Async / Await Coroutines in Swift from Kotlin Multiplatform using KMP-NativeCoroutines

This is a write-up for a talk I gave at Droidcon Berlin 2023, the video version can be found here:

Calling Kotlin Multiplatform Coroutines from Swift with the help of KMP-NativeCoroutines - droidcon
The official way of using Coroutines from Swift is awkward and has a lot of limitations. These limitations can be addressed by creating handwritten wrappers, but that includes a lot of boilerplate.

The presentations / decks can be found here:
Async / Await

TL;DR KMP-NativeCoroutines allows the use Native Swift solutions (Async await, Combine or RxSwift) for asynchronous Kotlin code (Suspend functions and Flows). The library is also one of the Kotlin Grant winners.

The code used in the deck and in this write-up is available on GitHub, it uses the Touchlab KaMP Kit Starter. The main implementation is for Async Await, but there is also a commented out Combine implementation:

GitHub - AKJAW/Swift-Coroutines-With-KMP-NativeCoroutines
Contribute to AKJAW/Swift-Coroutines-With-KMP-NativeCoroutines development by creating an account on GitHub.

View Model

The starter screen which uses the three coroutine approaches calls the following ViewModel:

class BreedViewModel() : ViewModel() {

   val breedState: StateFlow<BreedViewState> // Data stream

   suspend fun refreshBreeds(): Boolean // Suspend function

   fun updateBreedFavorite(breed: Breed): Job // Ordinary function

Which also has a super class that has access to a CoroutineScope and a function for cancelling all child coroutines:

actual abstract class ViewModel {

   actual val viewModelScope = MainScope()

   fun clear() {

Normal / Ordinary function

The easiest way to call a suspend function is to call a normal function, which launches a coroutine:

fun updateBreedFavorite(breed: Breed): Job {
   return viewModelScope.launch {

And in Swift, it's just a normal function call:

func onBreedFavorite(breed: Breed) {
    viewModel?.updateBreedFavorite(breed: breed)

However, this approach comes with drawbacks:

  • There is no way to get a return value from it, the only way to achievie it to modify some internal state which is exposed to the UI
  • A CoroutineScope is required in order to launch the coroutine from Kotlin
  • It's not so easy to be notified when the coroutine completes

Suspend functions

For cases where the return value is needed or there needs to be a callback for when the suspension completes, then a suspending function needs to be called directly from Swift.

suspend fun refreshBreeds(): Boolean {
   return try {
   } catch (exception: Exception) {
A suspending function which returns a value

If you're just interested in the best approach, skin on over to the KMP-NativeCoroutines section.

Official generated code

This is the simplest form of calling suspend functions from Swift, which comes out of the box with Kotlin. However, it is also the worst one... Calling it is pretty straight forward, every suspend function will take in a lambda from Swift:

viewModel?.refreshBreeds { wasRefreshed, error in
  print("refresh: \(wasRefreshed), \(error)")

However, the return value is Optional, which means that it can exist or not (like Nullable):

refresh: Optional(1), error: nil

Even though there is an error parameter, it only represents CancellationExceptions all Other uncaught Kotlin exceptions are fatal causing the App to crash:

 * @note This method converts instances of CancellationException to errors.
 * Other uncaught Kotlin exceptions are fatal.
- (void)refreshBreedsWithCompletionHandler:(void (^)(SharedBoolean * _Nullable, NSError * _Nullable))completionHandler __attribute__((swift_name("refreshBreeds(completionHandler:)")));
The ObjC generated code that is called from Swift
The Developer experience is not so nice:
- It forces an Optional value
- There is no way to cancel it
- Additional error handling is required

Adapter / Wrapper

This approach gives more control over our suspend functions from Swift, but requires some additional boilerplate for every function. The SuspendAdapter is the class which is used from Swift to call any suspending function:

class SuspendAdapter<T : Any>(
   private val scope: CoroutineScope,
   private val suspender: suspend () -> T

In order to use the Adapter, the iOS target requires an additional ViewModel class, which delegates all calls to the common ViewModel:

