To Build an Android App, You Need to Learn These 7 Programming Languages
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Android is closing in on a decade since it launched, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed the boat when it comes to learning how to make Android apps. In fact, there’s no better time to learn than now. Never before has there been so many effective ways to create awesome Android apps.

And since all new Chromebooks from here on out will be able to install and run Android apps All New Chromebooks Will Run Android Apps All New Chromebooks Will Run Android Apps Any new Chromebooks launched in 2017 and beyond will ship with access to the Google Play Store included as standard without the need for an update. Read More , the market for Android apps is growing. Don’t worry about being late — you aren’t. All you need to do is buckle in, take a deep breath, pick the right programming language, and start your journey.

But which programming language is right for you? Nobody can tell you what to use. It comes down to your programming history (or lack thereof) and which languages you feel most comfortable using. Fortunately, you have options. Here are the best languages to use as of this writing.But which programming language is right for you? Nobody can tell you what to use. It comes down to your programming history (or lack thereof) and which languages you feel most comfortable using. Fortunately, you have options. Here are the best languages to use as of this writing.

1. Java

You cannot go wrong with Java when making Android apps. It’s the official language of the system, it’s the second most active language on GitHub, and it’s been around for more than 20 years. All of this means that tutorials are abundant and you won’t have to worry about the language dying out anytime soon.

Since Java is so widely used across dozens of industries, we recommend starting with these books on Android-specific Java The 7 Best Android Books for Programming Beginners The 7 Best Android Books for Programming Beginners Do you want to make your first Android app? One of the best ways to learn programming is through books, so here are a handful of great Android books you may want to check out. Read More . Obviously the Java language itself is the same regardless, but there are certain paradigms and idioms that will help make better sense of Android app development, and that’s what most of these books aim to cover.

Note that Java, because it’s so old, lacks a lot of the finesse and features of newer languages. If you’re a newbie then this probably won’t affect you, but if you’re coming from a language like Swift, then Java may feel claustrophobic.

2. Kotlin

Kotlin is a language that was designed to run on the Java Virtual Machine. This means that Kotlin apps are compiled to Java bytecode, allowing Kotlin apps to run on any machine that supports the Java runtime environment — and since most machines can, Kotlin is a relatively easy way to create cross-platform software.

To Build an Android App, You Need to Learn These 7 Programming Languages android app language kotlin

With Kotlin, you get the best parts of Java without any of the downsides. The syntax and features of Kotlin are modern, clean, fast, and provide for a much more comfortable programming experience. Whereas Java feels clunky and outdated, Kotlin feels new and smart. And in some ways, you can even think of Kotlin as a language designed for Android app development.

The downside? Kotlin is very young. It first appeared in 2011 and wasn’t officially released until 2016. The good news is that Kotlin is free and open source so you can expect it to develop quite quickly, but it will be a few years before it really solidifies as a reliable choice.

3. C#

C# is an incredible language. In my own experience, it’s everything right about Java without any of the bad parts, made even better by all of the improvements on top. It’s like Microsoft saw the potential of Java and decided to make their own better version of it.

For a while, the biggest drawback of C# was that it could only run on Windows systems because it relies on the .NET Framework Microsoft .NET Framework: Why You Need It and How to Install It on Windows Microsoft .NET Framework: Why You Need It and How to Install It on Windows You either need to install or update it. But do you know what the .NET Framework is? We show you why you need it and how you can get the latest version. Read More . But all of that changed when Microsoft open sourced the .NET Framework in 2014 and acquired Xamarin in 2016, the company that maintains Mono (a project that allows C# programs to run on many platforms).

Today, you can use Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS to create native mobile apps with Visual Studio or Xamarin Studio. It’s an excellent path to take because you can use the language in other contexts later on, such as to create complex games with Unity and C# 5 Free Game Development Software Tools to Make Your Own Games 5 Free Game Development Software Tools to Make Your Own Games Thanks to these awesome free game development software tools, a game that might've required one year can now be made in six months or faster, sometimes without any code! Read More . An example of an app built with Xamarin? MarketWatch.

Note that Xamarin used to cost money but Microsoft made it free!

4. Python

While Android doesn’t support native Python development, there are tools that let you create apps in Python and then convert them into APKs that successfully run on Android devices. This is a great example of Python as an effective real-world language 5 Reasons Why Python Programming Is Not Useless 5 Reasons Why Python Programming Is Not Useless Python -- You either love it or you hate it. You might even swing from one end to the other like a pendulum. Regardless, Python is a language that's hard to be ambivalent about. Read More , and it’s good news for Python fans who want to create apps but can’t stand the trappings of Java.

To Build an Android App, You Need to Learn These 7 Programming Languages android app language python kivy

Kivy is the most popular and robust solution for this. Not only is it open source, and not only does it support Windows, Mac, Linux, and iOS in addition to Android, but it’s also designed in a way that encourages rapid app development. If anything, you can use it as a prototyping tool. You can do so much in so few lines of code.

