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Nov 17 2016

Getting started with Kotlin and third-party libraries Glide, Dagger 2, Retrofit 2, Realm, RxJava and MVP architecture on Android

It’s not a mystery to Android developers all over the world that the whole IT community has been trying to find a decent replacement for Java. Until 2011, before the Kotlin creation had been announced, Scala was the most suitable candidate. However, when JetBrains presented Kotlin programming language and its source code, it gradually became the strongest Java alternative in the field. This resulted in Kotlin becoming the official Android development language in 2017.

Kotlin was claimed to be a response to the massive amounts of code developers often had to write in Java and to Scala’s low-speed compilation. Today, many famous IT companies use Kotlin in their projects. The attention to this language is continuing to grow, as it wins over developers with its syntax and the fact that Kotlin is supported by several IDEs as a plugin. Even Jake Wharton, a recognized Android gospeller, uses Kotlin in his own projects, thus encouraging the whole Android community to use this language.

Let’s stay in tune with this trend and try Kotlin in practice to see its extensively debated pros and cons. Also, we will learn how to start developing Android applications in Kotlin.

What does Kotlin hide?

Mostly Kotlin is commended for its briefness and code safety and also for compatibility with Java and flexible usage. It’s hard to list all its advantages, so let’s consider the most interesting ones.

Kotlin’s Strengths:

  • It is fully compatible with Java. It can use all available Java frameworks, libraries and also with separate modules in current projects.

  • It has open source code, so it’s easy to track and determine an issue and if you come up with it, you can always submit it to Kotlin developers.

  • Kotlins repository consumes less space than Scala, and adding Kotkin to a project is equal to Google library.

  • Starting from Java 6, it can use the major part of Java 7 and some portable elements of Java 8. That’s why it is easily available even if you are facing troubles updating to new JVM version.

  • There’s immutability by default.

  • It has Higher-Order Functions, i.e. the functions that take functions as parameters.

  • Null safety. Variables in Kotlin can’t possess the null value by default unless you denote them.

  • Kotlin became an officially supported language at the last Google IO conference (May 17th, 2017).

As for today, Kotlin isn’t very popular. The language is young and the community is yet to be formed. However, the ambitions for Kotlin are high. It has been under development for more than five years and the developers tried their best to avoid Java’s past mistakes. Java’s principle “Write Once Run Anywhere” doesn’t apply here as the language constantly changes and improves. Kotlin developers promise many interesting features, including the coverage of current Scala functionality.

With so many advantages, Kotlin almost seems to be the perfect programming language. However, it does also have some cons, even though they might not be as obvious.

Weaknesses of Kotlin:

  • Kotlin is Java 6 bytecode-oriented and doesn’t use a number of improvements available in Java 8 like invoke-dynamic.

  • There can appear issues with annotation processing.

  • There are no analogues to plugin-macros or compilers which thus limits the usage of convenient Scala macros or plugins like Checker Framework from Java.

  • If you practice joint usage of Java and Kotlin you need to follow certain rules of compatibility.

  • You will have to rewrite some proven to be effective solutions for Android, including the architectural ones as Kotlin enables the usage of alternative approach.

  • The language is pretty young and hasn’t found any specific niche, however, it is suitable not only for Android but also for backend development.

  • The language is pretty green and there are no worked out best practices for solving particular tasks.

Let’s dwell on compatibility and look closely at the example of a simple application development using such popular libraries like:

  • Glide - one of the most popular image loading libraries from Bump Technologies. Glide Library can upload and display images from many sources and manage cache, while also consuming small amount of internal memory for image processing.

  • Dagger 2 - the library developed by Google Inc. as a fast dependency injector for Android. It helps developers implement a Dependency Injection pattern which is “Inversion of control specific form”. Check out Kotlin + Dagger2 example below.

  • Retrofit 2 - a type-safe and the most popular HTTP client for Android Development. Kotlin and Retrofit libraries can be used in Android development without any drawbacks. Later we will show you a Kotlin Retrofit example.

  • Realm database - a Mobile Database, which is an excellent substitute for SQLite and ORMs, as it operates faster, simpler and safer. The major part of Realm Kotlin library is written in Java. Our examples are below and you can check Realm Kotlin examples in the official Realm-java repository on GitHub.

  • RxJava + RxAndroid - Reactive programming has been deeply rooted in Mobile Development. Rx is a powerful tool that allows to solve issues in a neat declarative way of functional programming.There are thousands of articles telling about the benefits of RxJava, RxKotlin, RxAndroid and RxBinding for Android development. We won’t step aside and will use these libraries to work with asynchronous operations in a more convenient way. We will demonstrate you a small example of using Realm with RxJava in Kotlin.

