For Developers

Python vs Java for App Development. The war of fierce backend rivals

February 28, 2022

In the era when basically ”everything you need should have an app”, the mobile app development trend continues to skyrocket. 

When it comes to the choice between Python and Java, it’s not easy to make a decision. The most popular websites and apps in the world like Google, Facebook, Instagram, or Netflix have both Python and Java in their back-end.

Both of them are high-level programming languages that offer great opportunities for developers. Being highly efficient, they are widely used in building an internet of things, including web, APIs, app development, data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and many more. But for different tasks, developers prefer to use different types of languages. 

Our article will help you judge this fierce fight responsibly. First, we will start with the top features, tools, and drawbacks of Python and Java, respectively, explaining which one is the best for your next big project. Then, we will provide some interesting graphs, stats, and trends that will show their popularity fluctuations. Finally, we will sum everything up in the brief with a pro/cons comparison table.

So let’s start with the top features and tools of both to see who will win the coding battle.

What are the top features of Python?

  • A high-level, general-purpose and user-friendly programming language with dynamic semantics resembling ordinary English;
  • Widely-used for backend development and perfect choice for RAD (Rapid Application Development) for features like dynamic binding, built-in data structures, dynamic typing;
  • Used for Machine Learning, Deep Learning and AI field;
  • It is easy to write and debug;
  • Helps developers make complex programming simpler;
  • Offers a very simple syntax compared to Java, C and C++ languages;
  • Each function has its unique chunk of code;
  • Supports both object-oriented and functional programming features;
  • Runs on different kinds of OS;
  • Has a vast collection of built-in libraries for browsers, image and document etc. Therefore, you don’t have to download them separately;
  • Comes with many pre-built libraries that are freely available on the web.

What are the top features of Java?

  • Inspired by C and C++ languages;
  • Its apps are highly interactive and responsive;
  • Due to JVM (Java Virtual Machine), it runs on any platform;
  • A fully object-oriented language;
  • Supports multiple open-source libraries;
  • Uses static-typing syntax, which is a lot easier and faster for compilation and less prone to errors than dynamic-typed one;
  • Offers a large pool of skilled developers;
  • Provides a multi-threaded environment that allows developers to perform many tasks at the same time in a program;
  • Has a huge array of easy to navigate libraries;
  • Allows developers to form standard programs and reusable code.

Python vs Java - Popularity, Future, Code, Performance & many more

Popularity

Both Python and Java hold their positions together in the top 10 programming languages in different ratings along with C#, C++, Javascript, and PHP.  But the competition is getting tougher. Over the past few years, Java has shown some negative dynamics, but the setback is not gradual. Google Trends show’s Python’s fame rose above Java in 2021:

@Google Trends (2021)

Likewise, according to PYPL, Python is the most searched language today. PYPL published separate rankings for US, UK, France, India, Canada, and in every country Python is way ahead of all the others. Java is the second to come.

Another source that gave us some food for thought is the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020 ranking. Their chart shows us one more proof that Java and Python are going head to head. It reports that Python has 44.1% and holds the 4th place, while its opponent Java boasted 40.2% ranking 5th.

As you can see, Python is definitely on the rise now. And the reasons for that are quite simple. Python gains popularity due to its communicativity. People just grasp it easier. With its wide range of libraries, the new programmer does not have to start from scratch. 

Python is of great use for experimentation, while Java is better for production code. As long as there is more experimentation than production code worldwide, you can understand why Python wins the devs’ hearts.

Winner: Python


Talent pool

Be sure you will 100% find top Python and Java talents. Based on Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020, Python is used by 66.7% of professionals, whereas Java devs took only 44.1%. But still, both languages indicate huge talent pools. To compare, PHP is only used by 37.3%.

Winner: Python

Easiness to learn

Python is one of the easiest programming languages to learn. Because of this, it’s often recommended for those who want to grasp programming as quickly as possible. What takes you a few lines of code in Java can be done in Python with just one. If you use both Python and Java for the same task, you will see that Python code requires fewer characters and operators to complete and implement it.

