The Top 5 Programming Languages for Building iOS Apps

The Top 5 Programming Languages for Building iOS Apps


With over 1 billion active iPhones globally, iOS is one of the most lucrative platforms for developers. The iOS app ecosystem driven by the intuitive Swift language and robust SDKs continues to thrive.

For programmers looking to build and publish iOS apps, a key decision is – which language should you use? While Swift rules the roost, many alternatives like React Native, C# and C++ are viable for app development.

In this comprehensive guide, we assess the top 5 programming languages for building iOS apps in 2023 based on adoption, learning curve, capabilities and suitability. Whether you’re building a simple utility app or high-performance gaming app, choosing the right language is key to productivity and leveraging the full iOS feature set.

Let’s dive in to the syntax, pros and cons, tools and best use cases for the top options developers have for crafting amazing iOS experiences.

Top 5 Programming Languages for Building iOS Apps

#1. Swift for iOS Apps

Created by Apple specifically for iOS, macOS and beyond, Swift is the obvious first choice for native app development. Here’s an overview:


Swift uses clear, concise declarations similar to Python:

// Variables
var name = "John"
let age = 23

// Functions 
func greet(name: String) {
  print("Hello \(name)!")

// Class 
class User {
  var name: String
  init(name: String) { = name


  • Native Apple language with complete iOS/macOS SDK access
  • Modern syntax with safety, conciseness and readability
  • Mature tools like Xcode, instruments and simulators
  • Seamless integration with Apple technologies like CoreML, Metal, RealityKit etc.
  • Huge community and learning resources as the primary iOS language


  • iOS/Mac specificity means skills don’t transfer to other platforms like web
  • Less Choices compared to cross-platform options

Best For

  • Building high-performance native iOS apps that leverage hardware
  • Highly polished first-party apps integrating Apple services
  • Teams already proficient in Swift and Apple tools

For most developers doing serious iOS work, Swift should be the first choice thanks to its idiomatic access to the entire iOS feature set.

#2. React Native for iOS App

React Native brings the declarative React approach to building truly native iOS interfaces powered by JavaScript:


React Native uses familiar React JSX markup:

// Component
export default function App() {
  return (
    <View style={styles.container}>
      <Text>Hello World!</Text>

// StyleSheet 
const styles = StyleSheet.create({
  container: {
    flex: 1,
    backgroundColor: '#fff'


  • Write native iOS views using React, a wildly popular web language
  • Cross-platform – share most code across iOS and Android
  • Vast React ecosystem with tons of reusable UI components
  • Hot reloading to view changes instantly
  • Popular for MVPs or quick experimentation


  • Performance limitations for very complex UIs and animations
  • Certain native APIs may be unavailable
  • Debugging React Native specific issues

Best For

  • Rapid prototyping of iOS apps using React skills
  • Projects where web skills are abundant but native mobile expertise is limited
  • Startups looking for cross-platform code reuse across iOS and Android

For developers familiar with React and web development, React Native is a great on-ramp to building mobile app UIs leveraging existing knowledge.

#3. C# and Xamarin

Xamarin enables building native iOS apps using C# and .NET skills:


C# will feel familiar to C-style language developers:

// Variables
string name = "John";
int age = 30;   

// Class
public class User {
  public string Name { get; set; }
  public User(string name) {
    Name = name;

// Linq Query
var adults = users.Where(u => u.Age > 18);


  • Allows reusing C# code and .NET ecosystem
  • Xamarin Forms provides extensive cross-platform UI framework
  • Integrates with Visual Studio on Windows for iOS dev
  • Good for teams with existing C#/mobile expertise


  • Less iOS specific compared to Swift
  • Steeper learning curve than JavaScript options
  • Xamarin community is smaller than alternatives

Best For

  • Cross-platform code reuse for large codebases
  • Companies with extensive C# legacy and .NET dependence
  • Teams already skilled in Xamarin and mobile C#

For shops invested heavily in Microsoft technologies, Xamarin leverages existing C# assets directly on iOS.