@Suppress("Unused") // It's used from Swift
class AdapterBreedViewModel {
  val viewModel = BreedViewModel()

  fun refreshBreeds() =
    SuspendAdapter(viewModel.scope) {

The SuspendAdapter has a subscribe function is used to launch the coroutine from Swift:

class SuspendAdapter<T : Any>(
   private val scope: CoroutineScope,
   private val suspender: suspend () -> T
) {

 fun subscribe(
     onSuccess: (item: T) -> Unit,
     onThrow: (error: Throwable) -> Unit
 ) = scope.launch {
     try {
     } catch (error: Throwable) {

From the iOS App perspective, the contract is definitely much easier to use and understand:

    onSuccess: { value in
        print("completion \(value)")
    onThrow: { error in
        print("error \(error)")

There is also a way to integrate it with Native solutions (like Combine):

createFuture(suspendAdapter: adapter)
    .sink { completion in
        print("completion \(completion)")
    } receiveValue: { value in
        print("recieveValue \(value)")
    }.store(in: &cancellables)
createFuture is a Swift helper function that creates a combine Future for the suspend call
The experience is definetely a step up:
+ Better error handling
+ No Optional value
+ Ability to integrate with Combine or other
- A lot of Additional boilerplate


This is my recommended approach of handling suspend functions from Swift. The library basically generates code similar to the Adapter (but a lot better) from the previous section. Additionally, it also has Swift libraries / packages which allow the use of Native Swift solutions, which in this case it will be Async/Await.

To generate the Adapter, all that needs to be done from Kotlin is to add the correct annotation:

suspend fun nativeRefreshBreeds(): Boolean =

And from Swift, once the correct library is imported, there is access to helper functions which for this call is asyncFunction that takes in the Kotlin suspend function call:

func refresh() async {
  let suspend = viewModel.nativeRefreshBreeds()
  do {
      let value = 
          try await asyncFunction(for: suspend)
      print("Async Success: \(value)")
  } catch {
      print("Async Failed with error: \(error)")

There exists also another helper function asyncResult which eliminates the need for error handling because it returns enum values representing either success or error values:

func refresh() async {
  let suspend = viewModel.nativeRefreshBreeds()
  let value = await asyncResult(for: suspend)
  switch value {
  case .success(let result):
      print("Async Success: \(result)")
  case .failure(let error):
      print("Async Failed with error: \(error)")

+ Explicit Error handling
+ No Boilerplate
+ No Optional
+ Dedicated Swift packages for Combine, Async, RxSwift
+ Automatic cancellation support

Internals of the generated code

If you're interested in what the library generates, here's my own, non-complete and simplified version.

The generated Kotlin function, which is called from Swift, looks as follows:

@ObjCName(name = "nativeRefreshBreeds")
public fun BreedViewModel.nativeRefreshBreedsNative(): NativeSuspend<Boolean> =
    nativeSuspend(viewModelScope) { nativeRefreshBreeds() }

The body of the function does a similar thing to what happened in the handwritten Adapter, it just delegates the call to the common ViewModel.

The return value NativeSuspend is type alias for a lambda that takes in three other lambdas:

typealias NativeCallback<T> = (T, Unit) -> Unit

typealias NativeSuspend<T> = (
    onResult: NativeCallback<T>,
    onError: NativeCallback<NativeError>,
    onCancelled: NativeCallback<NativeError>
) -> NativeCancellable

And in the generated code ObjC it looks like this:

@interface SharedBreedViewModel (Extensions)
- (SharedKotlinUnit *(^(^)(SharedKotlinUnit *(^)(SharedBoolean *, SharedKotlinUnit *), SharedKotlinUnit *(^)(NSError *, SharedKotlinUnit *), SharedKotlinUnit *(^)(NSError *, SharedKotlinUnit *)))(void))nativeRefreshBreeds __attribute__((swift_name("nativeRefreshBreeds()")));

