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App Development
5 minutes read

Java for iPhones: How Does it Work?

By Mario Tatis
By Mario Tatis
App Development
5 minutes read

iOS is one of the main operating systems dominating the mobile landscape, but Java for iPhones continues to be a complicated topic. Many app development projects would benefit from a clear understanding of Java’s relationship with iOS. 

In this blog post, we will cover Java’s history with iOS, whether Java code can be used to develop iOS apps, and why a developer might want to use Java for an iPhone app. 

Java for iPhones: The History 

As you know, native iOS and Android apps are written using different programming languages. Native languages are platform-specific and are able to take advantage of features unique to each platform’s mobile devices. 

Native iOS apps are written in Objective-C or Swift. Android apps are written in Java or Kotlin. Although Java can still be used to develop native Android apps, Kotlin has become the primary and preferred programming language for Android app development.  

Java is used by a lot of websites to create interactive elements and more. In order to view or use the parts of a website written in Java, Java must be installed on your device. However, iOS and Safari do not support Java. 

This creates an issue for developers and users who want to access a website that uses Java from an iOS device. Luckily, for iPhone users, there is a simple way to access and view Java websites. Mobile apps like Cloud Browse give users the ability to view websites written in Java with their iOS device. 

Users can view websites using Java, but can developers use Java to develop iOS apps? 

Can You Use Java to Develop iOS Apps?

We have already told you that Java can be used to develop native Android apps, but can you use Java for iPhone apps? In years past, you would not be able to use Java to develop iOS apps. However, in recent years this has changed. 

The main roadblock for Java on iPhones was the fact that Apple blocked the use of the Java Virtual Machine on its devices. This doesn’t mean that Java developers have no options when it comes to the iPhone. 

Developers can use OpenJDK Mobile to create mobile apps for iOS using Java. OpenJDK is an open-source implementation of the Java platform. Developers can use OpenJDK in combination with GraalVM, which is a code compiler, to link compiled Java code with native libraries.

Using these tools, it is possible to create iOS apps that follow all of Apple’s rules without having to use Swift or Objective-C. 

Why Use Java for iOS Apps? 

Just because using Java for iPhone apps is possible, as we have just covered, doesn’t mean that it should be done. In order to use Java instead of Swift or Objective-C for iOS development, you need to go through more steps and use more tools, although both OpenJDK and GraalVM are open-source technologies.  

Despite some of the extra steps, there are some good reasons to use Java for iPhone app development, including:

  • Want to develop iOS apps but don’t know or want to learn Swift or Objective-C
  • You want to build a cross-platform app
  • Security is a key aspect of Java
  • Secure connection with cloud services 

Developing two native apps to reach both iOS and Android platforms is time-consuming and can be expensive. The main reason for this is because each platform’s apps are written in a different language. 

If you use Java for iPhone app development, you could create a cross-platform app that can reach devices on both Android and iOS platforms. If you choose to go the cross-platform route using Java, you would also be technically creating a native Android app in the process, even though Java is no longer the preferred development language of Android. 

Another compelling reason to use Java for iPhone app development is if you have an Android app written in Java that you want to bring to the iOS platform. Instead of finding a developer who knows Swift or Objective-C, you could take your Java app and use OpenJDK to quickly turn it into an iOS app too. 

One final reason you may want to consider using Java for iPhone app development is security. When Java was created, security was a major cornerstone of development. Security is a major concern with any digital asset, but lately, cyberattacks have gotten more savvy and devastating. There are other ways to address security with iOS apps, but Java is well-known for its robust security features. 

Final Thoughts 

Typically, using Java for iOS development would not be something that you go out of your way to do, but it is important to know that it is possible. The best use-case for Java in iOS development is if you already have an Android app written in Java that you want to bring to the App Store. 

There are a lot of different approaches to app development, and it can be confusing to understand them all on your own. If you need help developing an iOS app, cross-platform app, or Android app, reach out to an app development partner

A partner can help guide you through the development process with technical expertise and industry experience. Whether you want to use Java for iPhone app development or you want to create a native app, a partner can help you with all of your digital development needs.

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