#4. C++

Experienced native developers can harness the power of C++ for building high-performance iOS apps:


C++ will feel familiar for seasoned C/C++ developers:

// Variables
string name = "John";
int age = 30;

// Class
class User {
  string name;
  int age;

  User(string name, int age) {
    this->name = name;
    this->age = age; 

// Vector
vector<User> users;


  • Native iOS performance on par with Swift
  • Ability to reuse cross-platform C++ libraries
  • Advanced control over memory, threading etc
  • Mature language with vast ecosystem


  • More complex than Swift with steeper learning curve
  • No official iOS SDK bindings for C++
  • Requires mixing C++ and Objective-C/Swift

Best For

  • Building high-performance games or graphics-heavy apps
  • Complex apps requiring low-level control
  • Reusing existing cross-platform C++ code

For teams with strong C++ skills looking to maximize iOS performance, C++ with Objective-C/Swift bindings allows leveraging mature native language expertise.

#5. Objective-C

While legacy, Objective-C remains fully supported for iOS development:


Objective-C uses a Smalltalk/C-inspired messaging syntax:

// Class
@interface User : NSObject

@property NSString *name;
@property int age;

- (id)initWithName:(NSString*)name age:(int)age;


// Implementation
@implementation User

- (id)initWithName:(NSString*)name age:(int)age {
  self = [super init];
  if (self) {
    _name = name;
    _age = age;

  return self;



  • Mature iOS language with extensive legacy code
  • Full access to Apple SDKs and niceties
  • Opportunity to learn uniquely expressive syntax


  • Verbose and complex compared to modern options
  • Smaller community and resources compared to Swift
  • Apple investing in Swift rather than Objective-C

Best For

  • Integrating with or migrating legacy Objective-C codebases
  • Teams already highly proficient with mature Cocoa patterns
  • Learning a uniquely expressive OOP paradigm

For most modern development Objective-C has been superseded by Swift, but remains relevant for legacy iOS projects.

Key Takeaways

The iOS app ecosystem continues to thrive thanks to intuitive developer tools and languages. Some key takeaways when evaluating programming language options:

  • Swift offers the richest access to native iOS APIs and niceties. It is the first choice for most iOS developers.
  • React Native enables leveraging web skills to build iOS apps using JavaScript and React. Great for cross-platform code reuse.
  • Xamarin allows using C# and .NET ecosystem on iOS. Useful for Microsoft stack dependencies.
  • C++ brings high performance and low-level control for demanding applications.
  • Objective-C remains viable for legacy projects or learning expressive OOP paradigms.

The ideal options depends on your team’s tech stack, performance needs and application complexity. Swift covers most common scenarios with its moder syntax, robust tooling and idiomatic access to the iOS platform.

By understanding the pros and cons of each language, you can determine the best fit for your next iOS project’s requirements and constraints. The possibilities for building innovative iOS experiences across gaming, enterprise, health and more remain endless.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I mix multiple languages when building an iOS app?

Yes, iOS apps can combine code written in multiple languages thanks to interoperability between Objective-C, C++ and Swift. This allows selectively using the best language for specific modules or needs.

For example, you may build performance sensitive algorithms in C++ while using Swift for the main app code. React Native JavaScript can also integrate with native modules. Mixing languages helps leverage each one’s strengths.

Which iOS programming language has the shortest learning curve?

React Native likely has the most gentle learning curve of the compiled languages since it utilizes JavaScript and React – concepts web developers are typically already familiar with.

Swift has a moderately steep curve due to its unique syntax, but Xcode provides a solid integrated learning environment. C# is also approachable for its similarity to other C-style languages.

Can I reuse my Swift code across iOS, Android and Web?

There are frameworks like Kotlin Multiplatform that allow sharing Swift code across iOS, Android and web applications.

Apple is also expanding Swift substrate support to allow running on servers and embedded systems beyond just Apple platforms.

So while Swift is tailor-made for Apple’s operating systems, there are increasingly options to run Swift code beyond iOS as well.

Which iOS language results in the best performing apps?

Both Swift and C++ will allow creating the most performant iOS apps leveraging native compilers and direct hardware access.

C++ particularly excels for graphics, gaming and complex algorithmic applications. But Swift runs fully natively as well.

Options like React Native may have limitations for high complexity due to the JavaScript layer. But they continue to improve and can work for many common applications.

What iOS language should I choose as a beginner?

As a beginner, Swift is likely the best starting point since it is Apple’s idiomatic language tailored specifically for iOS. The syntax is clean and approachable, and Xcode provides an excellent integrated learning environment.

React Native is also viable using your web skills. Other languages have a steeper learning curve. But it’s worth gaining competency in native Swift early on as an iOS developer.

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