I personally cannot decipher the code above, but fortunately the library author can and provides this on the Swift side:

public typealias NativeCallback<T, Unit> = (T, Unit) -> Unit

public typealias NativeSuspend<Result, Failure: Error, Unit> = (
    _ onResult: @escaping NativeCallback<Result, Unit>,
    _ onError: @escaping NativeCallback<Failure, Unit>,
    _ onCancelled: @escaping NativeCallback<Failure, Unit>
) -> NativeCancellable<Unit>

Which is then used for the asyncFunction:

public func asyncFunction<Result, Failure: Error, Unit>(
    for nativeSuspend: @escaping NativeSuspend<Result, Failure, Unit>
) async throws -> Result {
    try await AsyncFunctionTask(nativeSuspend: nativeSuspend).awaitResult()

A lot of more internal magic is done, which allows the following Async/Await call:

let result =
    await asyncResult(for: viewModel.nativeRefreshBreeds())


It is possible to collect flows using the Official way and with the Adapter as well, however I won't dive into their implementations. They are briefly shown in the deck on page 63 and 65 respectively.


The approach is the same as with suspending functions, just adding an annotation will generate the necessary code on the Kotlin/Native side:

val nativeBreedState: StateFlow<BreedViewState> =

This time, the asyncSequence is used for transforming the Flow into a Sequence:

func activate() async {
  let nativeFlow = viewModel.nativeBreedStateFlow
  do {
    let sequence = asyncSequence(for: nativeFlow)
    for try await dogsState in sequence {
        self.loading = dogsState.isLoading
        self.breeds = dogsState.breeds
        self.error = dogsState.error
  } catch {
    print("Async Failed with error: \(error)")
The above example works, however it will generate a warning on the Swift side: Publishing changes from background threads is not allowed; make sure to publish values from the main thread (via operators like receive(on:)) on model updates.

Which is caused by the internal state updates:

self.loading = dogsState.isLoading
self.breeds = dogsState.breeds
self.error = dogsState.error

The fix for the warning is to update the state on the main thread, which shown in the next section.

+ Integration with Native solutions
+ No casting needed
+ Automatic cancellation
+ Collection on Default dispatcher

Controlling the Scope

To define the scope / dispatcher which KMP-NativeCoroutines uses needs to be available in the Kotlin class and have the following annotation:

actual val viewModelScope = MainScope()

MainScope is a standard library function which creates a Scope for the "UI Thread":

public fun MainScope(): CoroutineScope = 
    ContextScope(SupervisorJob() + Dispatchers.Main)

Keep in mind that the @NativeCoroutineScope only controls the Kotlin side of the coroutine.

  • In Combine, the above scope makes the Swift "collection" happen on the main thread. Thanks to this, the .receive(on: DispatchQueue.main) is not required.
  • In Async / Await, this scope won't apply to the Swift side. The thread still needs to be specified in Swift, like in the example below.
func activate() async { ... }

Without this @MainActor annotation, the values are "collected" in Kotlin using the Main thread, but once they are received by Swift, the Task is responsible for specifying the threading.

Exception / Error Handling

It's good to know how Kotlin Coroutines exceptions affect the iOS app and how to guard against them.

The button used for testing exception handling

Suspend functions

The function which will be called is as follows, it delays for 1 second and the throws an exception:

suspend fun throwException() {
   throw IllegalStateException()

On The Swift side, it is called like this:

print("async exception start")
do {
    let result = try await asyncFunction(for: suspend)
    print("async exception success \(result)")
} catch {
    print("async exception failure \(error)")

And the result is as follows:

18:07:03 async exception start
18:07:04 async exception failure (ErrorDomain=KotlinExcepton Code=0 "(null)" UserInfo={KotlinException=kotlin.IllegalStateException})


For flows, the stream emits 3 values and then throws an exception:

val errorFlow: Flow<Int> = flow {
   repeat(3) { number ->
   throw IllegalStateException()
do {
    let sequence = asyncSequence(for: viewModel.errorFlow)
    for try await number in sequence {
        print("sequence exception n: \(number)")
} catch {
    print("sequence exception error: \(error)")

