Being the most popular programming language in 2024 (TIOBE index), Python is a powerhouse in website and software development, task automation, data analysis and more. Its versatility, along with its simplicity, readability and vast ecosystem of libraries, make it a robust solution for a variety of projects.
Python doesn’t natively support mobile development; however, with its suits of external frameworks like Kyvy and PyQT, it extends its capabilities, helping developers build reliable and stable mobile applications.
In this guide, we’ll explore Python mobile app development, focusing on the Kivy framework for cross-platform solutions. Led by experienced developers, Kivy stands out for its innovation and reliability. We’ll compare Python’s mobile capabilities with other technologies, helping you make informed decisions for your mobile development projects.
Why Choose Python for Mobile App Development?
Is Python suitable for mobile applications? Python alone might not be the best fit for mobile device app development. To create mobile applications, it’s necessary to utilize Python GUI frameworks like Kivy and Beeware. These frameworks are capable of transforming interpreter-based code into native code suitable for mobile platforms.
When it comes to Python application development, the capacity for cross-platform development represents a significant technical advantage.
Traditionally, if developers wanted to make an app available on both iOS and Android, they had to build two separate versions of the app from scratch. This meant using different programming languages and tools for each platform.
For example, they might use Swift or Objective-C for an iOS app and Java or Kotlin for an Android app. This approach was like writing a book in two different languages at the same time, keeping two sets of notes and making sure each version tells the same story. Essentially, developers were doing double the work, creating and updating two completely separate codebases: one for the iOS version of the app and another for the Android version.
Now, this is no longer the case, thanks to the creation of modern Python frameworks like Kivy and BeeWare. These frameworks act like a bridge, making it possible to take a single Python codebase and adapt it for different platforms like iOS and Android without starting from scratch for each one.
This way, developers can code their app just once in Python and then easily share it across various devices and operating systems. This method simplifies the whole app development process, keeps the code in one place, and cuts down on the work of managing multiple versions, making sure the app works the same way across different devices.
But, if you don’t want to build a cross-platform mobile application and are interested in either an Android app with Python or an iOS app with Python, these are some things to consider:
|Aspects to Keep in Mind
|* The preferred implementation language for Android is Java. Therefore, if you want to write an Android application in Python, you will need a way to run Python code on a Java virtual machine.
* VOCs (a backronym for “Vestigial Output Compiler” or “Vexing Obtuse Compiler”) make this possible. It is part of the BeeWare suite and allows you to access Java native objects like Python, implement Java interfaces in Python classes, and subclass Java classes in Python classes. It will enable you to write Android applications directly to Android’s native API.
* VOC is a transpiler that compiles Python source code into CPython bytecode and transpiles that bytecode into Java-compatible bytecode. It means compiling Python source code into CPython bytecode and converting it into Java-compatible bytecode. * There are other several other tools as well that implement Python in Java or vice versa. Some examples of such tools are Jython, JPype, Jepp, py4j, and more. Each of these tools comes with its own advantages and drawbacks depending on the type and scope of your project.
|* The steps to build an application for iOS are a bit more complicated than Android. Developers can always use the official Kivy package documentation for the latest information on iOS development using Python.
* The process usually involves setting up a Python environment, encoding your application with Python/Kivy, and deploying it with Xcode.
* Remember that developers will still need a macOS machine to deploy apps to the Apple App Store, so even if you can build apps in Python, you still need an iMac or MacBook to deploy apps.
What Types of Mobile Apps Can You Develop in Python?
1. Audio-video Apps
Python’s app development helps you create music and other types of audio and video apps. You can use Python to explore audio and video content on the Internet. The Python libraries, such as OpenCV and PyDub, help you make your app development successful.
2. Game App Development
Battlefield 2″ and “EVE Online” and many other games are developed using Python. Battlefield 2 uses Python for all features and add-ons. Also, “World of Tanks” uses Python for various functions. Developers can create quick game prototypes and test them in real-time using Python and Pygame.
You can also use Python to develop game design tools that support the development process, such as creating level designs and dialog trees.
3. Blockchain Application
It is one of the most widely used technology trends and genuinely dominates the market. Blockchain development is very difficult for developers, but Python makes it easy. Python is an easy-to-understand language and makes building blockchain applications seamless. Developers can use HTTP requests to interact with the blockchain on the Internet.
In addition, the developer will use a Python framework such as Flask to create endpoints for various features of the blockchain. Developers can also run scripts on multiple machines and develop distributed networks with the help of Python.
4. Command-line Apps
The command-line app and the console app are the same. It is a computer program used from a command line or shell and does not have a graphical user interface. Python is ideal for such command-line apps because it has a Real-Eval-Print-Loop (REPL) feature. As Python is a world-renowned language, top app development brands have access to many free Python libraries to create command-line apps.
