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A new era for native mobile development?



Over the last few years, new languages have been introduced for both iOS and Android that could see the start of a new era in native mobile development – one where teams can collaborate more and may even be able to work on both systems.

Until very recently, developing native mobile applications meant having an iOS team who coded in Objective C and an Android team who developed in Java. Stark differences between the two ecosystems and the languages themselves meant there were few developers who were experts on both platforms. As a result, development for each system often occurred in relative isolation.


Apple introduced Swift, initially as a proprietary language and a predecessor to Objective C, for developing iOS and OS X apps in 2014. Despite the fact that it was a radical improvement to the rather old Objective C, uptake for Swift was initially slow. Lack of backwards compatibility between each release did not help developers migrate their projects with confidence.

With the release of Swift 2, and taking Swift open source, the floodgates for adoption have been opened – in January 2016, Swift overtook Objective C in the TIOBE index. Unfortunately, the release of Swift 3 did not include a stable Application Binary Interface (ABI) and so we will probably need to wait for Swift 4 before developers consider this a safe language to invest in.


Kotlin has been developed by the JetBrains team who produce Android Studio – the official IDE for Android development. It has been around since 2011 but the first stable release was made in February 2016. It is a JVM language, which means it compiles down to Java byte code.

It represents a step forwards from Java but has been designed to be fully interoperable with Java, even to the point where a lot of the syntax should be easily recognisable to Java developers.

While Kotlin has not been announced as Google’s chosen replacement for Java on the Android platform just yet, the support for the language via Android Studio has helped drive adoption.

Both Swift and Kotlin are seen as modern programming languages. When compared to their respective predecessors, they bring a host of features and structures that the old languages do not support.

At a high level, it can be argued that both of the new languages are:

  • Easier to read
  • Easier to maintain
  • Less verbose
  • Have improved safety – thanks to strict strongly typed systems, which include nullability
  • Have a more modern syntax

Both languages have powerful features like extensions and immutability and they support functional as well as procedural programming paradigms, allowing developers to use new patterns in their designs.


An interesting aspect of these languages is their similarity. In fact, the syntax is so similar, it can be tricky to distinguish them. This provides opportunities for development teams. The ability to more easily share designs between the platforms have mixed peer reviews where Android and iOS devs review each other’s code and potentially share common libraries would change the landscape for mobile developers.

While I don’t see the system specialists disappearing anytime soon, there is the very real prospect of support teams working on both platforms and even building development teams with central mixed discipline developers supported by systems experts. At the very least, the syntactical similarity means that cross training from one platform to another should be a simpler job in the future – anyone who has tried to persuade a Java developer to take up Objective C will appreciate this!

Balance to tip more in favour of native development

These developments may also have a bearing on the ‘native vs hybrid’ conversation that occurs periodically in nearly every mobile team. With little overhead of switching between systems, shared code and easier support, I’d expect the balance to tip even more in favour of native development.

Systems like Xamerin, React Native and Cordova may in time feel the pinch from these new languages.

A further advantage of these new languages is the way they are being adopted as server side languages. IBM is using Swift for developers to write server side applications and Spring has announced that Spring Framework 5.0 will have dedicated Kotlin support. In one of our existing teams, where the mobile team is also responsible for writing service layer code, this possible alignment of languages across the systems is an exciting prospect.

While it’s unlikely that we’ll reach the point of just using one of these languages to code for both mobile platforms anytime soon, their similarity, and the fact that their adoption is moving outside of just the mobile arena, will impact our mobile teams.

More robust products built from closer developer collaboration, consolidated and streamlined support teams, and the ability to keep developers engaged by allowing them to more easily work as full stack developers, are some of the ways future mobile teams will be different from those of today.


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African fintech aYo looks to data to drive growth



African fintech aYo Holdings Group CEO, Marius Botha (Image: Supplied)

African fintech aYo Holdings is transforming its technology back end and data management approach as it gears up to drive greater scale, better customer experience and faster access to markets across the African continent in the coming years.

The company already has more than 15 million customers using its microinsurance products across Uganda, Ghana, Zambia and Côte d’Ivoire, and Group CEO Marius Botha says its vision is to grow into the largest financial services technology platform in Africa by enabling the distribution of a range of affordable and accessible micro financial services products.

aYo and its shareholder, MTN, are currently working on the final details of a partnership with a new insurance group for access to more underwriter licenses, in order to expand its product range and penetrate more markets.

“We see ourselves as a technology company first and foremost, that happens to sell microinsurance now. As our customers transition to a world where financial services are easily accessible via mobile phone and transacted via apps and other channels. We need to respond with a platform business model that will allow us to scale rapidly and cost-effectively manage material volumes of nano transactions,” said Botha.

Part of this technology evolution has seen aYo transition to a cloud data warehousing approach. Using Snowflake as a solution as it looks to deal with growing volumes of customer data.

