Objective C is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language that’s a superset of C. Objective C has been around since 1980 and became the main language for NeXTSTEP operating system. NeXTSTEP is the system from which Apple derived iOS and OS X.

What Is Objective C Used For?

Objective C used to be the go-to language for developing iOS and OS X applications with the Cocoa API and Cocoa Touch environment. These days, developers mostly use Apple’s Swift language to create apps.

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Objective C vs. C: What’s the Difference?

Syntactically speaking, Objective C is an extension of the popular C programming language. This means knowing C will definitely help you learn Objective C.

One of the key differences between Objective C and C is that Objective C has an object-oriented class system not present in C. If you know C but have no experience in object-oriented programming (OOP), you’ll need to learn the object-oriented class system in Objective C.

C has been around since 1970 and is the grandmother of many of the most popular programming languages in use today. This is why you see features of C in other programming languages, such as C++, Perl and Objective C. When it comes to usage, C is a general-purpose language for Unix systems. A typical use case for C is to build system applications and desktop apps.

Objective C is also a general-purpose programming language with an object-oriented edge to it. The primary use case for Objective C is building iOS apps and macOS applications.

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Objective C vs. Swift

Apple created Swift to make it easier to get started with iOS app development. While Apple still supports Objective C, there aren’t any updates to the language on the horizon. This means Swift is not only a newer language that has useful features Objective C lacks, but it’s also receiving updates from Apple. This makes Swift a more dynamic and adaptive language for modern app development.

Here are the key differences between the two languages.


Type Inference

In Objective C, you have to specify the variable’s data type; the compiler can’t do this for you. On the other hand, Swift uses type inference, which means the compiler automatically infers the variable’s data type based on its value. In other words, you don’t have to explicitly specify the variable’s data type. This can help you improve code quality because there’s less code to write. When the data type is obvious from the context, you can leave it out.


Type Safety

In Swift, most of the objects are value types instead of reference types. When you assign a value to a value-type object, you are creating a copy of the object instead of directly assigning a value to the original one. This prevents accidentally modifying objects that are used elsewhere in the code.

In Objective C, objects are reference types. This means there can be variables with different names across the codebase that all refer to the same object. This means changing the object in one place changes the object everywhere else, which might not be what you want.

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Dynamic Typing

Objective C is a dynamically typed language, which means you can assign any type of value to a variable. This gives you more flexibility as you can change the value of a variable to any type on a fly.

Assigning any type of value to a variable is not possible in Swift because each variable must hold a specific type of value. This forces you to write consistent code with no sudden changes in data types.

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Objective C or Swift: Which Should I Learn?

The short answer is: both. Many companies looking for iOS developers want programmers who know both. Objective C used to be the go-to iOS app development language but Swift has overtaken Objective C as a modern and easy-to-understand language.

Swift is a simpler language to learn because programmers can read and write Swift more easily than Objective C thanks to Swift’s cleaner syntax. This was one of Apple’s main goals while designing Swift to replace Objective C.

Swift is also a more type-safe language than Objective C, which means there’s less of a chance you’re going to face unexpected results due to type mismatching. This feature makes your code reliable and easy to debug.

Swift also takes care of memory management better than Objective C. The lazy evaluation can make your code faster and more efficient because the variables don’t get initialized before you need them. One thing that makes Objective C even less tempting to learn is the fact that Apple doesn’t update it anymore. Even though the language won’t see a sunset any time soon, it won’t get any better either.

If you want to start your career as an iOS developer, start by learning Swift. That said, don’t write off Objective C all together. Many older iOS apps are built using Objective C. To maintain these applications, someone has to know the language. This is why there are still lots of Objective C developer positions on the job market. That is to say, Objective C is a useful language to learn even if it’s slowly fading away.

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