Java Time Complexity

January 19, 2024


For Java developers, Big O notation isn't just a theoretical concept—it's a practical tool for evaluating the efficiency of code. This blog post aims to demystify Big O complexities through real Java code examples, helping you visualize how these complexities translate in practical scenarios.

Exploring the Depths of Big O Notation

Big O notation quantifies the efficiency of an algorithm in terms of time (execution) and space (memory usage). It focuses on how the runtime scales with the size of input data, offering a lens to foresee performance bottlenecks.

Now let's dive into the different Big O complexities and their corresponding Java code examples.

O(1) - Constant Time: Accessing an element in an array

public int getElement(int[] array, int index) {
    return array[index];

Regardless of array size, accessing an element takes a constant time.

public int binarySearch(int[] sortedArray, int key) {
    int low = 0;
    int high = sortedArray.length - 1;
    while (low <= high) {
        int mid = low + (high - low) / 2;
        if (key < sortedArray[mid]) high = mid - 1;
        else if (key > sortedArray[mid]) low = mid + 1;
        else return mid;
    return -1;

Each step cuts the search area by half, thus the complexity is logarithmic.

public int linearSearch(int[] array, int value) {
    for (int i = 0; i < array.length; i++) {
        if (array[i] == value) return i;
    return -1;

Linear search inspects each element once, so its time complexity grows linearly with input size.

O(n log n) - Log-Linear Time: Merge Sort

public void mergeSort(int[] array, int left, int right) {
    if (left < right) {
        int mid = (left + right) / 2;
        mergeSort(array, left, mid);
        mergeSort(array, mid + 1, right);
        merge(array, left, mid, right);

Merge Sort divides the array into halves and then merges them, combining logarithmic and linear characteristics.

O(n^2) - Quadratic Time: Bubble Sort

public void bubbleSort(int[] array) {
    int n = array.length;
    for (int i = 0; i < n-1; i++) {
        for (int j = 0; j < n-i-1; j++) {
            if (array[j] > array[j+1]) {
                int temp = array[j];
                array[j] = array[j+1];
                array[j+1] = temp;

With nested loops, each element is compared with others in a pairwise manner, leading to quadratic complexity.

Deep Dive into Code Analysis

By examining these examples, we observe how the Big O complexity provides a window into the algorithm's performance. Especially in Java, understanding these complexities can lead to more optimized and efficient code, suitable for high-performance applications.


Big O complexities are more than theoretical constructs—they are practical indicators of how your Java code performs under varying scales of data. By internalizing these complexities, Java developers can enhance both their problem-solving skills and their ability to write high-performance code.