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Kotlin vs Scala: Which Is Good for Android App Development?

Author: Sten Alferd
by Sten Alferd
Posted: Dec 06, 2019

Android, since its initial release in 2008, has been one of the largest mobile operating systems of all time. The global market is turning mobile-friendly and, currently, there are over 2.46 million active Android apps. JAVA is the base of android app development but with the onset of cross-platform languages like Kotlin, JVM-based programming languages such as Scala are facing major challenges.

There are more than 50 JVM-based languages including the ones with a few argumentations. With new and more capable programming languages in the market, you can now easily shift from JAVA to these languages for Android app development. In this article, we address one of the hottest topics in the developers’ world - Kotlin vs Scala.

Kotlin and Scala are JVM-based languages just as JAVA. Before getting into the specifics of these languages, let’s understand the market presence and the role of JAVA in Android app development.

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Java in Android App Development

JAVA is an object-oriented programming language that became popular due to its underlying principle of Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA). It is a platform-independent programming language that uses the concept of object-oriented programming to include real-life elements in its applications.

JAVA was launched in 1995 and, by now, you can find it everywhere. From Android apps and desktop GUI applications to embedded systems and web apps, numerous apps have been programmed in JAVA. Even a 15-year old JAVA code will run perfectly well with the latest JVM and such is the versatility of JAVA!

People often ask how long will it take to eradicate JAVA from the market? Well, if you start today, it will take at least a decade finding a replacement for every application that runs on JAVA. While the popularity of JAVA might get affected by the launch of new programming languages and their frameworks, but its dominance over the current market surpasses it all.

App developers are always in search of new languages, tools, and frameworks that could help them program efficiently. JAVA has been the best available solution for programming the web for long and has also tackled the issue of memory constraints. But, at the same time, the world of polyglot programming (using features of two or more languages) is here.

Kotlin and Scala support multi-coding paradigms and are both object-oriented and functional. In this article of Kotlin vs Scala for Android app development, the upcoming sections contain a basic definition of the two languages, followed by comparing them under 6 different parameters such as compilation time, pattern matching, code length, and more.

What is Kotlin?

If you are still wondering, here is a Hello World code is written in Kotlin. For those who are already familiar with JAVA or C++, you can see familiar keywords "main", "args", "Array", etc.

Kotlin is an OOP (object-oriented programming) language that rose to its popularity because of its smooth interoperability with JAVA. It connects OOP features such as Companion Object, Smart Casts, Range Expressions, and more.

Kotlin: A Brief Introduction

Kotlin was created by JetBrains and it was launched as an open-source language in 2012. It soon became popular among Android app developers because of its seamless compatibility with JAVA. The initial goal of the developers was to add some new features to the existing JAVA development and hence, solve the unsolvable.

Kotlin is a statically typed language based on the JAVA Virtual Machine (JVM) but it can also be compiled to JS code by installing the basic Kotlin multiplatform plugin and running your project. Besides, Kotlin was also officially recognized as an Android programming language by Google in 2018. Google’s internal operations were also shifted, eventually, to Koatlin from JAVA.

Kotlin: Key Features

Open-Source: Kotlin is an open-source programming language. Up until August 22, 2019, Kotlin had two released versions - v1.2 and, the latest and most stable one, 1.3.50.

Interoperability with JAVA: One of the top features of Kotlin is its flawless compatibility with JAVA. This immediately drew the attention of all the Android app developers.

Supports Higher-Order Functions: Unlike JAVA, Kotlin supports functions that can take a function as an argument and return it as well. This enhances the overall convenience of developers when programming an Android app. Besides high-order functions, Kotlin supports other modern programming concepts such as delegates, extension functions, and more.

Not Your Regular OOP Language: Kotlin is an object-oriented programming language and also supports the functional programming approach.

These are some of the key features of Kotlin that allow Android app developers to create apps with better functionalities and cleaner API. There are over 3.3 billion smartphone users in the world. Hire developers in India for your business and boost your customer reach to a great extent.’

Now that you have a basic idea about Kotlin, it is only fair to understand Scala to the same level to compare them. The next section describes Scala - its origin and key features. Let’s begin.

What is Scala?

Before we begin with the specifics, here is a program to print Hello World in Scala. Similar to Kotlin, you can find a few matching keywords like the "main" function, Array, and "println" with JAVA.

Scala was launched as a general-purpose programming language on the JAVA platform. The name "Scala" (short for SCAlable LAnguage) is derived from the term "scalable" indicating that this language can capable of building scalable solutions (apps) for its users. It got the attention of Android app developers due to its list of added functionalities to the native JAVA language.

Scala is a hybrid object-oriented programming language created with an emphasis on functional programming inclinations such as immutability. Let’s look at how Scala was launched and its few key features.

Scala: A Brief Introduction

Scala was launched in 2004 by Martin Odersky with the idea of tackling the basic drawbacks of JAVA language in mobile app development. Scala developed significantly over the years and, even after the launch of Kotlin in 2012, remained in the spotlight.

Scala has a flexible syntax and comes with advanced features such as macros, fully supported pattern matching, and more, which is a boon for app developers. It is a statically typed programming language and thus saves the trouble of providing redundant information. For instance, you don’t have to specify a type as shown in the picture below.

