Android Is Kotlin First
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 08 May 2019

There isn't much substantive for the Android programmer announced at this year's Google I/O,  but there are signs about the future direction it is all heading in - and its Kotlin-oriented.


I think Kotlin is a great language, but the idea that you can switch the entire developer ecosystem from one language to another is thinking really big. It has been obvious that the Android team liked Kotlin, and perhaps a little higher up Google saw some safety in Kotlin from Oracle's attack on Android's use of Java. Yes, it could be that Google is running from Java to escape Oracle's reach, but if so it is at least running to a better place.

At Google I/O we were given a clear statement that the move to Kotlin is accelerating:

"Android development will become increasingly Kotlin-first. Many new Jetpack APIs and features will be offered first in Kotlin. If you’re starting a new project, you should write it in Kotlin; code written in Kotlin often mean much less code for you–less code to type, test, and maintain. And, in partnership with Jetbrains and the Kotlin Foundation, we’re continuing to invest in tooling, docs, training and events to make Kotlin even easier to learn and use."

As long as you don't mind giving up the investment you have made in Java, this is all good. Of course you won't be able to ignore Java in the future as the Android Framework and the SDK is in Java and the task of rewriting it all is too big to contemplate.

It is also unlikely to get Google off the hook if the Supreme Court goes along with the verdict that APIs are copyright. In this case reimplementing the SDK wouldn't make any difference as the actual function names and parameter lists are copyrighted and it doesn't matter if it is implemented in Kotlin or assembler - they belong to Oracle. In short, Kotlin won't save Android from Oracle.

Yes, things really are this bad and given the fuss raised over GDPR and the EU copyright laws it is surprising that developers aren't storming the winter palace.


Other small things announced at I/O

  • Android Studio 3.5 Beta - more news when released

  • Six new libraries added in alpha to Jetpack and five upgraded to beta - you can almost feel how much instability and churn Jetpack is bring to Android development. When it all settles down it might be better, but there will still be multiple ways of doing any given task.

  • CameraX is one of the new Jetpack libraries that smooths out the differences between camera hardware. And guess what - there is an easy migration path from legacy Camera APIs. The key quote is:

You’ll find support for leading-edge hardware and software features like optical zoom, bokeh, HDR, and night mode on participating manufacturer devices.

and the key part of the quote is "participating manufacturer devices". Android isn't like iOS where every manufacturer is a participating manufacturer.

  • Android Q has better support of Android Neural networks API which allows models to run faster on mobile hardware.

With Android's very existence under threat from Oracle, Copyright law, Chrome OS and Fuchsia, I suppose we should be surprised that there is so much development going on. 


  • Mike James is the author of The Programmer's Guide To Kotlin (I/O Press) and Android Programming in Kotlin: Starting With An App (I/O Press), some chapters of which are already published on I Programmer.


More Information

Google I/O 2019: Empowering developers to build the best experiences on Android + Play

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 May 2019 )