Swift vs Objective C: Best Platform for iOS Development (2024 Comparison)

Swift vs Objective C:

Best Platform for iOS Development

(2024 Comparison)

Both Swift and Objective-C have key features unique to each, significant for various use cases.

By Ronald Tuch

By Ronald Tuch

Swift vs Objective C Best Platform for iOS Development 2024 Comparison

The dispute between Swift vs Objective C has raged between iOS developers for years, quibbling over the best language for native app development. As a business owner or lead developer, the decision can greatly impact the development process. Making it a vital decision for saving time and money.

As newer developers have entered the market, one of these options has become the preferred language by far. According to Apple, Swift hastens the development process and promises a large jump in performance.

However, through experimentation in the community, developers have found examples where this may not always be the case! Yes, even the tech industry has its pivotal moments.

A trusted expert iOS developer can guide you through these important decisions in your app development journey, including when different programming languages may be advantageous for app performance. So it’s important you have access to an exceptional team.

Let’s find out why Swift may be better and if the decision is as clear as we think in the Swift vs Objective C debate.

What is Swift?

Apple created Swift, a contemporary language for iOS, to accelerate app creation.

Swift is a modern programming language developed by Apple for the iOS ecosystem to speed up the app development process. It’s the successor of Objective C for iOS apps.

Launched in 2014, Swift incorporates elements of various programming languages to provide a more accessible and powerful tool for developers. Its clean and expressive syntax is known for forming more readable and maintainable code.

It supports both object-oriented and functional programming paradigms.

Swift has quickly become the preferred language for native iOS app development. It also boasts a good-sized community with a wide range of documentation and resources, benefiting from open-source code.

Key Features of Swift

  • Type inference
  • Safety management
  • Dynamically typed
  • Polymorphism, if implemented by type-casting
  • Memory management
  • Open-source & community support
  • Works with Objective C

Advantages of Swift Programming Language

  • Faster development time compared to Objective C
  • More beginner-friendly due to its easier syntax
  • Fast feedback shows errors in code written
  • Safer code due to error feedback
  • Automatic memory efficiency with APR
  • Single code file
  • Can integrate dynamic libraries
  • Playgrounds for learning and development
  • Increasing community support

Disadvantages of Swift Programming Language

  • Limited use in legacy codebases
  • Less mature ecosystem
  • Limited platform compatibility
  • Longer build times
  • Lack of toolkit support outside of XCode
  • Less Swift developers available to hire

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What is Objective-C?

Objective-C, established in the early 1980s and acquired by Apple, has been a foundational language for iOS app creation.

Objective-C is a programming language that was integral to iOS app development. It was developed in the early 1980s and later bought by Apple.

Apple still uses Objective C for its iPhone operating system (iOS).

It’s a high-level and general-purpose object-orientated programming language. The language is well-established due to its maturity and remains relevant despite being an older programming language.

Although Swift has become the primary language for new iOS projects. Objective-C is useful for businesses wanting to extend existing iOS application functionality.

Key Features of Objective C

  • Brings together C and Smalltalk languages
  • Dynamic typing
  • Dynamic run time
  • Message Passing
  • Object-oriented programming
  • Manual reference counting
  • Integrates C code
  • Works with Swift

Advantages of Objective C Language

  • Mature coding language
  • Powerful language performance
  • Proven stability due to its maturity
  • Compatibility with C & C++

Disadvantages of Objective C Language

  • Slower development time
  • Developers need to self-test for bugs
  • Automatic memory management needs to be added with Cocoa API
  • Two file maintenance
  • Lengthy code
  • No support for dynamic libraries
  • Slow compile time
  • Limited modern language features
  • Less community activity in recent years
  • App may be easier to hack due to code age

Swift vs Objective C: In-Depth Comparison

Both Swift and Objective-C have key features unique to each, significant for various use cases.

Let’s evaluate the key features in a head-to-head fight to determine which is the winner between Objective-C and Swift in the realms of iOS programming languages.

Performance

Swift, as the name suggests, was initially faster than Objective C. This is why Swift replaced Objective C as Apple’s native app development language.