5. Machine Learning Apps
Another technology trend in the past decade, machine learning development, is an algorithmic technology that provides data to operating systems and enables intelligent decision-making. Developing a machine learning app was previously a daunting task, but it has become more accessible thanks to Python.
Python provides free libraries for machine learning, such as Pandas and Scikit. It can be used under the GNU license.
6. Business Apps
Python has practical agility and the ability to develop various types of apps. That’s why Python also helps with e-commerce app development solutions and ERP. For example, written in Python, Odoo offers a wide range of business applications and makes a suite of business management apps. Python’s popular business app “Tryton” developed is a high-level, general-purpose application with a three-layer structure.
Understanding Python Mobile App Development Frameworks: Kivy vs BeeWare
For mobile app development with Python, there are two most notable frameworks that stand out: Kivy and BeeWare. Each offers its unique approach to building mobile applications. But which one is it worth using?
Kivy is an open-source Python library for developing multitouch applications. It’s well-suited for creating applications that require gestures and multi-touch input. Kivy is designed to be highly flexible and allows for the development of innovative user interfaces (UIs).
Kivy uses OpenGL ES2, which supports GPU acceleration of graphics. This project uses the MIT license to use this library for free or commercial software. Kivy has its custom UI toolkit, which looks and behaves the same as Android, iOS, Linux, and Raspberry Pi but does not use native features of any platform.
Creating an application with Kivy means creating a Natural User Interface (NUI). The natural user interface allows you to quickly learn how to use the software without teaching almost anything.
Kivy does not strive to use native controls or widgets. All widgets are custom-drawn. It means that the Kivy application looks the same on all platforms.
However, it also means that the look and feel of your application are different from the user’s native application. It is both an interest and a problem for some users.
- One code for all platforms
- Robust graphics engine built on OpenGL ES 2
- It is issued below the MIT license and is free for business use
- Custom UI Toolkit
- The single code base for all platforms
- BSD license released for business use
- Native look and feel applications
- A vast community of invested developers
- A collection of multiple projects, not a single tool
- Fast, easy, accurate
Use Cases: Kivy is ideal for applications that demand cutting-edge user interfaces, games, and applications requiring multi-touch capabilities.
BeeWare is a collection of tools and libraries for building native apps in Python. What sets BeeWare apart is its ability to compile Python code into native binaries for each platform, thus allowing for the creation of truly native applications.
At the heart of BeeWare is Toga, a Python-native, OS-native GUI toolkit. Toga allows developers to create applications that use the native UI elements of the platform they are running on. This means that an app developed with Toga on iOS will use iOS’s native UI components, and the same app on Android will use Android’s UI components, thereby ensuring that apps have the look and feel of native applications on any platform.
Additionally, BeeWare ensures that the fonts, buttons, and overall aesthetics of your app match what users are familiar with on their devices. This means that a Python-built mobile app will exhibit characteristics unique to either Android or iOS, depending on the device.
- Native User Interface (UI) Components
- Cross-Platform Compatibility
- Toga GUI Toolkit
- Briefcase Packaging Tool
- Single Codebase Deployment
- Open Source with BSD License
- Direct Access to Python’s Rich Ecosystem
- Pythonic API for Mobile Development
- Support for Desktop and Web Applications
Use Cases: BeeWare is particularly suitable for applications that can benefit from Python’s strengths, such as data-driven apps, educational tools, scientific applications, and more.
Kivy vs BeeWare: Choosing the Right Framework
Kivy allows for highly customized and innovative UI designs that include multi-touch and gesture-based interactions using its own widget toolkit. BeeWare, on the other hand, uses the native UI elements of each platform, ensuring that apps have the look and feel of native applications.
None of these are better than the other; it really depends on the type of applications you’re looking to build.
When it comes to the development approach, Kivy is more focused on creating applications that have more complex animations and graphical designs. BeeWare emphasizes writing apps with Python that run natively on each platform.
Both frameworks support iOS and Android, although Kivy provides support for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Raspberry Pi for broader application deployment.
BeeWare aims to make it possible to write your app once in Python and deploy it as a native application across all platforms. So, choosing one rather than the other always depends on several factors. But as a general guideline:
- For applications that prioritize innovative and customizable UIs, particularly those requiring multitouch capabilities, Kivy would be the preferable choice.
- For projects where a native look and feel are crucial and there’s a need to access platform-specific features directly, BeeWare offers a compelling solution.
Mobile Applications that Use Python
Instagram is the biggest example of a scalable mobile app built using Python. With 400 million active users per day, the app has changed the world of digital photography.