Winner: Python

Developer productivity

People claim that developers can be up to 10 times faster and more productive while writing code in Python rather than in Java. One of key differences between Python and Java is that Python is dynamically typed, whereas Java is statistically typed. Being dynamically typed, it is easier to develop IT products. Despite this, Java is less prone to bugs than Python. Otherwise, with the help of both languages, developers will be able to quickly build everything whether it is a small web app or high traffic website. 

Winner: Python

Mobile development

One of the biggest drawback of  iPythons that Python is not native to the mobile environment. Neither of the major mobile platforms, such as Android or iOS, supports Python as an official programming language. What does it mean? The app development process will require more effort from developers in order to deliver a richer user experience, compared to using Java. One the other hand, when it comes to Android app development, Java is one of the most used programming languages. 

Winner: Java

Speed of coding

The ease and simplicity of writing makes Python the best choice for developers who work in a set timeframe. However, in terms of speed, things are completely different with Java, as its products tend to take more time and may require larger development teams. In conclusion, building a MVP (Mobile Viable Product) in Python may require a few weeks, whereas in Java is likely to take months.

Winner: Python

Performance

Java users often say: “Well, you may write your code in Python, but when you need to scale your app up, you have to rewrite it in Java”. Whether it might seem that both languages have the same performance, there is a fundamental difference between the two. Java has a static typing syntax. With this syntax, the compilation is easier, less error-prone and better-targeted. Java also comes with a JIT compiler. This feature increases the speed and efficiency of the language.

Since Python uses dynamic type syntax, the code typed is non verbose enough to fit every platform. Plus, any problem with the program can pause the entire application. All of these variables synchronically lead to a decrease in the efficiency and speed of the language. After all, performance is an incredibly important metric. Which language works faster usually depends on how the code was written, how it is used and how it runs.

Winner: Java

Now, let’s take a look at the pros/cons of using Python and Java.

Comparing the pros, cons, and use cases

Python key characteristics

Who uses Python: Netflix, Google, YouTube, Quora, Uber, Dropbox, Pinterest

Best for: Games, Image processing and graphic design, Language development, Machine learning apps, Operating systems, Prototyping

Code: small lines, semicolons not used

Dynamic/static: dynamic

Syntax: indentation required (mainly for readability), braces are not

Portability: yes

Speed: faster than Java (interprets variables and types on the run)

Easiness: easier than Java

Backend frameworks: Django and Flask for building apps

Machine learning libraries: Tensorflow, Pytorch Machine Learning Library

Game development engines: Cocos, Panda3d

Java key characteristics

Who uses Java: Cash App, Twitter, Airbnb, Pinterest, Spotify

Best for: Mobile applications, Big-scale enterprise solutions, Desktop GUI apps, Embedded Systems, Web app services

Code: lengthy lines, operators, and blocks

Dynamic/static: static

Syntax: blocks in curly braces, semicolons at the end of lines & the whole program

Portability: JVM (Java Virtual Machine) is standard and available everywhere

Speed: slower than Python

Easiness: more difficult than Python

Backend frameworks: Spring and Blade

Machine learning libraries: Weka, Mallet, MOA, Deeplearning4j

Game development engines: JMonkeyEngine

Python advantages

Today developers tend to use Python more as it is easier to learn and use. Here are even more reasons why they do it:

  • Extensive support libraries. Together with its multiple programming paradigms, it reduces the length of the code and ensures code reusability and readability.
  • Open-source. Python is free to use and distribute. In addition to that, support is always available. 
  • Easy to learn and well supported. Famous for its easy-to-learn syntax, Python is a great starting point for beginners.
  • High-level object-oriented programming. Python lets developers work faster and efficiently integrate different systems.
  • Great community. Many other developers can advise you how to use it better, as long as Python has a huge community around it. 
  • Productivity. Python is more productive than Java, thanks to its enhanced process control, text processing capabilities and testing framework.

