In life, you either adapt or perish. The beauty of this simple statement is that the meaning holds true absolutely everywhere. While Android has been widely successful in crushing the monopoly of Apple with over 80 percent of shares in the smartphone operating system (OS) market, Android developers still find it more time consuming to develop the same app compared to iOS developers. With an eye towards the future, Apple has already introduced Swift, a completely new programming language that combines the best features of other languages such as C#, Ruby and Python. On the other hand, Android is still stuck with its core problem area – Java programming language.
There is absolutely no way we are denying the fact that Java IS a good programming language. Ever since it first appeared in 1995, Java has been widely used for client-server web applications, with around 9 million developers as of 2015. However, the language has been receiving its share of criticisms, with its drawbacks highlighted even more in comparison to Apple’s Swift, of late.
Where is Java lagging behind?
According to Android developers, there are numerous problem areas when it comes to Java programming language. Before we look into the solution, let’s find out the major grievances related to Java.
#1. Generic programming
A large framework of classes was already present when generic programming, or generics, was included in Java 5.0. In order to allow reuse of these existing classes, generics were implemented using type erasure. However, as type erasure was used to execute generics, a template parameter’s actual size is not available in runtime.
#2. Array restriction
Java does not support arrays of more than around 2.1 billion (231−1) elements. This limitation comes to the forefront when there is a need to memory map files larger than 2 Gigabytes (GB). The scope of technical and scientific computing also gets restricted, as Java does not have true multidimensional arrays.
#3. Absence of unsigned integer types
Unsigned integer types facilitate direct data interchange between Java and C. When used in numeric processing fields, they may also come in handy in making Java more convenient. Unfortunately, unsigned integer types are not present in Java; and although conversion codes can evade this problem, Java becomes even more complex to handle.
#4. Lack of compound value types
Compound value types are responsible for considerable improvements in performance and memory savings. Without compound value types, Java finds it cumbersome to reduce memory usage, increase locality, and store pair of value and key references.
#5. Excessive focus on nouns
Java makes programmers consider classes interacting with each other as nouns, and the operations performed by the classes (methods) as verbs. As classes can have multiple functions and the methods cannot operate on multiple types, it creates a needless restriction on language expressiveness. Due to this noun-oriented nature, developers spend extra time in creating trivial classes that are used to perform functions on other classes.
The Way Ahead
We are not saying that it’s high time to go for something entirely different! In spite of the loopholes, Java has always been a strong programming language. If its chassis can be used to mix and match other programming language on top, the end result can be something extremely exciting.
Following the footsteps of Swift, there are quite a few efficient programming languages with less stringent functionalities, ready to act as Java’s replacement. Groovy can act as a great replacement, as it’s actually built on Java and hence, its syntax will be quite familiar to Android developers. Kotlin or Scala, both gaining rapid acceptance, can come to the forefront as the substitute, and pave the way ahead to a better future for Android development.
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