How the mobile programming language landscape has evolved

By Jonathan Hassell

As you look back during this season of reflection, it’s clear that the mobile programming language world has undergone tremendous growth and change since its inception. However, which transitions has the world seen since the beginning of mobile development to now, the beginning of 2017?

Most experts agree that there are three key areas that have dramatically shifted over the time line:

The emergence of quality mobile development platforms

When the first smartphones and tablets came out, it was the Wild West — there was very little tooling for developers and no quality integrated development environments (IDEs). In addition, developers wrote apps in silos — iOS applications had to be written once in their mobile programming language and then be completely rewritten in order to be ported over to Android devices.

As the years have gone on, there has been a tremendous maturation of mobile development platforms. Developers can choose a specific provider to use when writing apps. Then, the platform will do the heavy lifting of targeting individual app versions for different device and operating system environments.

The app installation process

Curated app stores are a very recent development. Many mobile phones and early tablets required apps to be installed using their own installation routines, with each one written in its own mobile programming language. This led to no consistency or protection against malware or installation techniques that went against best practices.

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Developers now work within the guidelines of the platforms’ various app store submission guidelines, and there is a consistent, predictable way that apps install themselves on devices. This also makes them portable between multiple devices owned by the same person or entity, and it makes app removal much more straightforward. Users also appreciate the curated nature of the store, which greatly reduces the risk of fake apps or malware. Developers have to be members of special programs to get the right certifications and permissions to use app stores and test unreleased apps on their own devices.

New mobile programming language entrants specifically designed to take advantage of device features

The first mobile programming languages were often standard desktop and server application languages, with additional features bolted on to the specification. For Windows phones, think Visual Basic or C#. For iOS, Objective-C is basically the old C language with some modernization. Android uses a bunch of Java stuff that essentially was developed as a virtual machine language back in the late 1990s.

Now, Swift has emerged. Though it is based on Objective-C, it has undergone radical changes to tooling and syntax that make mobile development much more accessible and streamlined for both new and experienced mobile developers.

One thing is for sure: There is so much movement in the space that there will be even more giant transformations in mobile development in the years to come.

Photo by: iStock

Written By

Jonathan Hassell

President, 82 Ventures

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, NC. He centers his focus around network administrator, security, the cloud, and mobile technologies.

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