The app serves as a good instance of libraries data usage and implementation of MVP architecture:

A good instance of libraries data usage and implementation of MVP architecture

Let’s proceed to the development:

proceed to the development

After that configure your project. The easiest way to do this is to press Ctrl+Shift+A and find Configure Kotlin in Project item that will appear in autocomplete:

configure the project

To convert existing Java classes to Kotlin you need to find the command named Convert Java to Kotlin:

convert existing Java classes to Kotlin

Now let's start the integration of the needed libraries A few words before we start. Some libraries like Dagger 2 require Annotation Processing. Java Annotation Processing is not suitable for Kotlin. That’s why it includes its own Annotation Processing Tool for Kotlin (kapt), here is a great opinion on it.

To activate it you need to add this in the build.gradle file:

kapt {
    generateStubs = true
buildscript {
   ext.supportVersion = '25.0.0'
   ext.daggerVersion = '2.7'
   ext.retrofitVersion = '2.1.0'
   ext.rxVersion = '1.2.1'
   repositories {
   dependencies {
       classpath "io.realm:realm-gradle-plugin:2.1.1"

dependencies {
   compile fileTree(dir: 'libs', include: ['*.jar'])
   androidTestCompile('com.android.support.test.espresso:espresso-core:2.2.2', {
       exclude group: 'com.android.support', module: 'support-annotations'
   compile 'com.android.support:appcompat-v7:25.0.0'
   testCompile 'junit:junit:4.12'
   compile "org.jetbrains.kotlin:kotlin-stdlib:$kotlin_version"
   compile "com.android.support:cardview-v7:${supportVersion}"
   compile "com.android.support:design:${supportVersion}"

   // Google Dagger 2 library
   compile "com.google.dagger:dagger:${daggerVersion}"
   kapt "com.google.dagger:dagger-compiler:${daggerVersion}"
   provided "org.glassfish:javax.annotation:3.1.1"

   //Retrofit 2
   compile "com.squareup.retrofit2:retrofit:${retrofitVersion}"
   compile "com.squareup.retrofit2:adapter-rxjava:${retrofitVersion}"
   compile "com.squareup.retrofit2:converter-gson:${retrofitVersion}"

   compile 'com.google.code.gson:gson:2.8.0'

   compile "io.reactivex:rxjava:${rxVersion}"
   compile "io.reactivex:rxandroid:${rxVersion}"

   // glide library
   compile 'com.github.bumptech.glide:glide:3.7.0'


Then we create inheriting class from Application and configure Realm and dependencies graph for Dagger 2 developed by Google:

class AppDelegate : Application() {

   var injector: AppInjector? = null

   @Component(modules = arrayOf(NewsModule::class))
   interface AppInjector {

       fun inject(activity: MainActivity)


   override fun onCreate() {
       injector = DaggerAppDelegate_AppInjector.builder().build()

       val config = RealmConfiguration.Builder().build()

We use Retrofit to work with HTTP. Here, we need to create an interface with one method, which would receive the news feed:

interface NewsApiInterface {
   fun getNews(): Observable<NewsResponse>

We create NewsModule class wherein the injected objectives will be created:

class NewsModule {

   fun provideNewsPresenter(): NewsPresenter {
       return NewsPresenter()

   internal fun provideNewApiInterface(): NewsApiInterface {
       val retrofit = Retrofit.Builder()
       return retrofit.create(NewsApiInterface::class.java)

In NewPresenter class we will use RxAndroid and Realm for news feed processing and caching:

subscription = mNewsApiInterface!!
       .map { it.newsItem }
       .flatMap({ items ->
           Realm.getDefaultInstance().executeTransaction({ realm ->
       .onErrorResumeNext { throwable ->
           val realm = Realm.getDefaultInstance()
           val items = realm.where(NewsItem::class.java).findAll()
       .doOnTerminate { mNewsView?.hideLoading() }
       .subscribe({ mNewsView?.onNewsItemLoaded(it) }, { mNewsView?.onError(it) })

This project’s source code is available on Repository. There, you can find an example of Glide, learn how to use it with Kotlin and check out classes in detail.

Let’s sum up

All in all, Kotlin is a modern and secure programming language that simplifies Android apps development. It looks like a distinct alternative to Java as it has good documentation and it is simple enough for understanding. We hope that this article helped you to figure out how to create a project on Kotlin and integrate the needed libraries.

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