2023-06-28 18:14:24 sequence exception number 0
2023-06-28 18:14:25 sequence exception number 1
2023-06-28 18:14:26 sequence exception number 2
2023-06-28 18:14:27 sequence exception error 
(Error Domain=KotlinException Code=0 "(null)"

There is also an option to just ignore errors:

func throwException() async throws {
    let sequence = asyncSequence(for: viewModel.errorFlow)
    for try await number in sequence {
        print("sequence exception n: \(number)")
try? await observableModel.throwException()

Exception handling summary

In Async / Await the error handling is pretty straight forward with the do catch statement so no surprises here. However, handling these Kotlin exceptions on the Swift side is pretty awkward.

I'm personally not a fan of throwing exceptions (and neither is the Kotlin team), it's much better to define a value which represents the error state. Which could a null or a sealed class, both of these approaches will be a lot easier and safer to handle on the Swift side.


The following Flow will be used to demonstrate cancellation on the iOS App:

val numberFlow: Flow<Int> = flow {
   var i = 0
   while (true) {
}.onEach { number ->
   log.i("numberFlow onEach: $number")
}.onCompletion { throwable ->
   log.i("numberFlow onCompletion: $throwable")
Because the logs happen on the Kotlin side, we're sure that the flow actually cancels. 

There are two ways of cancelling coroutines in the iOS App:

  • Manual, which happens when a button is pressed or when the onDisappear callback is called.
  • Automatic when SwiftUI deems the screen as not needed (No callbacks required).

I tried making the code in such a way that both these ways are possible using Async / Await. However, at the moment Swift lacks structured concurrency for Tasks meaning, that only one is possible at the same time.


The button used for testing manual cancellation

In order to manually cancel the number sequence, a new Task needs to be created and assigned to a field:

func listenToNumbers() async {
  numberTask = Task {
      let sequence =
        asyncSequence(for: viewModel.numberFlow)
      for try await number in sequence {
        self.number = number.intValue

When the button is pressed, or onDisappear happens, then the cancellation happens:

func cancel() {
    numberTask = nil

Resulting in these logs:

2023-06-30 12:21:30 numberFlow onEach: 0
2023-06-30 12:21:31 numberFlow onEach: 1
2023-06-30 12:21:32 numberFlow onEach: 2
2023-06-30 12:21:33 numberFlow onCompletion: kotlinx.coroutines.JobCancellationException: …


In order for SwiftUI to automatically cancel, the screen needs to be fully closed. In the Playground screen, it is achieved by opening a new "nested" screen and then closing it:

In order to achieve this automatic cancellation, the numberTask cannot be created, because nested Tasks are not cancelled by the parent (no structured concurrency). When the async function is executed directly:

func listenToNumbers() async {
    let sequence =
        asyncSequence(for: viewModel.numberFlow)
    for try await number in sequence {
      self.number = number.intValue

Then SwiftUI is in control of the Task, thus allowing automatic cancellation:

var body: some View {
}.task {
    await observableModel.listenToNumbers()

No additional callbacks are required (like onDisappear), because SwiftUI takes care of everything. When the class calling the coroutine is de-initialized, then the coroutine is cancelled:

2023-03-24 12:28:13 init 0x00006000024be000
2023-03-24 12:28:13 numberFlow onEach: 0
2023-03-24 12:28:14 numberFlow onEach: 1
2023-03-24 12:28:15 numberFlow onEach: 2
2023-03-24 12:28:16 numberFlow onEach: 3
2023-03-24 12:28:16 deinit 0x00006000024be000
2023-03-24 12:28:16 numberFlow onCompletion: kotlinx.coroutines.JobCancellationException: ...

Cancellation summary

I won't go into depth into this topic, because there are better resources for it. Basically correct cancellation results in:

  • Freeing up the users resources like data transfer
  • Avoiding Memory leaks
  • Fewer unnecessary API calls


KMP-NativeCoroutines makes the iOS developers life easier and more fun.
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