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June 17, 2024

Kotlin Multiplatform: Efficient Mobile App Development

Kotlin Multiplatform: Efficient Mobile App Development - Build38

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Kotlin Multiplatform: Efficient Mobile App Development

As the mobile application ecosystem continues to evolve, developers are constantly seeking efficient, versatile, and robust tools to streamline the development process across multiple platforms. Kotlin Multiplatform (KMP) has emerged as a transformative solution, enabling the creation of shared codebases that run on both iOS and Android. At Build38, as a leading provider of mobile application security, we recognize the significance of Kotlin Multiplatform and its potential to revolutionise mobile development while ensuring top-notch security. In this article we will describe what Kotlin Multiplatform is, how it works and some of the advantages and disadvantages it presents.

What is Kotlin Multiplatform?

Kotlin Multiplatform is a feature of the modern Kotlin programming language developed by JetBrains, the creators of many top-tier programming tools. Kotlin has gained immense popularity in the Android development community, even so 95% of the top 1,000 Android apps are built using Kotlin. However, Kotlin was not designed solely for Android. The vision behind Kotlin was to create a universal language capable of working seamlessly with other programming languages, enabling developers to write common code once and deploy it across different environments, reducing redundancy and improving development efficiency

Kotlin Multiplatform extends the versatility of Kotlin by supporting multiple platforms through its robust interoperability with various programming languages. This allows developers to use Kotlin across a broad range of environments:

  • Java: Primarily used for Android development due to Kotlin’s seamless integration with Java as well as desktop and server applications. A recent study showed that more than 70% of Kotlin developers used Java as their primary programming language before switching.

  • JavaScript: Enables Kotlin to be employed in web applications, covering both frontend and backend development.

  • C / Objective-C: Allows Kotlin to run on Linux-based platforms, Swift project and Apple operating systems such as iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

How does Kotlin Multiplatform work?

Kotlin Multiplatform functions through the use of specialised compilers that translate Kotlin code into the native code of the target platforms. The three primary compilers are:

  • Kotlin/JVM: Translates Kotlin into Java for use on JVM-based platforms.

  • Kotlin/JS: Converts Kotlin code into JavaScript for web applications.

  • Kotlin/Native: Compiles Kotlin into C or Objective-C for use on platforms like iOS and other Apple operating systems.

These compilers ensure that the code written in Kotlin is transformed into the appropriate native code before deployment. Consequently, the final product does not include any Kotlin code but consists entirely of the native code, akin to applications developed without KMP. This process enhances performance and integration while maintaining the benefits of Kotlin’s expressive syntax and robust features.

Kotlin multiplatform explained - Build38

What are the main differences between Kotlin Multiplatform and other cross-platform solutions?

Kotlin Multiplatform distinguishes itself from other cross-platform solutions like React Native and Flutter in several key ways:

  1. Code Sharing Philosophy: Unlike frameworks that rely on a single codebase for UI and business logic (e.g., Flutter), KMP emphasises sharing business logic and keeping platform-specific UI code. This approach respects the native design principles of each platform, resulting in a more natural user experience.

  2. Language and Ecosystem: KMP leverages Kotlin, a statically typed language with strong tooling support and interoperability with Java. This provides a seamless transition for Android developers and a robust language foundation for iOS development through Kotlin/Native.

  3. Interoperability: KMP allows deep interoperability with existing native code. On iOS, Kotlin/Native can interoperate with Swift and Objective-C, while on Android, Kotlin can seamlessly integrate with Java.

  4. Modular Approach: KMP promotes a modular architecture, enabling developers to incrementally adopt shared code and maintain platform-specific customization where needed.

Advantages and disadvantages of Kotlin Multiplatform

Advantages of using Kotlin Multiplatform to build mobile applications

  1. Code Reusability: Share business logic and reduce code duplication, leading to lower maintenance costs and faster development cycles.

  2. Concise code/syntax and Java Compatibility: Ability to leverage existing Java codebases and its advanced features. Developers can take advantage of all the effort made on Java codebases, ensuring a smooth transition to Kotlin. Additionally, it includes interesting features like null safety to avoid errors related to null values which is one of the most common pitfalls in programming languages, including Java. This helps make the code more concise, easier to learn, read, and maintain.

  3. Enhanced Productivity and Reduced Time-to-Market: By sharing a common codebase and leveraging Kotlin’s expressive syntax, developers can focus on building app features instead of writing repetitive code. This accelerates development and testing processes, enabling quicker deployment of applications across multiple platforms.

  4. Consistent Quality: Unified business logic ensures consistent application behaviour across platforms.

  5. Native Performance: KMP compiles to native binaries, ensuring optimal performance on both iOS and Android.

  6. Flexibility: Allows incremental adoption and integration with existing projects, minimising disruption to established codebases.

Disadvantages of using Kotlin Multiplatform to build Mobile Applications

  1. Learning Curve: Developers unfamiliar with Kotlinmay face a learning curve, particularly when integrating with iOS.

  2. Tooling and Ecosystem Maturity: While improving, the ecosystem and tooling around KMP are still maturing compared to more established cross-platform frameworks.

  3. Limited Adoption in Some Domains: Although Kotlin has become popular in areas like Android app development and backend development with frameworks like Spring Boot, its usage in other domains, such as enterprise software or legacy systems, remains limited. This could affect the availability of Kotlin-related job opportunities and community support in those specific sectors.

Building secure and efficient cross-platform apps with Kotlin Multiplatform & Build38

Securing code in Kotlin projects is crucial for ensuring robust mobile security across iOS and Android applications. Kotlin Multiplatform enables the sharing of business logic and functionalities across multiple platforms, streamlining the development process and reducing redundancy. However, this shared codebase can also become a single point of vulnerability if not properly secured. By implementing comprehensive mobile security measures, developers can protect sensitive data, prevent unauthorised access, and safeguard the integrity of their applications.

At Build38, we recognize the transformative potential of Kotlin Multiplatform in modern mobile development. By supporting Kotlin, we provide robust security solutions that seamlessly integrate with Kotling Multiplatform projects, ensuring that applications not only achieve high performance and consistency but also maintain the highest security standards. As the landscape of mobile development continues to shift, Kotlin Multiplatform stands out as a promising approach, combining the best of native performance and cross-platform efficiency.

For more information about how Build38 can secure code from Kotlin Multiplatform developments and more reach out to us here.

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