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The Newest Player in Android Programming

A Look at Kotlin, Google’s Official Language for Android Apps

Throughout 2016, Kotlin was consistently named a rising star among the coding languages for Android apps. Its first official release in February 2016 was welcomed as an alternative to the then-current Java and Android languages. While its popularity grew throughout 2016, in 2017 Kotlin is poised for a breakout year. The language is experiencing unrivaled success, with many Android developers and programmers making Kotlin their language of choice. That begs the question, should your developer be knowledgeable of Kotlin?

The Team Behind Kotlin

Kotlin comes to us from JetBrains, a software development company that has been creating developer tools for over 15 years. Jetbrains is based in Saint Petersburg, Russia, but has offices around Europe and a major hub in Prague. The company began developing Kotlin back in 2010 along with another coding language called MPS. While Kotlin looked to tackle some of the issues coding for Java and Android, MPS is a language that allows users to extend DSLs and begin building end-user applications.

Prior to the success of these coding languages, JetBrains was most commonly associated with its development of IDEs. It is a company accustomed to addressing some of the biggest difficulties for software developers and project managers. Part of the reason Kotlin for Android is doing so well, is that it approached coding from an industry perspective, not an academic one.

An Introduction to the Budding Android Language

Kotlin is a statically-typed programming language. It runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and targets different multiplatform applications, like JVM, JavaScript, and Native. It can be utilized for any development, whether that is client-side, server-side, or Android. Developers are using it to build mobile and server-side applications, but the space where Kotlin has gained popularity is coding for Android. The language works well for Android because it is object-oriented, but still has functional constructs.

Kotlin is developed under the Apache 2.0 license, which makes it open source and entirely free to use. There is also a certainty that Kotlin will remain free, which aids its popularity among developers. The source code for Kotlin is available on GitHub.

The team at JetBrains has said from the start that Kotlin is a better Android language than Java. Yet, it was built to be interoperable with Java code, which likely helped developers adapt to the newcomer. JetBrains placed special emphasis on ensuring that Kotlin would integrate with existing coding and proper interaction with existing code. The IDE from JetBrains even has an automated Java-to-Kotlin converter.

Is It Better Than Java?

There is a growing opinion that Kotlin is a better language for Android programming than Java. Experts in the industry are predicting that use and proliferation of Kotlin will only increase over the next few years, and it is possible that Kotlin will overtake Java in a short period of time. Part of Kotlin’s rapid rise was due to deep-seated frustration with Java. Kotlin capitalized on the inherent issues with Java for Android. Here are a few of the adjustments JetBrains made when writing Kotlin.

First, Kotlin is leaner. It is a more concise language that eliminates many of the clunky syntax issues found in Java. Demonstrations of Kotlin often include the presenter showing how one line of Kotlin code can accomplish the same thing as 87 lines of Java. Overall, it is estimated that Kotlin cuts the amount of code needed across functionality by 40%. Even where Kotlin is not shorter than Java it is more readable.

Second, Kotlin is also safer for Android than Java. As a statically-typed language, Kotlin avoids an entire set of errors that are common in Java, which is a dynamically-typed language. For example, with Java, developers often find errors where variables configured for a specific data accidentally point to a different type of data. These are called null pointer exceptions, and this frustration is completely avoided with Kotlin.

Relationship Between Google and Kotlin

One company that seems to think Kotlin is a better option than Java for Android is Google. In mid-May Google announced that it would support Kotlin as a first-class Android language. This is the first JVM language to gain this designation from Google. Gaining the support of the industry’s biggest player is a huge kudos for the team at Jetbrains, but what it means for the future growth of Kotlin is even more important. Google’s announcement should make coding with Kotlin on Android even easier and more natural.

While Google was careful to clarify that it is not leaving Java and that Google will continue to provide full support for Java 8, this announcement about Kotlin is a signal to developers already seeking a different Android language. Supported by Google, Kotlin becomes the obvious choice.

Switching to Kotlin

If you want to know what tools your developer uses, simply ask! At Nixa we are happy to discuss the programming languages we support and why. We also provide insight into how changing your Android language could ease certain pain points for your business. Contact us today to learn more.


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