Programmers who know JAVA or C++ can see the difference. The type of a variable is defined on the right side and the compiler can tell it before compiling the entire chunk of your code.

Scala: Key Features

Object-Oriented and Functional: Just as JAVA, SCALA is an object-oriented programming language. Scala treats every variable as an object with its type and behavior defined by attributes and classes.

Scala is a functional programming language as well. It identifies each function as a separate variable. Each function has its own set of attributes and behavior which pushes its overall functionality to a higher level.

Scalable: Scala is designed to adapt to the increasing demands of its users. From writing small scripts to building industry level projects and systems, Scala can handle everything. Being an object-oriented and functional programming language, scalability comes easy to Scala.

Higher-Order Functions: Scala supports higher-order functions. Advanced features like this distinguish Scala from other programming languages for Android app development. Hire android developer who specializes in Scala to create scalable and highly functional apps for your business.

Immutability: Objects created in Scala are immutable by default and can be changed to mutable. This helps to maintain parent control and manage the defined variable in a better way. You can create mutable variables as well.

Scala has many other important features than the above-mentioned ones. Considering its advanced features, Scala can be a bit challenging to learn for beginners. At the same time, Scala comes easy for programmers who are privy to languages like JAVA or C++. As they say, building new apps is less about language and more about the developer’s logic and creativity.

Using languages like Kotlin or Scala over JAVA for mobile app development is an exhibit of how developers are moving towards polyglot programming. We have listed the key features of both languages. The upcoming section addresses the primary differences between Kotlin and Scala and leaves you to make the final decision on which one to choose as an android app developer.

Kotlin vs Scala - Which One to Choose?

When comparing two programming languages to choose the right one, you should weigh them against different parameters of how you define a good language. We have compared Kotlin and Scala under six important parameters. Let’s begin.

The Learning Curve

Scala ranks 17 and Kotlin stands 11th in the list of programming languages for beginners. Though Scala is praised for its advanced functionality and flexible syntax, it can be a bit challenging to learn. It is another kind of JAVA that offers a good environment and immense support for advanced object-oriented and functional programming.

Kotlin is also an object-oriented and functional programming language. It offers concise coding which allows you to do more with a few lines of code. This not only helps to point out bugs in your code but also makes it easier to learn. Besides, Kotlin works well with JAVA programming tools such as Eclipse, Android Studio, Gradle, and many others.

Code length and Compilation Time

Scala, undeniably, has a unique set of advanced features but a slow compilation speed. Talking about Scala, the development lead of JetBrains, Dimitri Jemerov, mentions in an interview - "its obvious deficiency is very slow compilation".

Kotlin is an open-source object-oriented and functional programming language and has a large community support. Kotlin compiles faster than Scala and is easy to debug or implement. Besides this, Kotlin is known for its concise coding. A few lines of code can things implemented as compared to Scala.

App Performance

Irrespective of the language - Java, Kotlin or Scala, the individual app performance matters. As a developer or a business owner, you would want your app to perform better. While this parameter is subjective, let’s try to understand the performances of android apps in Kotlin and Scala.

Scala helps you build scalable applications that can adapt to the needs of your users. Kotlin, on the other hand, allows concise coding and is easier to debug. The performance and build time of a piece of code written in Kotlin is easier to predict than Scala.

As an android app developer or a business owner, choose the one that fits your definition of better app development. Hire app developer to build quality android apps for your business or project.

Pattern Matching and Null Safety Management

Pattern matching is a crucial aspect of app development. Scala supports pattern matching against the use of native switch statements and it is one of Scala’s most used features. Kotlin, on the other hand, doesn’t support pattern matching.

One of the nightmares of an android developer’s life is Null Pointer Exception. Kotlin handles this effectively with Null Safety Management by easily distinguishing the variable type that can hold a null value and the one that cannot. Scala’s way to handle a NULL Pointer Exception is not as effective as this.

Brands Using These Languages

Many big brands of different industries use Kotlin, Scala or their frameworks for mobile apps. Kotlin is used by Uber, Gradle, Pinterest, Atlassian, Evernote, Coursera, Corda, Pivotal, and more.

On the other hand, apps using Scala are Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Tumblr, Netflix, The Guardian, Sony, Airbnb, Klout, Uber, Apple, New York Times, SoundCloud, The Swiss bank UBS, Huffington Post, and more.

Community Support

Scala is 15 years old and, over the years, has developed a large community. You can find tutorials, solutions, problems, and other resources at Reddit, Stack Overflow, etc. Kotlin’s community is growing fast but still is way behind Scala’s. You can get help online because of Kotlin’s popularity among business owners and developers is a big plus.


The "right" programming language for android app development (here, Kotlin or Scala) may differ from developer to developer. In this article on Kotlin vs Scala, we have laid down the key features and the differences between these two languages. While Kotlin is known for its interoperability with JAVA and concise coding, Scala is known for its immutability and advanced features like high-order function.

JAVA is everywhere and, in spite of its technical incompetence, cannot be completely wiped out. Choose the language (Kotlin or Scala) that suits the requirements of your next android app development project.

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About the Author

Scarlett Rose is a software consultant. She loves to do blogging.

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Author: Sten Alferd

Sten Alferd

Member since: Sep 18, 2019
Published articles: 33

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