Swift is a relatively new programming language produced by Apple. It was initially released on October 22nd, 2014 as Swift version 1.1, around the same time as Xcode 6.1. The most recent version of Swift, Swift 3.0, was distributed in 2016, on September 13th. Swift was voted the most loved programming language in 2015 by Stack Overflow. In the following year, it came in second place.
Swift continues to be a popular programming language among developers — particularly those who focus on iOS development — since it's an iOS language, and it continues to rank high in terms of favorite languages. But what exactly is Swift? What are its features, and what is it used for? What experience is needed to become a Swift developer, and what does a Swift developer role entail exactly? Read on to learn the answers to these questions.
What is Swift?
Swift is a powerful and intuitive language developed by Apple. Android devices typically use a mix of programming languages to develop their mobile applications, such as Java, Kotlin, C++, and others. However, Apple primarily uses Swift, a programming language specifically created to develop applications for Apple operating systems and iOS-enabled devices, such as iPadOS, tvOS, macOS, and Linux applications.
Swift blends years of building experience in Apple platforms with the latest trends in programming languages. It was created to be a general-purpose programming language emphasizing functionality, imperatively, and block structures. It's based on the C and Objective-C languages, but it negates the restrictions that C compatibility usually has.
This object-oriented language utilizes the Objective-C runtime and allows developers to use inferred types, allowing written code to come out cleaner and with fewer mistakes. Due to its multi-paradigm nature, Swift allows the elimination of headers and the ability to use namespaces on macOS and iOS through using modules. This enables applications and programs created through Swift to operate on existing iOS versions, such as iOS 6 and OS X 10.8.
There are many more functions and features of Swift, and many advantages and disadvantages to using this programming language to create iOS applications. Let’s discuss some of the more useful features.
Like many programming languages, Swift continues to evolve and transform, and with each new release, Swift provides users with updated and new features to use. Some of the current features of Swift, as of Swift version 5.7, include:
- Objective-C runtime library: Since Swift uses the Objective-C runtime library, this allows C, Objective-C, C++, and Swift to execute simultaneously in a single program.
- Open-source: Swift is an open-source language, which means that it can be implemented into other platforms apart from Apple devices, including web design.
- Potent generics: Generics enable users to create flexible and reusable functions and types that can operate with any type.
- Native error handling: Swift offers support for error handling, including throwing, catching, propagating, and manipulating errors during runtime.
- Package manager: Swift provides a cross-platform tool in the form of a package manager that can be used to create Swift libraries and executables. From there, it can then run, test, and package them.
- Troubleshooting and debugging: Swift uses a tool called LLDB debugger, giving users access to REPL and a debugger that allows integrated debugging. The REPL and debugger also allow users to use consistent formatting, expression evaluation, and failure recovery.
- Extensions for protocols: Many programming languages require users to define protocol behaviors in global functions and/or individual conformances. Swift doesn’t require this. Instead, Swift enables its users to define protocol behaviors on their own as opposed to relying on functions and conformances.
- Compatibility: Swift’s newest version has binary compatibility for its applications. This means that all operating system releases include Swift libraries, which means that your code will run without the need to be recompiled.
- Memory management and safety: Swift has an automatic memory system known as Automatic Reference Counting (ARC), where memory is automatically stored and managed, preventing unsafe behavior from occurring in your code. Swift tracks and manages an application’s memory and prevents users from having to manage memory themselves.
Swift comes with an assortment of other helpful features, too. One feature is known as Tuples, which enables users to create value groupings and share them. It also allows users to compile multiple values as one. Closure syntax is another feature of Swift, which enables optimization and provides an easy-to-read syntax. One final feature worth mentioning is flexible enumerations, which enables Swift enums to support pattern matching and payloads.
Swift Advantages & Disadvantages
Using Swift to develop iOS applications comes with plenty of advantages. Swift is the go-to programming language for iOS and Apple applications. Other benefits of using Swift include:
- Ease of use: Swift was created to be easier for users to understand. It was adapted to use modern programming language theory and simpler syntax, allowing users to write and read Swift code easier than its parent language, Objective-C. Swift also requires less code than Objective-C to complete tasks. These benefits alone make Swift quite beginner-friendly.
