Kotlin Maturing as First-Class Android Developer Language

By naming Kotlin a “first class” language for Android development, Google piqued the curiosity of mobile developers around the world. Kotlin leverages Java libraries, provides Java APIs, and integrates with Java frameworks while fixing a number of Java-related issues that developers have complained about for years. No wonder so many tech pros are exploring what Kotlin can do for them.

And it seems that Kotlin is gaining traction with younger developers in particular, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by Pusher. Out of the 2,744 people surveyed about their Kotlin usage, some 33.9 percent had only been working as a developer for between 2-5 years; another 22.5 percent had been in the game for 5-10 years, still relatively early in a career. In addition, the language’s adoption by students has spiked over the past year and a half or so.

Some 60 percent of workers have integrated Kotlin into their projects, suggesting that the language has lodged firmly in the workflow of many Android developers. Around 79.5 percent use Kotlin for Android-related projects (an unsurprising finding), while 31 percent use it for backend/server work, 30.5 percent for SDK/libraries, and 5.5 percent for an undefined “other.”

Null safety is a favorite feature, followed (in sequential order) by extension functions, Java interoperability, data classes, higher-order functions, type inference, and multi-platform interoperability.

The big question is whether Android developers will begin to migrate the existing Java code in their legacy apps to Kotlin, a huge job even under the best of circumstances. Some 56 percent of respondents who ported a project did so by manually re-writing code, as opposed to the 10.2 percent who relied on a wizard for the entire project (although many more relied on the wizard for snippets of code and individual classes). This makes sense, as manual rewriting allows you to tweak and fix code as you go along; it’s time-consuming but worth it for many.

In other words, if you had doubts about the longer-term viability of Kotlin—especially considering the enduring popularity of Java—this data should put your mind at ease. Kotlin may never fully replace Java as the language of choice among Android developers, but it will likely remain a very strong alternative for quite some time to come. If you’re prepping for an interview for an Android developer job, check out these tips.