Swift is a highly intuitive programming language for Apple’s operating systems like iOS, macOS, and watchOS. The programming language has been growing in popularity and it can be attributed to its unique and valuable features. Swift is a widely used language for iOS app development globally. The iPhone app development platform has evolved considerably in the past. After going through four massive version updates, Swift released the latest two versions, Swift 5.0 and Swift 5.1. The remarkable functions of both these versions play a significant role in strengthening the language. The programming language is poised to become a game-changer in the mobile app development industry, with its latest version, Swift 5.
Whether you want to grow your business as an entrepreneur or looking for ways to scale as a startup, Swift offers you all the advantages of developing the best in class, highly functional and completely customised iOS applications. That’s one of the reasons why LinkedIn, Lyft and others have upgraded their iOS mobile application in Swift.
Let us first look into what both these versions have to offer. Then, we’ll look into Swift 5 features that make the updates an ideal choice for iOS app development companies.
What was introduced with Swift 5 Update?
Apart from the revolutionary ABI stability, the Swift runtime is also now added in the present and future Apple platform’s OS versions: iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.
Swift 5 features also come with a plethora of new capabilities that act as the building blocks of Apple’s vision and give a new direction to the advantages of the swift programming language.
*For in-depth insights, head on to Swift 5 release notes.
1. Binary Compatibility and a Stable ABI
ABI was declared stable for Swift 5 app development. As a result, Swift libraries have been incorporated in every iOS, tvOS, watchOS, and macOS, which was earlier a problematic element whenever engineers had to develop apps for iOS. The applications will now be easier to develop and much smaller in size since they will not include any libraries.
2. Standard Library Updates
Swift 5’s standard library comes with the following new feature set:
- The string has been reimplemented with the UTF-8 encoding which results in faster code.
- Better support for raw texts in the string literals.
- The SIMD vector and Result types have been added.
- Performance improvements in Set and Directory.
- Enhancements in String implementation, giving flexibility for constructing text from data.
3. Additional Compiler and Language Updates
It also implements these language proposals:
- Handling future enum cases
- Literal initialization through coercion
- Introduce user-defined dynamic “callable” types
- Supports ‘less than’ operator in the compilation conditions
- Identity key path
- Flatten nested optionals emerging from ‘try?’
4. Package Manager Updates
The Swift Package Manager comes with a series of new features in the Swift 5 app development version, which includes: Dependency mirroring, customized deployment targets, target-specific build settings, and the capability to generate the code coverage data. In addition to this, the swift run command includes a capability to import libraries in REPL with building an executable.
Swift 5 also implements these Package Manager proposals from Swift evolution process:
- Dependency Mirroring
- Platform deployment settings
- Target specific build settings
What was introduced with Swift 5.1?
Swift 5.1 grows on the strength of Swift 5 with features like module stability and other new features that extend the ability of language and standard library like: opaque result types, property wrappers, new APIs for String, diffing for appropriate collection types, etc.
Together, Swift 5.1 makes it easy to design APIs and lower the common boilerplate code.
Here are the features that Swift 5.1 comes with:
1. Module Stability
Swift 5.1 makes it possible to create binary frameworks which can be shared with others who leverage language’s added support for module stability. This, in turn, makes it extremely convenient and speedy for developers to develop apps for iOS.
It defines a new text based module interface file which describes the binary framework API, enabling it to get compiled with codes with the help of different compiler versions.
2. Standard Library Updates
The Swift 5.1 standard library comes with the following new features, making it extremely easy to understand how to make apps with Swift 5:
- Support for updating and handling diffs on the collection of appropriate types.
- Greater flexibility for initialization of an array.
- APIs for working with Strings – developing and handling contiguous strings, helper for working with Unicode text, and general initializers for Range and String.index.
- Identifiable protocol for extending reductions, vector swizzles, and vectors.
