Swift vs Objective C - Top Programming Languages Compared

Swift vs Objective C: A Comprehensive Guide for iOS Developers

As an iOS developer, choosing the right programming language can have a significant impact on your development process and the quality of your applications. Two languages stand out when it comes to iOS app development: Objective C and Swift.

Objective C, a subset of the C programming language, has been the backbone of iOS application development for many years. However, Swift, a new programming language developed by Apple, has emerged as a powerful contender.

This article offers a detailed comparison of these two programming languages, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses, and key differences. By the end of this post, you should have a clearer picture of which programming language might be better suited to your needs.

The Dawn of Objective C

Objective C is an object-oriented programming language that was instrumental in the early days of iOS app development. As a superset of the C programming language, it introduced object syntax and other features, making it more suitable for the dynamic nature of graphical user interface programming.

Dynamic Nature:Objective C is renowned for its dynamic nature, allowing developers to make last-minute changes, employ dynamic libraries, and even alter the course of code at runtime.

Memory Management:Objective C uses a technique known as Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) for memory management. ARC handles the process of deallocating objects that are no longer in use, relieving developers of this task. However, it also presents challenges related to dangling or uninitialized pointers.

Backward Compatibility:Objective C offers excellent backward compatibility. This means you can use it to update or maintain older apps written in Objective C without the need for extensive rewrites.

Despite its advantages, the Objective C language comes with a steep learning curve, mainly due to its unique syntax. Objective C code also tends to be more verbose than modern programming languages, which can lead to more potential points of failure and longer code strings.

Swift: A Modern Alternative

Introduced in 2014, Swift is a modern programming language designed to be safer, faster, and more expressive than its predecessor, Objective C. Swift's features aim to make the development process simpler and more streamlined.

Code Safety:Swift was designed with code safety in mind. Its compiler errors stop at compile time before the code becomes an app. This feature helps to prevent errors like null pointer dereferencing, which leads to app crashes.

Memory Management:Swift also uses Automatic Reference Counting (ARC), just like Objective C. However, it also includes other features that make memory management even more efficient, such as type memory safety and avoiding common pitfalls like the aforementioned dangling or uninitialized pointers.

Modern Syntax:Unlike Objective C, Swift has a clean and modern syntax. It allows for more concise syntax, which results in code written in fewer code strings and enables developers to write code more efficiently and with less potential for error.

One of Swift's distinguishing features is its backward compatibility with Objective C. This means developers can use these two programming languages in a single project, making it easier to transition from Objective C to Swift gradually.

Swift vs Objective C: A Deeper Dive

Let's examine these two languages in more detail, considering key factors like syntax, memory management, and safety, to understand why you might choose Swift or Objective C for your next iOS application development project.

Syntax and Code Readability

Both Swift and Objective C are object-oriented programming languages, but they handle object-oriented code paths quite differently. Let's compare their syntax and how it affects code readability:

Objective C Syntax:

Objective C's syntax is a blend of C language and Smalltalk. Although powerful, it might appear strange to developers familiar with other modern languages. Non-object-oriented operations are written in C, leading to a mixture of styles that can be confusing.

Swift Syntax:

In contrast, Swift code's syntax is cleaner and more concise. Swift language uses a more straightforward syntax that is easier to read and write, resulting in fewer code strings. Its modern syntax is considered more similar to other popular languages like Python and JavaScript, making it a more comfortable choice for those coming from these languages.

Memory Management

Memory management is crucial in app development. It can affect your app's performance and user experience. Let's examine how these two languages handle it:

Objective C and ARC:

While Objective C uses Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) for memory management, it is not a memory-safe language. This means it's possible to have issues like dangling or uninitialized pointers, which can cause application crashes.

Swift and ARC:

On the other hand, the Swift programming language is a memory-safe language. It uses ARC, just like Objective C, but Swift’s compiler prevents many common memory management mistakes that Objective C developers can make.

Dynamic Libraries

Dynamic libraries play a significant role in reducing the initial size of an app, leading to quicker download times:

Objective C:

Objective C does not support dynamic libraries. This can result in larger app sizes and longer download times for end-users.


Unlike Objective C, Swift supports dynamic libraries, which are loaded into memory as and when required by the app, thereby reducing the initial size of the app. This support makes Swift a better choice for complex apps that need to maintain a manageable size.

Performance and Speed

The performance and speed of programming languages are critical factors to consider during the software development process. This is especially true for iOS mobile app development, which often requires high performance for smooth, responsive user experiences.

Objective C: Stable Yet Slower

Objective C has a remarkable stability objective. Being a superset of the C programming language, it was developed to add object-oriented features to the C language. While it is a powerful and flexible language, it does not excel in terms of speed:

Compile Time:

Objective C has a longer compile time due to its dynamic nature. This can slow down the development process, especially for larger apps.


