In the software development community, Python is known for being a high-level language that is easy to learn and flexible enough to produce different kinds of software.
With this language, developers can build a variety of things — from projects as grand as machine learning to ones as simple as a web page. But does this versatility apply to mobile app development? In this article, we give you a detailed examination of Python’s capacity for this kind of digital project.
But First, What Is Python?
Made available to the public in February 1991, Python is an open-source, high-level, object-oriented programming language. Guido van Rossum developed Python to help developers build software faster, and the way he thought of going about it was to create a new language that is clean and simple, something he conceptualized back in the 1980s. The result is a powerful language that has brought so many of our favorite applications to life.
But what makes Python’s syntax so appealing? One of Python’s strengths as a programming language is how nearly identical it is to the English language rather than machine language. Machine language is code made of binary digits, which are 0s and 1s. This is what our computers understand. Python, however, accommodates the way we generally use language, making it more intuitive for developers to read, examine, and fix.
Another reason why Python is popular in the software development community is it is versatile. This high-level, interpreted programming language can create various output, including website pages, AI-based projects, and data visualization tools. It has powered Instagram’s backend functionality and some of Google’s internal frameworks. With this level of versatility, you would think Python can also do mobile app development with zero fuss. This can be true, but it’s not as simple as you might think.
So, Can You Use Python for Mobile App Development?
We know Python performs well for web app development in general. As previously mentioned, developers also use this language for multiple projects, such as websites, AI-based software, and data management applications, among others. But are Python and mobile app development a good combination, too?
The long and short of it is that Python can be used for mobile app development.
However, this is possible only when there are certain libraries and tools in place. This is because Python, as it is, was not designed to create mobile applications.
According to Real Python, a learning platform for Python enthusiasts, the language does not actually have “built-in mobile development capabilities”. Instead, different frameworks and libraries enable Python-based development for mobile apps, allowing programmers to use its clean syntax for this particular purpose.
Tools for Mobile App Development with Python
For mobile app development to be possible on Python, developers need to download and integrate external tools. Generally, these tools are libraries that have been built by Python professionals who know what this language needs. While there are plenty of options from which developers can choose, two libraries or frameworks stand out.
Spearheaded by Russell Keith-Magee, BeeWare is a project made to bring to mobile devices and desktop software what Python is able to do with web-based apps. According to its official website, the BeeWare project wants to give developers the tools to develop applications as natively as possible.
To achieve this, the team behind BeeWare developed Briefcase and Toga. Briefcase is BeeWare’s tool to initiate or bootstrap a project, which developers can also use to turn Python code into one that’s readable for end users from multiple platforms, BeeWare’s official website says. On the other hand, Toga is BeeWare’s GUI or widget toolkit, its documentation adds. Other tools in BeeWare include Rubicon ObjC and Rubicon Java.
Open-source, free, and fast, Kivy is a library built to address the very thing Python lacks — the ability to deploy applications on mobile devices. Initially released in 2011, Kivy can create both desktop and mobile apps with Python as their programming language. Developers can deploy these applications to major platforms, including Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and Linux.
However, what separates Kivy from BeeWare’s tools is that the former does not try to be native. According to Real Python, Kivy makes use of natural user interfaces (NUI). The goal of NUIs is to make the interaction between users and applications intuitive. Real Python notes Kivy’s widgets are the same on all platforms, which “could be a benefit or a drawback.”
Other Mobile App Development Frameworks Aside From Python
We’ve established Python can be a good tool for mobile app development, while not the most ideal. So, what other frameworks can you use besides the high-level language? To answer this question, we asked one of our expert mobile app developers for his recommendations.
According to a NarraSoft developer, the following frameworks are all capable of cross-platform development, “[m]eaning [they need only] one code base on both iOS and Android.” He also listed down the advantages of each one.
React Native is an open-source framework created by Facebook after the company made “the biggest mistake” of using HTML5 for its mobile deployment. Fortunately for Facebook, they were able to build a stable mobile application users can access on devices operating on Android and iOS. Popular examples of applications that use this framework are Instagram, Walmart, and Skype.
According to NarraSoft’s developer, React Native’s main advantages include:
- The ability to build stable applications
- The flexibility it provides developers in creating mobile apps
- Its large community, which helps in documentation
- Most, if not all, of the advantages you gain from developing with ReactJS
Initially released in 2017, Flutter is a software development kit (SDK) developed by Google to minimize rewriting an application’s code across popular operating systems, including Android and iOS. The framework’s official website says developers can build applications using Flutter under the BSD license, which imposes only a few restrictions on the application’s production and commercial distribution. Examples of popular applications that use this SDK are Google Assistant and Grab.
According to NarraSoft’s developer, Flutter’s main advantages include:
- A wide range of tools to create an application’s design
- Its growing popularity, which could mean thorough documentation and an improved framework
- An easy-to-learn environment
- The ability to create and quickly deploy high-performing applications
- A singular design suited for iOS and Android app development
Marketed as “the app development platform for web developers”, Ionic is another open-source UI toolkit. It primarily develops the frontend aspect of web and mobile apps and boasts a capacity of seamless integration into other frameworks, including React and Angular.
According to NarraSoft’s developer, Ionic’s main advantages include:
- Its developer-friendly interface, which allows web developers to use the code base of a web application for its mobile counterpart
- A capacity for development on the browser
- Its appealing design
Can you use Python for mobile app development? The answer is yes, you can — but with the help of external tools. To build a Python-based mobile application, you will need libraries that enable cross-platform functionality.
Some of the best tools you can use for this are BeeWare’s toolkits and Kivy.
If you’re looking for alternatives, one of NarraSoft’s expert developers suggests the following frameworks:
- React Native
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