- Speed: Like its namesake, Swift was created to be lightweight, which means it’s a programming language that's quick to enact. Not only does it speed up productivity, but it also has an easy learning curve, so developers can learn and understand Swift sooner than other languages. When compared to Objective-C, Swift can compile data much faster because Objective-C classes are considered objects, which results in slower-performing code. Swift, on the other hand, translates arrays as structures, allowing code to function more efficiently than its parent language. Additionally, Swift absorbs less memory than Objective-C, which uses RAM, while Swift uses structures.
- Security: Swift has a variety of safety features — automatic memory management, variable initialization, and value types, for example — which contribute to an overall safe programming language. Additionally, Swift objects cannot be nil, and when a user attempts to use a nil object, the Swift compiler will stop them from doing so. These are just some of the safety measures enacted by Swift that help avoid runtime crashes.
- Cross-platform compatibility: Though Swift was created by Apple to help developers create Apple-specific applications, it's also cross-platform compatible and can support Linux, Ubuntu, and Windows.
- Active libraries: Swift has active, dynamic libraries that exist outside of the coding environment. Because of this, they're uploaded when needed and are integrated into all device releases.
- An established community: Due to its popularity, and the fact that there are so many Apple users in the world, Swift has an active and lucrative open-source community. Because their community is so well-established, there is always someone there to help beginners, and there are a lot of resources available to help new users learn the language.
Despite these positives, Swift also has a few noteworthy drawbacks, including:
- The limitations that come with being a new language: Since Swift is still a relatively young language, having only been released in 2014, some of the capabilities and resources of Swift aren’t as strong or established as other, older languages.
- Lack of cross-platform support: While there's an opportunity to develop Swift on platforms outside of iOS, its primary platform is still Apple, so it works best with iOS development.
- Frequent updates: Due to its newness, Swift receives regular updates, which can make it difficult to find the correct tools to tackle specific tasks, as tools are constantly being updated and introduced.
- A less-than-optimal IDE: Swift works alongside IDE support. Xcode, Apple’s official IDE, fails in specific support areas, such as syntax highlighting, refactoring, autocompleting, and compiling.
Swift Use Cases
Since Swift is an iOS-based programming language, most of its use cases fall somewhere between iOS and Apple devices, such as:
- iPhone applications
- iPad applications
- MacOS applications
- Apple Watch
- Apple TV
When it comes to these devices, there are typically two choices for programming languages: Objective-C and Swift. Many developers choose to use Swift to develop Apple and iOS applications due to its modern features, ease of use, and speed. However, it’s important to note that Swift can be used to develop other applications, too, such as creating web services and web applications.
Swift Benefits for Businesses
From a business standpoint, using Swift to build your iOS applications just makes sense. Since many people choose Apple devices over other devices, ensuring that you have Swift developers on your team is a must and that your business can run and maintain effective iOS applications. Besides the benefits from a developer’s point of view, which can be intertwined with a business perspective in place, there are a few noteworthy reasons why businesses should consider hiring Swift developers to handle their application development. Here's a few to consider:
- Swift is low maintenance: Once a mobile application has been completed with Swift, maintaining and managing that app is easy to do, especially when compared to Objective-C. Objective-C uses two separate files to manage its applications, while Swift operates its files into a single program.
- Swift offers a better user experience: Aside from the fact that Swift has many safety features, and iOS devices are known for their security measures, both of which contribute to an overall better user experience, Swift-developed apps are known to be faster, take less time to install, and consume less on-device memory, providing users with a great experience when using applications developed by Swift.
- Developing with Swift is costs less time and money: Swift is a programming language that has been optimized for efficiency and provides developers with ease of use, so it takes less time to create applications. Less time typically results in less costs being distributed.
What Is a Swift Developer?
Swift app developers are individuals who are skilled, either in education, experience, or both, in iOS development. They use the Swift programming language to create, manage, and upkeep iOS and OS X applications and programs. As a result, they usually work in application development and the integration of back-end systems. Swift software developers work in teams and, depending on the level of the developer, sometimes manage and mentor teams.
What Does a Swift Programmer Do?
What a Swift programmer does depends on a few factors, including:
- The industry in which the developer is working
- The employer hiring the developer
- The job description written by the employer
- The educational background of the Swift developer, and
- Any relevant experience the Swift developer has gained over the years.
Experience will determine what level a Swift developer is at and whether they are a junior, intermediate, or senior developer.