But since it isn’t natively supported, you won’t get native benefits. Apps made with Kivy tend to result in bigger APKs, slower startups, and suboptimal performance. But every release is better than the last, and devices are so powerful nowadays that this doesn’t matter too much, so don’t let it stop you.

Two examples of Android apps made with Kivy include Kognitivo and Barly.

5. HTML5 + CSS + JavaScript

These three languages, which began as the core trifecta for front-end web development, have since evolved into something greater. You can now create all kinds of apps, both mobile and desktop, using nothing more than HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. In essence, you’re creating a web app that gets rendered as an offline app through platform magic.

To create Android apps this way, you can use Adobe Cordova, which is an open source framework that also supports iOS, Windows 10 Mobile, Blackberry, Firefox, and more. But as useful as it is, Cordova requires a lot of work to get a semi-decent app up and running, which is why many prefer Ionic Framework instead (which uses Cordova to deploy to various platforms).

Example Android apps include Untappd and TripCase.

Another separate option is to use React Native. This library can deploy to Android, iOS, and the Universal Windows Platform. It’s maintained and used by Facebook, Instagram, and other big companies, so you know it’s tried and tested. The learning curve isn’t easy, but once you can get over that initial hump, you’ll have all the power and flexibility you need.

6. Lua

Lua is an old scripting language that was originally designed to supplement programs written in more robust languages like C, VB.NET, etc. As such, it has a number of quirks that make it stand out, such as starting arrays at 1 instead of 0 and not having native classes.

That being said, Lua can be used as a main programming language in certain cases, and Corona SDK is one great example. With Corona, you can create rich apps using Lua that can be deployed on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and even Apple TV and Android TV. It also has built-in monetization features plus an extensive marketplace where you can buy assets and plugins.

Corona is mostly used to create games (examples include Fun Run 2 and HoPiko) but can be used to create general utilities and business apps (such as My Days and Quebec Tourism).

7. C/C++

Google provides two official development kits for making Android apps: the SDK, which uses Java, and the NDK, which uses native languages like C and C++ 3 Websites To Get Started With Learning C++ Programming Language 3 Websites To Get Started With Learning C++ Programming Language Learning to program can be difficult for many, even with relatively easy programming languages. While Java is easier to get started with (where we have numerous articles here at MakeUseOf for Java as well as... Read More . Note that you cannot create an entire app using C or C++ and zero Java. Rather, the NDK lets you create a native library whose functions can be called within your app’s Java code.

For the most part, you probably won’t need to use the NDK. You should not use it just because you prefer to code in C/C++ versus Java. Instead, the NDK exists for when you need to wring more performance out of computationally-heavy tasks. It also allows you to incorporate C or C++ libraries into your app.

But otherwise, you should stick to Java whenever possible. Android app development using C/C++ is many times more complex than using Java, and you often don’t gain much more out of it.

What Kind of App Do You Want to Make?

Chat messengers. Games. Calculators. Notebooks. Music players. The possibilities are endless! And all of them are made possible with the above languages and frameworks. You don’t have to learn them all — just learn the ones that you’ll need to get the job done. If you ever need to expand your skills later, you can do that when the time comes.

In addition, we recommend reading these blogs for mobile app development Designing A Breakthrough App? 7 Mobile Development Blogs You Should Read Designing A Breakthrough App? 7 Mobile Development Blogs You Should Read The mobile space is so new that trends are constantly shifting and new insights are made every day. If you plan to develop mobile apps, how can you keep up without going mad? Read More . They’ll help you get into the mindset of what makes a successful mobile app and help you overcome several obstacles you’ll undoubtedly encounter.

So what kind of apps are you planning? Which languages and frameworks look most appealing to you? Got any other tips to share? Let us know in a comment down below!

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  1. Hernán J. González
    November 14, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    Adobe Cordoba ???

    Cordoba is from Apache. The product from Adobe is PhoneGap.

  2. Sean Patterson
    March 7, 2017 at 2:50 am

    Wow! this article is so misleading. to build Android apps you only need knowledge of Java and familiarity with XML. Then using a tool like Android Studio makes the task easier even for non programmers.

    But 7 languages as the title suggests??? Come on ?

    • Slashee the Cow
      March 8, 2017 at 11:49 am

      And I'll be perfectly honest - I've never heard of Kotlin. But if it's designed to produce Java bytecode? Useless for Android. Android has never used Java bytecode. Google created the Dalvik virtual machine for Android, which uses its own bytecode. And newer versions of Android don't even use Dalvik - ART (Android RunTime) uses Ahead Of Time (AOT) compilation to turn Dalvik executables into native code for whatever system Android is running on, usually at the time the app is installed (in newer versions, it doesn't even compile the whole app ahead of time - the parts most likely to be run are pre-compiled and saved, anything else is compiled at runtime using Just In Time (JIT) compilation) - it might sound complicated but it's faster than running bytecode in a virtual machine.

  3. Sean Patterson
    March 7, 2017 at 2:50 am

    Wow! this article is so misleading. to build Android apps you only need knowledge of Java and familiarity with XML. Then using a tool like Android Studio makes the task easier even for non programmers.

    But 7 languages as the title suggests??? Come on ?