iOS programming language. It’s fast and easy to learn, created specially to be user friendly. It has built-in design features that give you real-time feedback. This helps you minimize errors and keep your code clean.

Swift also lets you write code faster as it cuts down a number of the menial tasks that normally slow developers down, and transforms complex code into optimized syntax, leaving developers happy and sorted.

Another reason Swift is perfectly suited for new developers is that it offers a number of built-in tools that help make development easier for you.

Swift Playgrounds is an app that Apple specially built to help beginners learn to code easily with community experts willing to teach. You can use this app to learn coding from scratch in a highly interactive and engaging environment.

4. Objective-C

While Swift has largely become the go-to programming language used for iOS app development today, its older sibling – Objective-C – still remains the wiser one for many developers.

Objective-C is a superset of C, the earliest of computer programming languages. This makes it highly compatible with C and C++ codes. It has been around for more than 30 years now and still remains a top choice when it comes to iOS programming languages.

Having been around so long, it has an unmatched level of maturity, as a highly approved, well tested coding languages that is behind hundreds of successful apps.

Objective-C is a very dynamic language, allowing you to choose between static typing and dynamic typing.

Connecting Objective-C with private API’s is easier and faster.

Being a highly dynamic, object oriented language, Objective-C offers you a great deal of adaptability at runtime. So you can access private API’s or even mock objects at runtime. This makes coding a whole lot faster and simpler.

Objective-C, having been around for a long time, is also one of the more stable languages that works excellently for a wide range of project types. It’s less error-prone, has fewer bugs and compiles easier than its counterparts.

Best Programming Language For Cross Platform App Development

5. React Native

React Native began as an internal hackathon project in Facebook, and turned out to be so good that it went on to become one of the best coding languages that could build apps that run on any platform.

That’s right, cross platform apps are apps that don’t need to be built separately for Android and iOS. So you get to build just one app and deploy it on both platforms, cutting your development work in half and increasing your reach by the double.

React Native is a robust programming language used for app development that is not limited to only one platform. It has been used in the development of widely popular apps like Uber and Airbnb. For various reasons, React Native is the future of hybrid apps.

React Native allows developers to write sections of code and reuse them on different platforms. Having deployed the code, they can easily adapt it for respective platforms by stylizing elements and detailing the finer nuances.

In addition to code reusability, React Native also has a number of pre-built components in an open-source library. This means that components already developed by other developed and uploaded to the library can be easily used by you, allowing a great deal of development speed.

React Native offers a simplified UI with a very well sorted implementation order. This makes apps built in React Native faster, more responsive, quicker to load and smoother to use. A number of supporting React Native libraries only make the job easier.

Another major advantage React Native offers is the third-party plugin support. So if your ecommerce app needs calendar support, you don’t have to build a calendar from scratch. React Native allows you to search for a pre-built calendar available for use (there are many) and simply integrate it in your app.

Modular architecture, live and hot reloading, declarative coding style, and a number of other capabilities make React Native especially well-suited to app development.

Making all of this even more worthwhile is rich community support and impeccable documentation. All-in-all, if you’re looking to get on board quickly and build a cross-platform app that’s faster, cheaper and still amazing, React Native is a fantastic mobile programming language.

6. Flutter

Flutter, developed by Google as a mobile app SDK, gives developers a quick and easy way to build rich, high performance mobile apps that can easily be deployed on both platforms.

Flutter is essentially a mobile app development framework that uses the coding language Dart, and has a rich library of widgets and tools to help build highly visual, immersive app experiences.

Thanks to its rich widgets, Flutter builds cross-platform apps that look and feel just as smooth as native apps. It enables faster code writing by fully utilizing code reusability. This means that you can use vast sections of your code as is on both platforms. All you do is add in a few defining UI elements individually to the app and you can have a fully functional cross-platform app in half the time and cost.

One of Flutter’s winning achievements is Hot Reload – the ability to see changes made to the code in real time as they change the app. So if you want to tweak any part of the app, make it look, feel or work differently, you can tweak the code and see how the changes happen real-time.

Since the code-base is smaller and same for both platform, Flutter requires much less testing than its native counterparts.

Not only does Flutter have a rich library of UI widgets to help you create visually stunning apps, but also it allows you to customize your widgets, really nailing in that rich native experience you covet in a programming language used for mobile apps.


So those are the 6 of the best programming languages for mobile app development. Of course there are a number of other wonderful languages like Ruby, Python and HTML5, but when starting out, it is best to choose the most popular ones and get to work instead of spending too much time researching 30 different languages.

Depending on whether you wish to build Android, iOS or cross-platform apps, you have to choose just one out of two now. I’m hoping that saved you precious weeks of reading and research, that you can now spend learning and developing your app.

No matter what you choose, all the languages in this list are perfectly capable of letting you build a fabulous app. So happy coding!

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Hiral Atha is the Founder and CEO of MoveoApps. She started coding even before she entered high school and today, she helps clients develop impactful mobile apps for their business. With over a decade of experience in mobile, she leads a team of young and experienced developers. When not leading an ambitious app development project, you’ll find her playing board games with her 6 years old son and piquing his curiosity in computer programming.

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