3. Language Server Protocol
The Swift 5.1 OSS toolchain packages for Ubuntu and macOS include binaries for the SourceKit-LSP, which is an implementation of LSP for C-based languages and Swift.
4. SwiftSyntax Updates
It has been re-architecture with a separate focus on improving the performance by using a parser from the Swift compiler. Additionally, the performance of the syntax tree visitation and its related operations have been improved through the re-architecture of internal data structures.
5. Additional Language and Compiler Updates
Swift 5.1 comes with these new language features:
- Property wrappers introducing consistent context for defining the custom access patterns for property values like – delayed initializers, thread-specific storage, atomic operations, etc.
- The return keyword is not needed for single expression getters or functions.
- Self can be used for value types and classes.
- The compiler synthesizes default values for the properties with default initializers.
How do Businesses benefit from it?
Although the majority of the features introduced with Swift 5 and Swift 5.1 are in favor of Swift app builders, some of them can be translated into business benefits as well.
One of the key features that directly impact businesses – the one that the Apple industry had been waiting for since Swift 1.0 – is ABI (Application Binary Interface) stability.
While sounding much like a developer’s problem, what this means in practicality is that Apple couldn’t include Swift programming language support in the operating systems, because an app written in Swift 2 couldn’t run with Swift 3. Simply because it wouldn’t work with the language support binaries of Swift 3.
The solution that was available to the developers was to include the Swift libraries in the app bundle which would get downloaded from the App store. This, in turn, increased the size and the storage requirement of the application. And became one of the biggest disadvantages of the swift iOS programming language.
But with Swift 5 making ABI stable, the industry has now received a permanent solution to these user-side issues. It would enable the developers to run the application in all the upcoming Swift versions. Meaning, the code is written in the Swift 5 app development process will run on Swift 6, 7, and so on, an event that makes Swift a preferred language for Enterprises and Startups.
This move is speculated to be the one that would bring language several strides ahead in the Swift vs Objective-C comparison.
Here are the business benefits of the Swift 5 update:
- Smaller app size: Swift 5 makes the language binary compatible. Meaning, the end result of Swift mobile development would be significantly smaller for the users to run on their new operating system – iOS 12.2, watchOS 5.2, macOS 10.14.4, and tvOS 12.2.
- Faster Launch: Another advantage of this is the faster launch time, since every dynamic library which is used by an application (which increases the launch time) will be cached in the memory and shared among the applications.
- Greater Performance: Users do not want to work in a broken application. And with app freeze and glitches being the biggest reason behind app uninstallation rate, it is imperative for a business to avoid it. The Swift 5’s ABI stability helps apps in behaving better and offering enhanced performance.
How small is too small? Let’s answer through the help of some live cases of Swift app development for iOS –
- Apollo for Reddit: comes with an app size of 35.7 MB. Here, the 7.5 MB is made up of Swift libraries. Now when the app gets updated to Swift 5, the size will be reduced by over 20% and come around at 30 MB.
- Chirp an app that brought Twitter to Apple Watch comes with a size of 28.8 MB, which is inclusive of 11.6 MB made of Swift libraries. This, when updated to Swift 5, gets reduced by over 30%, bringing the size down 20 MB.
- Readability: One of the key reasons why it is best to choose Swift is due to its readability. It is relatively easy to modify, read and write and the clean syntax renders it a special uniqueness. It requires a lesser number of lines of code than Objective-C when compared to Swift apps.
Apps created with Swift not only decrease the development cost but also the development time.
In a blog post talking about the future of Swift language, Donny Wals said, “Now that we have Module Stability and ABI Stability in Swift, the language is likely to change at a slower rate than we’re used to. We should see less radical, source-breaking changes and the language should slowly mature into a beautiful, fast and stable language that will be a great basis for your applications for years to come.”
Is it good to build an app in swift 5? Yes. The time is right for businesses with iOS apps to get the code re-written in Swift 5 and for new businesses to build apps on Swift 5 and benefit from the impeccable user experience.