Swift: The downsides of lazy var (part 1)

Lazy evaluation is a really powerful technique which enhances app performance by avoiding unecessary computation. In Swift, apart from this advantage, it also brings convenience when it comes to coding style. For instance, I usually place the setup of a UI element in a closure instead of putting a whole bunch of code in viewDidLoad(). And when we need self for that setup, lazy comes to the rescue.

private lazy var nameLabel: UILabel = {
	let label = UILabel()
	label.text = self.person.name
	// ... Further setup
	return label

Putting aside the overhead complexity it adds to the compilation process, there are some more cases we need to pay attention.

Consider this code:

final class ViewController {
	private lazy var progressView: ProgressView = {
		let _progressView = ProgressView(delegate: self)
		// Further setup
		return _progressView

extension ViewController: ProgressViewDelegate {
	func progressViewUpdateProgress() {
		let value = progressView.value

Everything seems pretty normal. But taking a closer look, we notice that there’s a chance that while progressView is being configured, it may be called which ends up executing the closure twice. This introduces some critical issues as the second call will overwrite the value in the first setup.

// 1. execute closure
// --> create, not yet return 
// --> still marked progressView as "not yet initialized"
let _progressView = ProgressView(delegate: self) 

// 2. delegate is called

// 3. access progressView, but it is marked as "not yet initialized" since we didn't reach the return
// --> execute closure (again)
let value = progressView.value 

This twice execution can lead to a few issues as follows:

Apparently, this should not be a limitation of the language. Rather, we should pay careful attention to such scenarios… However, by using lazy var, the problem seems to hide quite cleverly.

In this example, we use lazy var just for convenience. But as a tradeoff, the app is more vulnerable. So… Better change it to let to make things less unpredictable…

Let’s not abuse lazy 😛.