Objective C uses dynamic typing, which might have an impact on its runtime performance. However, the effect is often negligible unless you're performing a significant number of operations.

Swift: The Need for Speed

The Swift language was designed to be fast. Apple claims that the Swift compiler is 2.6 times faster than Objective C and even 8.4 times faster than Python:

Compile Time:

Swift, with its more modern language features, usually compiles faster than Objective C. This could mean a quicker development process and shorter time to market for Swift-based apps.


Swift uses static typing, resulting in significant performance improvements during runtime. It also makes extensive use of compile-time optimizations to boost the speed of the apps even further.

Community Support and Resources

When it comes to choosing a programming language, community support and available resources play a significant role. This is especially crucial for new developers learning a new language, and experienced developers alike who often rely on community resources and third-party tools to solve complex problems.

Objective C: Established but Diminishing

With its roots in the late 1980s, Objective C boasts a large base of experienced developers and a wealth of long-standing resources:

  • Community:With its roots in the late 1980s, Objective C boasts a large base of experienced developers and a wealth of long-standing resources:
  • Resources:With its roots in the late 1980s, Objective C boasts a large base of experienced developers and a wealth of long-standing resources:
  • Learning Materials:

    There is a wealth of learning materials available for Objective C, but newer developers might find the syntax and certain concepts more challenging than in modern programming languages.

    Swift: Growing and Vibrant

    Launched in 2014, Swift has quickly gained popularity due to its modern syntax and safety features:

  • Community:Swift's community is vibrant and growing rapidly. Swift developers often share innovative solutions and contribute to expanding the language's capabilities.
  • Resources:Swift boasts a growing number of modern, powerful libraries and frameworks. Moreover, it's an open-source language, allowing for widespread collaboration and improvement.
  • Learning Materials:With its more concise syntax and safety features, many find Swift easier to learn. Swift also has extensive learning resources available, including Apple's own tutorials and guides.
  • When to Choose Objective C or Swift?

    When choosing between the two programming languages, Swift and Objective C, the decision often comes down to the specific needs and goals of your iOS app development project.

    Objective C: Stability and Legacy Code

    Choose Objective C if:

  • Legacy Code Maintenance:If your project involves working with existing Objective C code, it's logical to stick with it, particularly if it's a large codebase. Migration to Swift can be time-consuming and may introduce new bugs.
  • Third-Party Libraries:If your project relies heavily on specific third-party libraries or tools that are better supported in Objective C, you might consider using it.
  • Swift: Modern Syntax, Safety, and Future Development

    Choose Swift if:

  • New Project:Swift is a great choice for new projects. Its more concise syntax, type memory safety, and features such as automatic reference counting (ARC) for memory management make Swift a modern language that speeds up the development process.
  • Code Safety:If you prioritize code safety, Swift offers several features to avoid common programming errors, such as dangling or uninitialized pointers. It reduces the possibility of code crashes and eases debugging.
  • Dynamic Libraries:Swift supports dynamic libraries, which are loaded into memory as needed, reducing the initial size of your app and increasing performance.
  • Future-Proofing:Swift is a forward-thinking choice. With its growing popularity and strong support from Apple, choosing Swift ensures that your app will be compatible with future updates and features.
  • The choice between Swift and Objective C will largely depend on the context of your project and personal preference. Swift offers a host of modern features and is geared towards the future of iOS mobile app development. Objective C, on the other hand, provides stability and is a suitable choice when dealing with legacy code or certain third-party libraries.

    Conclusion: Comparing Swift and Objective C for iOS App Development

    As we've delved into the comparison of the Swift language vs. Objective C, we've seen that both programming languages have their strengths and are well-equipped for iOS app development on Apple platforms.

    Swift, the newer and more popular language, offers several advantages such as a modern syntax, safety features, support for dynamic libraries, and ease of writing code. It is a forward-thinking choice for any developer looking to build efficient, future-proof applications.

    Objective C, on the other hand, while lacking some of Swift's modern features, continues to hold its place in the realm of iOS app development. It provides stability and is especially handy when dealing with legacy code and specific third-party libraries. Objective C is also preferable when working with large separate files due to its dynamic nature.

    In the end, the choice between the two languages, Objective C and Swift, comes down to your specific project requirements and personal preference as a developer. Each has its merits and demerits, and neither can be declared a universally superior choice.

    When evaluating Swift programming language vs Objective C, it's vital to consider the unique demands of your project, your team's proficiency in each language, and the desired app performance. Whatever your choice may be, both the Swift programming, and Objective C are robust, capable languages that have powered some of the most popular apps on the App Store.

    This concludes our detailed examination of Swift vs. Objective C. We hope that this article has equipped you with the knowledge to make an informed decision about the best language to use for your iOS app development project.

    And remember, whether you choose Swift, Objective C, or even a completely new language, what matters most is not the tool you use, but how you use it to bring your app ideas to life. Happy coding!