Kotlin — The New Programming Language for Android App Development

If you’ve been following the news coming out of the recent Google I/O 2018 developers’ conference, you’re probably aware that Kotlin is now an official Android programming language for Android developers.

And if you’re a Java developer, the good news, Kotlin is 100% compatible with Java programming language. In another way of saying, Kotlin and Java is 100% interoperable. Java certainly isn’t going away anywhere anytime soon, but Kotlin seems to have taken the spotlight away from Java at Google I/O 2018, the most important annual meet up for many Android developers.


According to the official Android developers blog, the number of apps written using Kotlin published on Play Store grew by six times in the past year, since the time the Android team officially announced their support for Kotlin programming language (during Google I/O 2017). Also, 35% of pro-Android developers are using Kotlin today and the numbers are growing. This is an impressive achievement for Kotlin.

A little History about Kotlin

Kotlin is a programming language from Jetbrains (the same company developed IntelliJ IDEA) and was first announced 7 years ago back in 2011. So, Kotlin’s actually been around for quite a while. JetBrains officially released Kotlin 1.0 in 2016, the first stable version. And after the official announcement of support for Kotlin by Google at their I/O conference in 2017, many Android developers were turned and started to adopt and embrace Kotlin programming language.

Why Kotlin?

As stated above, Kotlin has now become more and more popular to Android app developers. This is because Kotlin is faster, easier to write, and more succinct than Java. An application written using Kotlin will run just as fast as an equivalent Java one, due to the similar bytecode structure. And, because of Kotlin's support for inline functions, code using lambdas will usually run faster than that same piece of code written in Java [1].

And, there’s even more good news for Kotlin developers coming out of I/O this year. It was announced that the Android Runtime (ART) has been tuned in Android P so that apps written using Kotlin would have their performance improved. This would mean that such Kotlin written Android apps will run faster on Android P devices [2]. JetBrains has also been continuing their work to improve Kotlin’s generated code, with Kotlin specific optimizations for R8 (a Java program shrinker and minification tool).

Another important fact is that Android KTX, a set of Kotlin extensions, was also released to make developing Android App with Kotlin more concise, idiomatic, and better (by leveraging the Kotlin language features).[3]. One problem with the Android API is that it’s getting old and becomes less easy to use. With Android KTX, it would seem that a part of the API has been altered in a way to make it easier for developers to use.

And what’s next?

For now, Kotlin has already been used by many big and well-known mobile app developers including Pinterest, Expedia, and others. Kotlin is constantly growing at a very fast pace, new Kotlin releases are being issued on a very frequent basis.

If you’re a Java developer, developing your first Android app using Kotlin would be quite easy. To begin with, you can absolutely start using both Kotlin and Java in your Android app development project. And if you’re new and want to get to know more or would like to start experimenting with Kotlin and all the buzz surrounding it, check out:

  • Kotlin Bootcamp at Udacity, a free two-week course, available to all programmers who are new to Kotlin. Here, you will be able to study everything you need to know in order to start developing your mobile App with Kotlin.
  • Follow the beginners’ tutorial for Kotlin at kotlinlang.org
  • Kotlin API reference and code snippets can be found at official Android documentation.
  • Watch the 2018 I/O talk about Kotlin: How to Kotlin
  • JetBrains tool of converting Java file into Kotlin one.

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1) https://kotlinlang.org/docs/reference/android-overview.html

2) https://android-developers.googleblog.com/2018/05/google-io-2018-whats-new-in-android.html

3) https://developer.android.com/kotlin/ktx