What_is_an_SDK__Why_is_it_important

What Is an SDK? Why Is It Important?

The world of mobile marketers includes many three-lettered acronyms, and SDK is a pretty important one with which you need to be familiar. Since it belongs to the field of software programmers, the concept includes many technical details. 

If you are looking for a starting point to learn about SDKs, you can find the basics of these sets of software in this blog post.

What is an SDK?

SDK stands for software development kit (also called devkit), which explains what it is – a kit. But a kit for what? Developers use SDKs (software development kits) to create software without writing every code from scratch. In other words, these kits are installable packages that include the required tools for the developers. 

According to Nordic APIs, the best way to explain SDKs to non-developers is by comparing the concept with the kits for model planes. You have the necessary items within the kit, such as model plane pieces, glues, and other tools needed to put them together, instructions, etc. SDKs work similarly; they come as a collection of a set of documents, codes, libraries, and other tools needed to construct applications on a specific platform.

Although it is possible to use SDKs on websites or other digital platforms, they are most commonly used for mobile applications. According to Braze, when these kits of 3rd party written codes are integrated into the digital/mobile applications, they support new capabilities. They act as a pre-built tool or application segment. 

Why Are SDKs Important for Mobile Apps?

Here comes another analogy to better explain the importance of developer kits:

Imagine developing a mobile application as building a house. If you list what you need to make a house, you will come up with the materials such as concrete and bricks or people to build the house, such as roofers. No one would go and chop a tree to have some wood or gather the components to make brick, but they would buy these necessary materials instead. 

If you wonder why SDK is used in app development, there is a similar scenario to create an app too. You don’t reinvent the wheel. On the contrary, progress happens when we use the accumulated knowledge and build something on it.

Therefore, while designing or developing a mobile app, it is smarter to benefit from 3rd party code packages, meaning SDKs. It is not only to create the basic mechanism of operation for the app. Additionally, SDKs become money- and time-saving when app owners want to add new functionalities to their already existing apps. 

Having a well-built SDK makes your life easier as a developer and increases your app’s performance by bringing new opportunities to reach and engage with your users.

SDK Explained in More Detail

Let’s have a closer look at these collections. There are various types of devkits and what they include changes. If a developer is working on a mobile app that will operate on Apple devices, then, they will need iOS SDKs. Similarly, to make an app work on Android devices, Android SDKs become necessary. 

The operating system is just the first variable. The platform used to develop the app (e.g., Java), the programming languages, or the hardware components affect the kit preferences.

JDK vs. SDK

At this point, a widespread question comes into one’s mind. JDK vs. SDK: What are their differences in comparison to each other? 

Actually, these are not two separate concepts; instead, JDK, meaning Java development kit, is a name used by some programmers for a specific type of SDKs. 

JDK is a software development kit developed to build software on Java. To execute Java byte codes, you need Java Runtime Environment (JRE) which is a component of JDKs. Basically, JDKs contain everything JRE contains and also compilers and debuggers like other SDKs. Oracle and OpenJDK provide JDK.

What Does an SDK Contain?

Let’s not immerse ourselves in too many technicalities and see the most common components. 

SDKs should contain interfaces to connect software and also the tools needed in the development process. These components are: 

  • APIs (application programming interfaces)
  • Documentation
  • Editors
  • Libraries
  • Run-times and development environments
  • Compilers
  • Debuggers
  • Drivers
  • Network protocols
  • Examples and test projects

All these are very important for an SDK to have useful features. However, it will be more than enough to examine two of the most confusing components for the sake of providing a general understanding.

What Is a Library?

A library, sometimes misused as an SDK itself, refers to a collection of pre-built codes which a programmer can call from their own codes. Basically, libraries save developers writing all those codes and functions themselves. Thanks to these sets of codes, they can proceed more quickly.

The difference between a library and an SDK lies here: Whereas a library is a collection of pre-written and ready-to-use codes, an SDK file is a more comprehensive toolkit including the libraries but not limited to them. 

API vs. SDK

What does an API mean in technology?

As the name suggests, the application programming interface (API) is an interface that allows the software to interact with other software. API is the face of the library, and it explains to the programmer what they can do with the library. APIs reduce the number of codes the developers write and create consistency across apps. 

Confusion Between APIs and SDKs

It is quite common that APIs and SDKs are mixed up. One of the main causes of this confusion is because SDKs usually contain APIs. However, an API doesn’t always come within an SDK. 

So, when an SDK is used to build an application that would communicate with other applications, this SDK includes an API. 

Imagine you own a ride-sharing app. Instead of writing code to verify the user’s phone number, you would use an API for verification via SMS. You would use a map API to locate the cars and users. You would use another API for the payment process, etc.

On the other hand, SDKs include the package of tools required to build or improve your app.

We said an API doesn’t always come within an SDK. In this case, how do you choose between an API and an SDK? 

The Next Web gives this example: API is like a recipe to cook a cake. SDK is a box of cake mix. Although there are different uses for each, SDKs are generally easier to integrate and more secure to use.  

Is Integrating an SDK Good for Your App?

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Image Source: Medium

Apart from the value that comes from the core functionality that an SDK provides, it is also important how an SDK brings that value. In other words, integrating an SDK into your mobile app should not constitute a risk for the overall operation of the app. 

In order to guarantee the credibility and value of an SDK for your app, there are several points that you can check beforehand.

  • Integration: The integration process of an SDK to an app should be painless to the app developers.  
  • Documentation: An SDK should include clear documentation of codes and sample examples to help developers.
  • Uniformity: An SDK’s features and methods should be uniform to work on different platforms. Having such consistency would help developers use the SDK on cross platforms.
  • Use of Resources: Obviously, the SDK shouldn’t affect your app’s performance negatively. Maximum functionality and minimum resource usage should be ideal for an SDK. The integration might cause a drained battery if the efficiency is not ensured because of intensive background processing or unnecessary network polls deriving from large network usage and huge size.
  • Transparency: An SDK should be transparent to your users with what it is doing and also with permissions. 
  • Updates: SDKs should be compatible with the latest OS versions and architectures by bearing in mind the older versions. When new features are added, they should be explained to the users. 
  • Security: SDKs can be unsafe since they run different codes than your apps’. It is possible for malicious SDKs to violate user rights, and harm your app’s performance and cause your app to get banned from application stores. 
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Image source: Medium, Permissions

Meet a Lightweight SDK: Storyly

Storyly is an SDK helping mobile apps maximize their in-app engagement and grow their businesses by simply integrating stories into the mobile apps. 

It is lightweight and intuitive. Developers can integrate the SDK into their mobile apps instantly and with no coding on their side. In addition to practicality, clear documentation and dedicated customer success service guide the process.

Check out the advanced features that Storyly SDK can bring to your app. You can always contact us in case of further questions.

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