Swift Developers Roles and Responsibilities
While the roles and responsibilities of a Swift developer may vary depending on the above factors, there are a few commonalities between Swift developer roles that one might find in a job description.
These roles and responsibilities include:
- Planning, designing, creating, and implementing iOS and OS X applications
- Watching over the performance, responsiveness, and quality of applications
- Collaborating with the development team, project managers, and other colleagues to decide on, design, and create new features
- Identifying process blocks and issues
- Finding, troubleshooting, and debugging issues promptly
- Suggesting improvements for current processes and features
- Publishing applications on the App Store
- Managing the code and application
- Ensuring atomization of the application
- Creating and distributing application updates
Swift Developers Qualifications
A Swift developer's qualifications will depend on the specific job that he or she is applying for. They will also depend on the level of Swift developers and whether they're newer developers (junior) or established developers (senior).
In general, the required qualifications typically include:
- A bachelor’s degree or higher in software engineering, computer science, or a related field
- A proven track record of working as an application developer and writing code
- Proficiency in Cocoa and Cocoa Touch, Objective-C, and Swift
- A comprehensive knowledge of iOS Frameworks, such as Core Animation and Core Data
- Experience in iOS back-end services
- An understanding of Apple’s application interface guidelines and design principles
- Knowledge of code versioning tools, such as Git, SVN, and Mercurial
- Experience using a standard library such as C-based libraries
- Knowledge of APIs, push notifications, and cloud messaging
- Experience working with continuous integration
How Much Do Swift Developers Make?
How much a Swift app developer makes will depend on their specific industry, employer, education, and experience, as well as any additional skills held by the expert and the location where the Swift expert and employer live.
According to Salary.com, the national median of a Swift expert in the United States is $87,206 annually.
Entry-Level Swift Developer Salary
In the United States, the national average for a junior or entry-level Swift developer is $38 an hour according to ZipRecruiter, which roughly translates to $79,980 a year.
The skills required of a junior Swift developer vary, but they usually are:
- A minimum of 1 year experience in iOS development, either through Swift or Objective-C
- Experience in developing iOS applications on the iOS platform using Xcode
- Creativity and an eagerness to work
- Good written and verbal communication skills
- Experience in C and C++
- Knowledge of RESTful web services and third-party API integrations
- An understanding of modern version control and CI/CD
Senior Swift Developer Salary
According to Glassdoor, a Senior iOS developer can expect to make $112,151 annually in the United States. Typically, a Senior Swift programmer should have the following skills, though this can vary depending on the specific job in question:
- A minimum of 5 years of Swift experience
- Ability to develop and manage iOS mobile applications
- Experience in JSON
- Time management skills
- Experience with C, C++, and Objective-C
- Leadership skills
- Knowledge of Cocoa Touch
- Experience using Xcode
- Strong problem-solving skills
- Knowledge of SQLite, SOAP, and Core data
- Ability to manage and mentor teammates effectively
How To Find and Hire the Best Dedicated Swift Developers
Finding and hiring the best dedicated swift developers can be difficult. Not only do you need to know where to look, but you also need to understand what to look for. Plus, you need to consider your goals and vision and ensure that your potential developers are on board.
So, where do you look for Swift developers? You have a few options:
- Browsing online job boards such as Indeed and Monster.
- Scouting universities where graduating students are eager to jump into the workforce
- Recruiting new hires through social media
- Consulting with recruiters and staffing agencies
- Placing "help wanted" signs and job ads in local places and newspapers
- Posting job ads on your website
- Enlisting talent marketplaces like Revelo
Once you know where to look, you then need to figure out how to attract potential candidates and how to choose the right one for your business. Make sure you have an enticing job description that you can post. It should clearly state what the job entails and list attractive benefits.
After you’ve got some potential candidates lined up, you should consider their:
- Long-term potential
- Ability to be a team player
- Experience and proven track records
- Portfolio of past work
- Professional references
With these factors in mind, you shouldn’t have a problem finding and hiring a Swift developer for the job.
Work With Revelo
Still unsure? That’s okay. Here at Revelo, we can help. Our mission is to introduce business owners and entrepreneurs to their next professional tech talent. We use a pre-vetted list of the best talent in Latin America from which you can choose and the rest is left to us. We also handle everything from the actual hiring process to administering payroll.
Alternative IT Talent Marketplace