Objective C is also fast but can’t compete with Swift in speed and performance. This may not be true for all cases, as one study found. However, the study is based on an older version of Swift.

If developing a new iOS app, it makes sense to develop in Swift and use elements of Objective-C for better performance. Ultimately, you are getting the best of both worlds; however, you would want Swift as your main code base.

Winner: Swift

Documentation

Objective C was released over 30 years ago and has extensive documentation. It was also the founding language for iOS app development.

Swift is a newer programming language, so there is less supporting documentation. However, its growing popularity means its documentation library is increasing. Newer documentation may only be available for Swift in the future.

Despite this, Objective-C’s maturity scores the win on documentation.

Winner: Objective C

Speed

Speed is a huge factor when choosing between two programming languages.

Apps using Swift are faster in most cases, performing better than Objective-C apps. Swift takes less development time and promises better performance speeds thanks to its highly optimized code.

Creating a fast-performing Objective C app is possible. However, Objective C developers must work on creating concise syntax, adding to development time. It has a slower compile time due to its static library vs Swift’s dynamic libraries.

Developers have found specific examples where Objective C performs better, but these are on older versions of Swift. Swift 5.9 has significant upgrades improving speed.

Swift’s efficient architecture wins.

Winner: Swift

Syntax

Objective C’s syntax is complicated and long. The language uses many brackets, symbols, and semicolons. It isn’t easy to learn and implement.

Swift enables developers to quickly pick up the language, as it’s more similar to English. The concise nature of Swift results in fewer lines of code for the same operations.

There’s really no competition on this one; Swift leaves Objective C in the dust!

Winner: Swift

Time-Efficiency

Swift is time-efficient due to its concise syntax and reduces time spent writing code. Swift also has fast feedback to debug and a faster compile time.

Objective C is lengthy and complex in comparison. It lacks the features of modern languages, such as type safety, memory management, and type interference to speed up development. One of the largest disadvantages of Objective C.

Winner: Swift

Compatibility

The compatibility of an iOS programming language can be a make-or-break key feature.

Swift has limited cross-platform compatibility compared to other frameworks. It supports iOS, Linux, and Windows (since 2020).

Objective C is compatible with C and C++ since it’s a superset of C objective features; however, it has limited use outside Apple app development.

If you’re looking for a cross-platform solution to develop an iOS and Android app. Flutter, React Native, and Xamrin are popular programming languages. If you’re unsure which framework to use, we can help you decide with an expert developer.

Winner: Swift

Maturity

Objective C has been around for a longer time since the early 1980s.

Swift, in comparison, is still a young programming language since 2014.

Swift can’t really compete on maturity; it’s a young programming language.

Winner: Objective C

Stability

Objective-C’s status as a legacy language offers stability and doesn’t require updating. It’s compatible with all versions of iOS.

Swift, a newer programming language, requires updates from Apple to improve performance and fix errors. These updates can create issues with older iOS systems. Resulting in the need to hire developers.

Swift also doesn’t support iOS 6 or older.

Age is the advantage for stability.

Winner: Objective C

File Handling

Swift is a single codebase, both for interface and implementation.

Objective C requires two separate code files. This results in more work for the developers and is tedious to work on. It’s possible to put it in a single file, but it’s not the standard configuration, requiring work from developers.

Due to its single file, Swift is the clear winner in this round.

Winner: Swift

Memory Management

Swift uses Automatic Reference Counting (ARC), removing the need for developers to write code to deallocate memory usage.

Objective-C’s default for memory management is manual retain-release (MRR), also called manual reference counting (MRC). This means an error in developer code can cause excessive memory usage.

Using ARC instead of MRR is recommended for Objective C. However, ARC must be enabled with Cocoa API and requires additional setup.

This gives Swift a clear fighting advantage.

Winner: Swift

Advanced Features

Advanced features can greatly influence a coder's decision to prefer one option over the other.

Swift, a modern programming language, introduces advanced features like optionals, generics, and functional programming constructs. These elements enhance code safety, readability, and expressiveness for efficient development.

Additionally, Swift incorporates Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) for memory management.

