So what is the ideal language for an Android developer to learn first? Which languages offer the least challenging learning curve, greatest scalability and versatility, and most “bang for your buck” in terms of becoming a successful Android developer as a career? Here are 3 languages you should know to become an Android developer, as well as the specific benefits and challenges that come with learning each.
Arguably the most widely used programming language in the world today, Java is also the most popular language currently used for Android app development (it was the first official language of Android development, although that mantle has been passed to Kotlin in more recent years). Currently, most of the mobile apps featured within the Google Play Store were created by using this language. One of the biggest reasons for this is that the Java language is supported by Google, which made it a natural choice for early Android developers, even though the language itself has been in existence since well before smartphones became the ubiquitous devices they are today. Java offers a significant benefit over many lesser known languages -- a massive existing global developer community that offers a greater library of tools, plugins, resources, and support networks than perhaps any other language.
To be clear, Java isn’t the easiest language for beginning coders to learn, and it requires experience working and writing code with it to create complex mobile apps and effectively tackle the app development process. Java is a complicated language for a beginner to use because it contains intricate topics like constructors, null pointer exceptions, concurrency, checked exceptions, and others that go beyond the more simplistic components of beginner-friendly languages like Python or Ruby. The Android Software Development Kit(SDK) adds in additional layers of complexity for learning the language and using it.
However, despite the steeper learning curve for Java, once you have mastered it, you can build elegant and user-friendly apps that can compete with anything that exists in the Google Play store today. And, Java offers a variety of other use cases outside of mobile development - meaning you can shift to a new area of development later in your career if you are interested in a change of pace from mobile development.
As the Google-official appointed successor to Java as its chosen language, Kotlin has rapidly grown to occupy a considerable market share in the Android development community. Developed just a few years ago and anointed by Google as the official Android language in 2019, Kotlin’s simplicity, efficiency, and cross-compatibility with Java make it an attractive option for developers, either new or experienced and looking for a new language to learn. Like any language designed with a specific use case in mind, Kotlin also offers enhancements and fixes that make it better suited to tackle coding challenges and problems that had long faced Java developers writing code specifically for Android apps.
By design, Kotlin offers a Java alternative with modern features, an attractive layout, and a more readable code. In comparison, Java is faster and more mature, more secure, and allows developers to write shorter codes. Kotlin also has limited uses outside of the Android development sector, which means it is a better option for people who want to specialize in the Android niche, or who will have the time to learn additional languages later in their careers instead.
You can think of this as option 3A and 3B, as C# and C++ are different variations of the C base language that share some major characteristics, but also offer their own unique upsides and downsides for Android development.
While C++ is not the easiest language for new developers to master, it offers an excellent option for building advanced and powerful Android apps. C++ is one of the most popular development languages globally, and is widely employed for creating operating systems, video gaming platforms, and 3D films. Android development with C++ is attractive because of the excellent performance users experience since the code runs natively on the smartphone. However, this feature is a double edged sword, since it also makes development tasks challenging. Although C++ has massive features and remains one of the best tools for designing Android games, learning it will require a significant investment of time and effort.
Meanwhile, C# combines some of the best features of both Java and C++. This integration makes it suitable for a variety of development tasks, spanning from games to advanced Windows-based programs, and more recently, Android apps. First developed and released in 2000, this Microsoft-owned technology has built up a large developer community over the past two decades thanks to its easier learning curve and wide array of use cases. C# also features several improvements over the previous iterations of the C language, such as object-oriented programming. C#’s combination of versatility and easier principles to learn make it another great option for new Android developers to learn.