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Comparison between SwiftUI vs UIKit — Choosing the right framework

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There has been a lot of debate going on among iOS developers with regards to the comparison between SwiftUI and UIKit. Have you been planning to develop a chat app for iOS and are confused as to which framework you should opt for?

Fret not! We have got your back. In this article, we shall discuss all the relevant aspects revolving around these two and compare them in detail. Stay with us and read on! 

As iOS developers, you must be knowing about both the UIKit and Swift UI frameworks. However, we would like to provide you with a quick overview to refresh your understanding. Let's take them up one by one

UIKit - A lightweight & Modular Front-end Framework

UIKit, also known as User Interface Kit, is a framework that allows you to develop user interfaces that can manage inputs while managing interaction between the system, the user, and you. It provides you with various objects such as UIView and its subclasses that facilitate the interaction of content within your application. 

UIKit tends to be an imperative framework. It contains different assets and design elements such as UI components and styles. Now UI components can be described as elements that offer functionalities to application users. On the other hand, styles can be referred to as the visual qualities of design including fonts, colours, and shapes.

Features of UIKit that can help you Build a Chat Platform for iOS

The UIKit framework offers you the relevant infrastructure to build your chat app for iOS or tvOS. It was publicly released back in 2008. Let's have a quick look at the core UIKit features:

  • It provides the developers with a window and view architecture that helps implement the interface. 

  • UIKit also offers an event handling infrastructure that enables you to deliver multi- touch and other different types of input to your application. It also provides you with a main run loop to handle interaction among the users. 

  • Ready-to-use UI elements that saves your time on creating new designs from scratch. 

  • Other exciting features include animation support, drawing support, text management, search support, app extension support, and much more.

SwiftUI - Apple's brand New Framework to Create iOS Chat Platform

Apple launched SwiftUI in 2019 along with iOS 13. It can be referred to as a user interface toolkit that enables you to develop an application in a declarative manner.

It helps you develop applications across all Apple platforms with very little code involved. Now, let's go through some of the top features offered by the SwiftUI framework: 

  • It provides you with a comprehensive suite of functionalities including list views, better search experiences, and many more. 

  • New Rotor API to accelerate interactions by showcasing the most crucial items on the screen in a simple list. 

  • Always-On Retina Display support that allows watchOS apps to stay visible even when the watch face is turned down. 

  • Automatic translation into a visual interface element that is suitable for all iOS platforms. 

  • Live preview in Xcode to design, build, and test application interface without running the app.

Now that we have discussed both frameworks separately, let's move to their comparison part and learn how they are different from each other.

SwiftUI vs UIKit: Which is the best choice for build iOS Chat App?

The ways in which SwiftUI and UIKit function are quite different. As every business application is unique, the framework used to build it also varies depending on app requirements. Now, SwiftUI and UIKit have their own set of advantages and demerits.

However, there's one thing common between them - their ability to build powerful applications. Generally, a developer focusing on visuals would prefer UIKit. On the other hand, a programmatic oriented developer would build a chat app with Swift.

In this section, we shall discuss the main points of difference between UIKit and SwiftUI on different aspects that are involved to build a chat app. Let us look at them one by one: 

  1. Interface Builder 

Interface builder is described as a part of Xcode. Now, UIKit provides you with the option to define your entire UI in code or Interface Builder. On the other hand, SwiftUI does not have Interface Builder and favours live preview. With live preview, you can inspect different parts of your UI code visually. 

  1. User Interface Updates 

With UIKit, developers need to define what is on-screen and when the screen will update. They are also required to define how the transition between the different UI states will happen. In contrast, SwiftUI functions in a reactive manner.  with SwiftUI, whatever is visible to the user on-screen is a side effect of updating the view structure and allowing the system to calculate what needs to be done. 

  1. Documentation & Support 

When it comes to documentation and content availability, UIKit is considered better than SwiftUI. Although there’s more UIKit content available, developers are still switching to SwiftUI. Hence, when you build a chat app for iOS, developers must consider the number of codebases built on UIKit. Many times, codebases won’t adopt SwiftUI due to supported version requirements below iOS 13. This might limit the app development work. Therefore, it would make sense to leverage SwiftUI from the start. 

  1. Compatibility with different iOS versions 

If you need to work with SwiftUI, make sure to have iOS 13 as the minimum supported version. SwiftUI is limited and works better with iOS 14 and iOS 15. On the contrary, UIKit enables you to support even iOS version 9.0. This makes UIKit more flexible. It surely wins against SwiftUI when it comes to backward compatibility. 

  1. App development speed 

In general, most of the developers are of the view that SwiftUI is the fastest way to create in-app functionalities. It requires very less code and can help you achieve almost the same results in a much lesser time when compared to UIKit. Moreover, SwiftUI’s live preview feature tends to boost the app development speed. This is why iOS developers look forward to implementing Swift chat SDK for app development. 

  1. Animation functionality 

When it comes to beautiful animations and transitions, SwiftUI should be your go-to framework. It provides developers with a plethora of animations for free. Moreover, transitions also become a lot easier with SwiftUI. On the other hand, with UIKit, you are required to define animations within your code. 

  1. Multi-platform compatibility 

The best part about SwiftUI is that it claims to work on Apple devices, including Apple Watch, iPhone, or MacBook. The SwiftUI views should adapt to any screen size. However, this is also limited. Generally, it is the UI programming model that is transferable across various Apple devices. When you need to transfer SwiftUI code written for an iPhone to macOS, you will have to put in the work again to make sure that everything functions properly in the new setting. 

  1. Widgets 

Choose SwiftUI if you want to create widgets on iOS. UIKit won’t be useful when planning to develop a widget. Widgets and SwiftUI are a perfect match! If there is a widget requirement for your app, your developers will be expected to perform some SwiftUI coding. 

Conclusion 

Have you been planning to build a chat app for iOS and confused as to which framework to use? Wondering whether to use SwiftUI or UIKit? Well, your decision should depend on your use case. You can choose UIKit if you want maximum control over how your app looks. You may select SwiftUI if you want to accelerate your app development speed. Well, there are many other factors that you should take into consideration before making a final decision. 

We hope our article helped you gain a deep understanding of SwiftUI and UIKit frameworks and the key differences between them. Make sure you choose a framework that best suits your app requirements! We wish you all the good luck for your app development project.

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