“Data is a key asset that we want to grow and leverage, as it will allow us to drive better outcomes and value for our customers. Moving into a new generation data warehousing capability gives us the ability to analyse usable data faster, and build automated models for particular use cases. Like more granular target market segmentation, retention strategies and targeted customer propositions,” said Botha.

Choice of technology plays a critical role in ensuring the affordability of micro financial services by driving ‘frictional costs’ out of the system. Like the costings involved in using legacy tools and processes, or online physical hosting solutions. A solution like Snowflake helps the company to scale up and down according to demand. And makes it easier to build real-time reporting capabilities which are key strategic aims.

“We’re excited to be experimenting with world-class technologies that help accelerate our vision to enable first-time access to financial services for many African consumers, and bring them into the economic mainstream. That’s where insurtechs are truly contributing to financial inclusion across the continent, and making a positive difference to people’s lives,” said Botha.



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Press Release

Social media main enabler for growth among women-owned businesses



95% of women SMEs in the region identify social media channels as the top tool to drive their business ventures

Mastercard, the Official Payment Technology Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai, and Female Fusion Network unveiled new research at the first in a series of workshops for the region’s female entrepreneurs at the world’s largest cultural gathering.

Held at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Women’s Pavilion, in collaboration with Cartier, the session focused on the power of the digital economy in enabling women-owned businesses to go online. In a study conducted among Female Fusion’s network of 20,000+ members across the region, it was revealed that 95% of women SMEs in the region identify social media channels as the top tool for their business ventures. Other channels include their own e-commerce websites (72%) as well as messaging services such as Facebook and Whatsapp (50%).

In addition, three out of four (72%) women-owned businesses said they rely on word of mouth to market their products and services. The workshop identified how SMEs can make the most of their online footprint, and better connect to their consumers in a digital economy.

Speakers included Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships MEA, Mastercard, Sarah Beydoun, Founder and Creative Director of social impact fashion business Sarah’s Bag in Lebanon, Ioanna Angelidaki, co-founder of Instashop, and Maureen Hall, Founder and CEO of COÉGA Sunwear.

“The findings from the study indicate a clear need for further education and empowerment. Mastercard has long pushed for the success and growth of women as we break gender barriers around the world. Digital tools and technologies are the greatest equalizer for businesses and as the shift towards e-commerce becomes increasingly permanent, we are committed to helping women businesses go digital and grow digital as they pursue their entrepreneurial passions,” said Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships MEA, Mastercard.

The recent unveiling of the inaugural Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index also revealed that in terms of a digital footprint of the region’s women entrepreneurs, social media (71%) leads the way followed by a company website (57%).

“We are proud of the successful launch of our workshop series in partnership with Mastercard. As a growing community of ambitious women leaders, Female Fusion Network looks to support our members with access to platforms that offer simple yet effective takeaways for them to grow their business. We look forward to having more of these impactful sessions during Expo 2020 Dubai,” said Jennifer Blandos, Managing Partner, Female Fusion Network.

Mastercard has made a global commitment to connect 25 million women entrepreneurs to the digital economy by 2025 as part of its goal to build a more sustainable and inclusive world. As part of its efforts, the technology leader recently launched  ‘The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey’ a first-of-its kind digital education platform that brings together a range of world-class academic and business resources to help small businesses learn and thrive.



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AOC dazzles visitors with a special game room at GITEX Technology 2021



AOC Sales Director Middle East & Africa, Carol Ann Dias (Image: Hazem Abed)

AOC, the world’s leading manufacturer of computer monitors, highlights its presence at GITEX Technology Week 2021 through their authorized distributor, Hiperdist. At GITEX, AOC is showcasing a special game room where visitors can get try out the latest lineup of gaming monitors, some of which are made for professional e-gamers.

“Being one of the largest information technology exhibitions not just in the region but the whole world, AOC would not want to miss the opportunity to participate at GITEX 2021,” said Carol Ann Dias, Sales Director Middle East & Africa at AOC. “More than making our presence felt at the show, we are now focusing on emerging markets which is why we have partnered with Hiperdist due to their strong presence in the MEA region,” she added.

Some of AOC’s well-known monitors that include the Agon and the G2 line up are all on display at GITEX. Where visitors are encouraged to try out the new displays that offer some of the best technologies that make it fit for the gaming crowd.

Already a top choice by gaming professionals, the AGON AG352UCG6 features a 35-inch display with a 120HZ refresh rate. The curved design supports a WQHD (3440 x 1440) resolution that has 2.4x more pixels than a standard widescreen monitor. It also features a lighting panel at its rear which can be customized in colours of red, green or blue.

Also on display is the AOC C27G2 gaming monitor that comes in a 27-inch size with a 165Hz refresh rate. There’s also a 1ms response time for more accurate play. And Freesync support so high-intensity games are razor-sharp without ghosting.

Visitors can join and experience AOC monitors at the Hiperdist stand in Hall 3 E1 at GITEX Technology Week in the Dubai World Trade Centre.



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