What’s the difference? SPM vs CocoaPods vs Carthage

KD Knowledge Diet
3 min readMay 5, 2024

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Swift Package Manager (SPM), CocoaPods, and Carthage are three popular dependency management tools in the iOS development ecosystem. Each has its strengths and use cases, and the choice between them depends on your project’s requirements and preferences. Let’s compare Swift Package Manager, CocoaPods, and Carthage based on several criteria:

  1. Officiality:
  • Swift Package Manager (SPM): SPM is Apple’s official package manager for Swift. It’s tightly integrated with Xcode and Swift, making it the most official choice.
  • CocoaPods: CocoaPods is a third-party dependency manager for iOS projects.
  • Carthage: Carthage is also a third-party dependency manager for iOS projects.

2. Integration with Xcode:

  • Swift Package Manager (SPM): SPM is directly integrated into Xcode, simplifying dependency management.
  • CocoaPods: CocoaPods requires you to modify your Xcode project by generating a .xcworkspace file.
  • Carthage: Carthage integrates with Xcode through frameworks, but you need to manually add and configure these frameworks in your project.

3. Dependency Resolution:

  • Swift Package Manager (SPM): SPM provides automatic dependency resolution, ensuring that you get compatible versions of dependencies.
  • CocoaPods: CocoaPods manages dependencies at a project level, potentially causing conflicts between different pods.
  • Carthage: Carthage downloads and builds dependencies as dynamic frameworks, allowing for more control over dependencies but requiring manual resolution of conflicts.

4. Dependency Types:

  • Swift Package Manager (SPM): SPM supports both Swift packages and C libraries. It’s a good choice for Swift-only projects.
  • CocoaPods: CocoaPods is primarily used for Objective-C and Swift Cocoa libraries.
  • Carthage: Carthage primarily deals with Objective-C and Swift frameworks.

5. Build Process:

  • Swift Package Manager (SPM): SPM automatically handles building and resolving dependencies.
  • CocoaPods: CocoaPods manages dependencies by creating a workspace and integrates it with the Xcode build process.
  • Carthage: Carthage builds dependencies as separate frameworks and leaves integration with the Xcode build process up to you.

6. Ease of Use:

  • Swift Package Manager (SPM): SPM is relatively easy to use and well-integrated with Swift projects.
  • CocoaPods: CocoaPods has a large library of available pods, making it easy to find and integrate third-party code.
  • Carthage: Carthage is known for its simplicity and minimal impact on Xcode projects.

7. Popularity:

  • Swift Package Manager (SPM): Growing in popularity, especially for Swift-only projects.
  • CocoaPods: Historically very popular and widely used.
  • Carthage: Popular for its simplicity and speed, especially for large projects.

8. Maintenance:

  • Swift Package Manager (SPM): As an official Apple tool, SPM is actively maintained and updated.
  • CocoaPods: CocoaPods has an active community but has experienced periods of slower updates.
  • Carthage: Carthage is actively maintained by the community but may have fewer updates than SPM and CocoaPods.

9. Support for Binary Frameworks:

  • Swift Package Manager (SPM): Limited support for binary dependencies. It’s primarily source-based.
  • CocoaPods: Supports binary frameworks through tools like CocoaPods-binary.
  • Carthage: Supports binary frameworks and dynamic frameworks, which can help reduce app size.

In summary, the choice between Swift Package Manager, CocoaPods, and Carthage depends on your specific project needs and personal preferences. SPM is the official tool for Swift packages and is well-suited for Swift-focused projects. CocoaPods offers a vast library of pods and is suitable for a wide range of projects. Carthage provides control and simplicity, making it a good choice for those who prefer manual management of dependencies.



KD Knowledge Diet

Software Engineer, Mobile Developer living in Seoul. I hate people using difficult words. Why not using simple words? Keep It Simple Stupid!