Objective C is older and lacks advanced features. One feature is using message passing to have a dynamic runtime system. This allows your app to adjust and modify its behavior for efficiency.

Objective C programming language can’t compete with the advanced features of Swift.

Winner: Swift

Community and Support

The community and support landscape for Objective-C and Swift reflects the evolution of iOS app development.

Objective-C benefits from a mature, established community and a wealth of resources.

Swift has become the language of choice for many new projects and Apple’s focus for new releases. As the tide shifts towards Swift, less of the community contributes to support for Objective C.

Swift is better for businesses wanting to future-proof their app in the long-term for community and support.

Winner: Swift

Popularity and Growth Potential

The final round!

An increasing number of developers are using Swift. Cross-platform compatibility is increasing with the addition of Windows in 2020. Cross-platform solutions greatly save development time and costs, making them popular language choices.

Swift offers growth potential in iOS and cross-platform adoption prospects.

Objective C is only relevant as a legacy coding language and has little growth potential. Its verbose syntax is a drawback that is decreasing its popularity.

Despite its historical popularity, Objective C is no longer the preferred option for iOS development.

Winner: Swift

Swift vs Objective C: Final results

Swift: 10 vs Objective C: 3

The bell rings, and it’s a clear defeat for Objective C!

While Swift owes its very existence to this once-great programming language, sadly, Swift has taken the lead by a longshot in the Swift vs Objective C comparison.

The once-former champion of the native iOS ecosystem has to accept that it’s no longer the go-to language for iOS app development.

Is it time for Objective C to hang up its gloves? Let’s summarize the differences to see.

Swift vs Objective C: Summary of Differences

There are a number of differences in key features between Swift and Objective C that every mobile app developer should know.

Here is a table with comparisons of the key differences between Objective C and Swift:

This table shows the comparison by key features between Swift and Objective C.

Key Takeaways:

  • Swift stands out for its modern syntax, time efficiency, performance, and ease of use.
  • Objective-C has the advantage of being stable, mature, and established; however, it’s becoming outdated. Certain iOS libraries, APIs, and features may no longer be Objective C compatible.

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When Should You Choose Between Swift vs Objective-C?

There are a few questions to ask when deciding between the two programming languages:

  • How much time do you have until the application launch?
  • Is your existing team trained in Swift or Objective C?
  • Is your current iOS app written in Objective C?

If you’re limited on time till the application launch or you’re developing a new iOS app, Swift is the better option.

Swift greatly reduces development time and costs thanks to its straightforward syntax, templates, and libraries. Some newer iOS features, such as SwiftUI and Combine, only support Swift APIs. Plus, it’s compatible outside of the Apple ecosystem.

While Apple has said it will continue support for Objective C and has no plans to retire the language, this stance may change in the future, but it’s likely a long way off.

However, if you want to future-proof your app, then it may be cost-effective to switch to Swift to save on future development costs.

If a business has extensive legacy codebases or a team experienced in Objective-C, it may make sense to continue using Objective-C.

Converting an existing app to Swift can be difficult and timely. Another solution is to convert elements to Swift for better app performance.

This is where trusted, experienced developers can help give you the best advice for your project.

Get Started With Your Next Mobile App Development Project

Our top-tier iOS developers are ready to assist you with your development needs and make an informed choice between Swift and Objective C.

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We specialize in iOS app development and provide carefully selected, vetted developers to integrate seamlessly into your existing team using staff augmentation. This saves you the headache of finding and interviewing candidates.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to know Objective C to learn Swift?

No, there is no need to learn Objective C to learn Swift. They are two differing languages with different syntaxes. Swift code is much easier for beginner coders to learn.

Why Switch from Objective-C to Swift?

Switching parts of your Objective-C app to Swift will improve iOS app performance, architecture, and logic. Changing the entire application to Swift is the best option to future-proof your app and can be cost-effective due to its quicker development times.

We can help by having a quick call to see the best option for you based on your existing app or team.

Can I Mix Objective C and Swift?

Yes, you can use Swift and Objective C together in a single code file or work with Swift in Objective C code. This can be done with the header file or by using a Swift class reference file in Objective C.

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