Apple introduced Swift in 2014, and it quickly became a favorite language of programmers in building applications for Apple products. In this article, we'll take a look at Swift in more detail and explore the different applications of this popular language.
Why is Swift unique?
The first language that worked best with Apple products was Objective-C. Initially, it was the best language to use on Apple platforms. But it was developed in the 1980s. By 2014, other programming languages had added more features that made development easier and programs run quicker. Swift was released that year as an optional language to use with Apple products, and it had a lot of the modern features that developers had been looking for.
Here are some of the ways that Swift simplified things for programmers that had been using Objective-C:
- Objective-C required semicolons at the end of each line, and Swift removed this requirement.
- In Objective-C, you had to declare the types of all variables before you used them, and in Swift, you didn't because types are inferred in the language.
- Swift took advantage of modern programming advancements, and programs written in Swift can run up to 2.6 times faster than Objective-C.
- Swift is easier to write and more concise than Objective-C. You can write a Swift app with less than half of the code of an Objective-C application.
- Swift is now open-source and cross-platform, so Swift code can run on Apple products and also Linux and Windows.
Needless to say, the Swift programming language gained popularity and became the top choice of developers who built apps for Mac OSX, the Apple iPhone, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. Let's look at what you can do if you know Swift.
How is Swift used?
Swift quickly bypassed Objective-C as the most popular Apple programming language. Let's take a look at how it's used.
iPhone and iPad app development
There are really only two languages you should choose from if you want to create an iPhone app that performs well and works seamlessly with iOS, Objective-C, and Swift. When it comes down to this choice, most developer's choose Swift because of the modern features of the language that make programming easier. Plus, according to Apple, Swift is up to 2.6 times faster than Objective-C.
With more people accessing the Internet through mobile phones, having a mobile presence is necessary for businesses. Swift is the most popular programming language for iPhone apps and a requirement for becoming an iOS developer.
MacOS desktop app development
While apps for iOS may be the most popular use for Swift, people still use desktops and laptops to get work done. If you want to create a desktop app for a Mac, you can use one of the many other general-purpose programming languages or use Apple's older language, Objective-C. But most Apple developers prefer Swift. And Swift just runs better on MacOS than other languages because it was designed to do so. For this reason, you will find that a large part of the apps in the App Store are written in Swift.
Apple Watch development
Over 100 million people own an Apple Watch. Over 35% of iPhone users in the US also own an Apple Watch. Watches have changed, and watch apps are in high demand. Watches are no longer just for telling time. For many people, they're an irreplaceable way to keep information handy at all times, even when their phone is not close. Watches also have more features than phones because they are in direct contact with your body and can provide biometric data to measure your heart rate and activity.
With Swift, you can build apps that run on the Apple Watch, which can interact with a user's iPhone, collect biometric data, and more.
Apple TV development
Swift is also used to develop apps for tvOS, the operating system that runs Apple TV. With Swift, you can create visual experiences with 4K resolution, Dolby Vision, HDR10, and Dolby Atmos — and an Apple TV is not even needed to run these apps. The Apple TV app is built into iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac. Using the Apple TV app, you can stream the app to most smart TVs.
Swift is also used for game development through tvOS. Picture in picture, multiuser capabilities, and game controller support is built into tvOS, giving Swift developers the ability to create modern video games.
Additional uses for Swift
Swift use is not limited to developing apps for Apple products. It was designed to be a general-purpose language. Since the release of version 2.2 in 2016, Swift can run on the Linux operating system. Following the release of version 5.3 in 2020, Swift is available for the Windows operating system. It is now a cross-platform programming language that can be used on the top three operating systems.
This means that Swift is being used to create web services and even web applications and, in the future, developers might find even more uses for it.
Learn more about Swift
Ready to learn more about Swift? The best place to start is our Learn Swift course. It'll teach the basics of programming and the fundamentals of the Swift language, so it's a great course for beginners. Learn Intermediate Swift is a good next choice to take your Swift skills to the next level. And if you want to build apps for the iPhone, then check out Build iOS Apps with SwiftUI.