Recently, I came across a case (pun intended) where I needed to compare two instances of an enum type in Swift. However, it was an enum where some cases had associated values. At first glance, it is not obvious how to do this.

As you likely know, if you want to compare two instances of a type in Swift, then that type must conform to the Equatable protocol. In other words, you must define the == operator for the type. If the enumeration does not have associated values or if it has a raw-value type, then you get the == operator for free from the Swift Standard Library. For example:

// With a raw-value
// Double conforms to Equatable
enum Math: Double {
    case Pi = 3.1415
    case Phi = 1.6180
    case Tau = 6.2831

Math.Pi == Math.Pi // true
Math.Tau == Math.Phi // false
Math.Tau != Math.Phi // true

// Without a raw-value
enum CompassPoint: Equatable {
    case North
    case South
    case East
    case West

CompassPoint.North == CompassPoint.North // true
CompassPoint.South == CompassPoint.East // false

Comparing cases in these enumerations works out-of-the-box because enumerations that have cases of a raw-value type implicitly conform to the RawRepresentable protocol. The Swift Standard Library provides implementations of the == operator for RawRepresentable types and generic T types.

// Used to compare 'Math' enum
func ==<T : RawRepresentable where T.RawValue : Equatable>(lhs: T, rhs: T) -> Bool

// Used to compare 'CompassPoint' enum
func ==<T : Equatable>(lhs: T?, rhs: T?) -> Bool

It is easy to see how and why this works. For the RawRepresentable type, as long as the rawValue conforms to Equatable, then all this function has to do is compare the raw-value from each type. Without a raw-value, the different enumeration members are fully-fledged values in their own right. But if the some cases of the enumeration have associated values, then you must implement the == operator yourself. Consider the following example.

enum Barcode {
    case UPCA(Int, Int)
    case QRCode(String)
    case None

// Error: binary operator '==' cannot be applied to two Barcode operands
Barcode.QRCode("code") == Barcode.QRCode("code")

If you are well versed in Swift’s pattern matching capabilities, then conforming to Equatable is very straightforward.

extension Barcode: Equatable {

func ==(lhs: Barcode, rhs: Barcode) -> Bool {
    switch (lhs, rhs) {
    case (let .UPCA(codeA1, codeB1), let .UPCA(codeA2, codeB2)):
        return codeA1 == codeA2 && codeB1 == codeB2

    case (let .QRCode(code1), let .QRCode(code2)):
        return code1 == code2

    case (.None, .None):
        return true

        return false

Barcode.QRCode("code") == Barcode.QRCode("code") // true
Barcode.UPCA(1234, 1234) == Barcode.UPCA(4567, 7890) // false
Barcode.None == Barcode.None // true

Even with Swift 2.0, the syntax is a somewhat difficult to read and difficult to remember. We must pattern match on each case and then unpack the associated values (if any) to compare them directly. That’s it! Now we can compare our custom enumerations.