Java advantages

The difference in performance between Java and Python is not that great, but when it comes to some specific things, such as reliability and optimization, it becomes really significant. Here are few reasons why developers choose Java: 

  • Great accessibility. Java can be integrated with ease from one computer system to another. 
  • Compiled language. By using Java, developers can compile the program one time and then use the bytecode generated by the Java compiler on any platform.
  • Reliability. Thanks to its early checking feature for possible errors, Java detects many problems at the initial stage. 
  • Code reusability. Just-in-time compilation, object-oriented approach and platform independence helps developers run their code anywhere with JVM.
  • Multi-task language. With Java, developers can use one program to perform several tasks simultaneously. It’s called multithreaded programming and this feature is vital in visual and network programming. 

Disadvantages of Python

Here are the disadvantages of using Python:

  • Used in fewer platforms
  • Memory consumption is high, so better not to use it for memory-intensive tasks
  • Not the best choice for mobile app development
  • Requires more testings and often has runtime errors
  • Offers a primitive database access layer

Disadvantages of Java

Here are the main drawbacks of using Java:

  • Requires a higher complexity of programming language learning
  • Its JIT compiler makes the program slower than other counterparts
  • Requires high memory which is managed through garbage collection
  • Once the garbage collection runs, if affects the program performance

What is Python good for?

Here are the top 3 areas where Python is used:

Web Development

This is the essence of Python’s applicability. Thanks to its wide variety of frameworks and content management systems such as Django, Flask, Pyramid, Plone CMS, Wagtail, Python language simplifies the developer’s life.

Game Development

Did you know that the very popular Sims 4, World of Tanks and Battlefield 2 were written in Python. Python provides tons of libraries and tools for game development, including PyGame, Panda3D, Construct and many others. 

AI & Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are extremely popular topics today. Python has contributed to their growth and ranks second among the languages used for machine learning. 

What is Java good for?

Here are 4 main fields where Java comes in handy:

Mobile applications - Java is most commonly used for mobile devices now. Any app on your Android phone is actually written in the Java programming language using the Android SDK. This means that Java is one of the most commonly used languages for mobile devices now. 

Desktop applications - Java offers different frameworks like Abstract Windowing Toolkit (AWT), JavaFX and Swing for GUI development.

Web applications - Java offers support for web development through its Servlets, Struts and JSP (Java Server Pages) frameworks. The reliable programming and enhanced security have made it possible to use a wide range of Java-based government and e-commerce apps for healthcare, education or insurance. 

Web servers - Java is often used for web and application servers, including the well-known Apache Tomcat, Oracle WebLogic, and IBM WebSphere.

Summing Up

Still making a decision?

Here’s a brief comparison of the key differences between those two:

Whitespace: Python uses whitespaces as a part of the syntax, whereas Java ignores them.

Agility: Due to the static typing, Java is more popular for mobile and web applications. Python, on the other hand, is more popular in machine learning, IoT and AI fields. 

Speed: Compared to Python, Java projects tend to take longer and may need bigger development teams. 

Learning: Python is a suitable choice for beginners and its syntax it’s easier to learn. Java takes longer to learn and request a higher entry level. 

Apps: Java is applied in every field, mostly in mobile and web development. 

AI & Machine Learning: Java is used in AI and machine learning fields, but not as much as Python.

Trends: Based on the latest trends, Python has shown astronomical growth, while Java has lost its popularity. 


Conclusion

The Python vs Java battle continues and will continue for years to come. However, one thing is for sure: Python is the future. 

It’s up to you, which side are you on. If the speed of development is your top priority, then choose Python. If stability matches your needs, go for Java. Simply speaking, Java is better suited for solving complex development problems, while Python is simpler and easier to learn, read, write and modify. Keep in mind that your choice should always fit your individual needs, budget and the type of the project you are working on. 

Still not sure which one to pick for your next project? 

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