Pinterest, the third-largest social network after Facebook and Twitter, allows users to bookmark images, collect them, and share them with others. One of the commonly adopted apps on the web, Pinterest uses Python and Django to process large amounts of content quickly. This app has used Python from the first day.
Disqus is a simple and effective way to moderate comments efficiently, attracting audiences and promoting discussion while controlling the content they receive. With multiple sign-in options and cross-site notifications, this app caters to audiences of all sorts of tastes. In this case, Python takes full advantage of Django’s security features and regular security patches.
Spotify is the world’s largest streaming service, with annual revenue of more than €4 billion. It means that the company is both a leading market player and one of the top Python applications. They chose to develop with Python because of Python’s speed and advanced data analysis. It allows Spotify to manage features such as Radio and Discover based on the user’s personal music preferences.
While primarily a web application, Reddit’s mobile app also relies on Python for its backend services. Python’s frameworks and libraries support Reddit’s content management system, user authentication, and data processing.
The Dropbox mobile app, which allows for file sharing and storage on the go, uses Python for its server backend. The company has extensively used Python to manage its infrastructure and data handling needs. 7. Uber Uber’s backend, particularly their surge pricing algorithm, makes use of Python. The language’s ability to handle data processing tasks efficiently is a key reason for its use in managing dynamic pricing models and geolocation-based services.
Developing Mobile Apps with Python: Step-by-Step Guide
Developing mobile apps with Python involves different steps that might defer depending on your type of project and the frameworks you’re using. Here’s a general step-by-step guide to help you get started:
Step 1: Choose Your Framework
- Kivy: Ideal for apps requiring custom UIs and graphics, multi-touch support, and cross-platform compatibility beyond iOS and Android (e.g., Windows, Linux, MacOS).
- BeeWare: Best for apps that need a native look and feel on each platform, leveraging native UI elements and aiming for a “write once, run anywhere” approach.
Step 2: Set Up Your Development Environment
- Install Python: Ensure you have Python installed on your machine. Kivy supports Python 3.5 and above.
- Install Kivy: Use pip to install Kivy. Run pip install kivy in your terminal or command prompt.
- (Optional) Install KivyMD for Material Design components: pip install kivymd.
- Install Python.
- Install BeeWare tools: Run pip install briefcase.
- Create a BeeWare virtual environment for your project to isolate dependencies.
Step 3: Initialize Your Project
- Start a new project by creating a Python file (e.g., main.py) and import Kivy components to begin developing your app’s UI and logic.
- Use the Briefcase command to create a new project: briefcase new. This command will guide you through setting up your project, including naming and specifying your app’s requirements.
Step 4: Design Your App’s UI
- Use Kivy’s language (.kv files) to design your app’s interface, defining widgets and layouts. Kivy allows for detailed customization and dynamic interfaces.
- Design your UI using Toga, defining widgets that will automatically use native elements on each platform. Layouts and widgets in Toga are straightforward, aiming for simplicity and native feel.
Step 5: Implement Your App Logic
- Incorporate your app’s functionality by writing Python code. This includes handling user inputs, processing data, and defining the app’s behavior.
- Utilize Python libraries and APIs as needed to enhance your app, such as requests for network operations or PIL for image processing.
Step 6: Test Your App
- Kivy: Test your app on your development machine using Kivy’s built-in capabilities, and then use tools like Pyjnius for Android or Pyobjus for iOS if you need access to platform-specific APIs.
- BeeWare: Use briefcase dev to run your app in a development mode that simulates the target platform.
Step 7: Package and Deploy
- Package your app for different platforms using PyInstaller (for desktop) or buildozer (for mobile).
- Use Briefcase to package your app: briefcase package, followed by briefcase run to run the packaged app. Briefcase will create a distributable package for each target platform.
Step 8: Publish Your App
- Follow the specific guidelines for each platform (Google Play Store for Android apps, Apple App Store for iOS apps) to publish your app. This typically involves creating a developer account, submitting your app for review, and meeting each platform’s standards and requirements.
Things to Remember for Python App Development
While Python is quite versatile, there are a few things developers must keep in mind while using it for mobile app development.
- It has a dynamic coop to evaluate the expression. That means the interpreter searches for variables in the current block and all functions. The problem is that each word must be validated in all possible contexts.
- Lambda functions are limited in Python. They can only contain one statement at a time and need to be written on a single line. That means, unlike regular functions, they cannot use explicit return statements.
- Python practices an editor rather than a compiler. If the app has an error, it will only be revealed during execution. Therefore, the speed decreases, and various tests must be created.
Start Your Mobile App with Python Today!
Python has emerged as the most versatile programming language in the world. Now, with resources and tools available for Python app development, your project can also leverage its ease, diversity, and flexibility for the mobile app development process. It is fast and might save you not only time but also money.
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