11 Weeks of Android: Languages

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Posted by David Winer, Product Manager

11 Weeks of Android, Week 5: Languages

This blog post is part of a weekly series for #11WeeksOfAndroid. Each week we’re diving into a key area of Android so you don’t miss anything. This week, we spotlighted languages; here’s a look at what you should know.

Modern Android development starts with outstanding language support. Together, Kotlin, the Java programming language, and C++ form the foundation for Android’s APIs and the tools you use every day for app development. This week we dove into all of the latest news across Android’s three core languages: from Kotlin coroutines to Android 11’s new Java APIs to better tools for native development, there’s a lot packed into the latest release.

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Kotlin and coroutines

Kotlin is at the core of Android’s modern, opinionated APIs. We hear from Android developers around the world that they love Kotlin for how expressive it is, how it helps you write higher quality apps, and how easy it is to start using in your existing Java codebase. More than 70% of the top 1000 apps on the Play Store now use Kotlin, and SlashDataTM announced earlier this year that Kotlin has been the fastest growing language community in percentage terms over the past two years. With the Android 11 beta, we decided to further embrace Kotlin by officially recommending coroutines for asynchronous work on Android.

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Coroutines make it easy to write, read, and understand async code. The coroutines library is stable and already has deep integration with many of the Jetpack libraries you may be using, including Room, LiveData, and WorkManager. If you’re new to coroutines, check out Android ❤️ Coroutines: How to Manage Async Tasks in Kotlin, the latest coroutines learning pathway, and our new coroutines developer guide.

Getting started with Kotlin

From Kotlin-first libraries in Android Jetpack to deep integration with the tools in Android Studio, Android is deeply committed to Kotlin — and there’s never been a better time to start using it. We’ve heard from many of you, though, that convincing your team to adopt Kotlin is not always easy. Even though Kotlin is 100% interoperable with the Java programming language, your teammates might have concerns. Is it worth spending the time learning a new language? How should you prioritize Kotlin against our other product and technology priorities?

This week we released a new case study from the Google Home team to help answer some of these questions. Over the course of one year, the Google Home team moved all new feature development to Kotlin and found their null pointer exceptions dropped by 33% during the same period. This is consistent with what we’ve heard from Android teams all over the world — from Duolingo to Zomato to Cash App — Kotlin is delivering value both in the form of productivity and higher app quality for teams large and small. For all our latest case studies and data on Kotlin, check out our new Kotlin case studies page.

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For beginners, we announced the launch of our new Android Basics in Kotlin course. If you are just learning how to program, Android Basics teaches essential programming concepts like functions and variables and will take you from “Hello World” all the way up through building a whole collection of Android apps in Kotlin.

The Java programming language and C++

When we announced official support for Kotlin three years ago, we didn’t forget about the large number of Java and C++ Android developers. In the Android 11 release, we sought to keep improving our support for both of these languages. With the Android 11 beta, we upgraded our Java library support with a number of new APIs from OpenJDK 9, 10, and 11. We also unveiled Java library desugaring in Android Studio 4.0, making it easy to use many of these newer Java APIs even on older Android devices — for those of you who have asked for java.time support on older devices, we’ve heard you loud and clear, and it’s arrived. For all the latest information on how to make use of these newer APIs, check out Murat Yener’s talk Support for newer Java APIs. With Android 11, we also updated the Android runtime to make app startup even faster with I/O prefetching.

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The C++ developer experience continues to get better, too. Android 11 included updates across the native toolchain, including better tools for profile-guided optimization (PGO) and improvements to native dependency management in Android Studio 4.0.

Ever-improving toolchains

Finally, we continue to focus on improvements to the D8 and R8 compilers in Android Studio. Android Studio comes with built-in support for the R8 shrinker, which helps you keep your app’s memory footprint small, leading to higher installs and retention among your users. We also recently added support for shrinking Kotlin libraries and apps that use Kotlin reflection with R8. For more information, check out Mads Ager and Morten Krogh-Jespersen’s latest Medium post.

Resources

You can find the entire playlist of #11WeeksOfAndroid video content here, and learn more about each week here. We’ll continue to spotlight new areas each week, so keep an eye out and follow us on Twitter and YouTube. Thanks so much for letting us be a part of this experience with you!

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