It is estimated that a total of 100,000 apps are launched every month on the Google Play Store. The iOS App Store also sees an impressive rate of monthly releases with around 30,000 new apps being released each month for downloaders to enjoy at their leisure.
This means more than four thousand new apps are launched per day and three apps are launched every minute.
Now imagine the coding effort behind these impressive numbers.
Although there are dozens of startup funding options and crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo where you can raise the necessary funds to create the next hot app, sometimes you just need a different solution. This is where advanced tools for programmers like SDKs come to save the day.
A software development kit (SDK) is a batch of software programming tools that streamline the development process of apps. Thanks to SDKs, developers don’t need to waste time on repetitive tasks like building each component of an app separately. These toolkits include ready-made pieces, which you may put together and build around to craft your app. Even if you’re a newcomer to the world of programming, the abbreviation SDK should definitely be in your vocabulary already.
This guide to SDKs will teach you all about what they are used in, why you simply must use them, their types, and elements. As a bonus, we will also discuss how SDKs and APIs are different from each other. Remember – whether you’re a beginner to programming, a product manager, or just interested in development, this read will be worth your while.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is an SDK Used For?
- 2 Why Use an SDK?
- 3 Types of SDK
- 4 Elements of an SDK
- 5 How SDKs and APIs are different
- 6 Final Thoughts
What is an SDK Used For?
SDKs have dozens of use cases in developing apps in an easier and safer way. These toolkits usually include pieces of code, APIs, and instructions or rules on how to implement certain modules. Developers can utilize SDKs in building apps for:
- Software frameworks
- Hardware platforms
- Video game consoles
- Operating systems
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Companies usually give out SDKs to their programmers, so they will have guidance when building apps. For example, if you’re building an iOS app, you will need an iOS SDK. If you’re building a product that requires a wireless Bluetooth connection, you will need a Nordic SDK.
The truth is, most, or maybe even all of the new tech gadgets, whether it’s IoT hardware products or software, were built using SDKs. You’d be surprised, but the average Android app is built using around 18.2 SDKs. The number is even higher for gaming applications.
To put this into perspective, let’s dive deeper and see what developers can actually do with SDKs. If you’ve decided to create an iOS app, you will require the iOS SDK to be able to connect your app to iOS device functions, including but not limited to:
- Accessing the camera
- Enabling push notifications
- Audio recording
- Multi-touch controls
- Video playback
- Location services
These functions are only some of the most basic functions. The SDK also includes APIs and libraries of code that are responsible for security, database management, interface rendering, animations, and so on. But that’s not all. You can use as many SDKs and add as many different features to your app as you want. Nevertheless, remember your customers’ needs and choose the right SDKs.
Whether you are creating the next tech trend like VR, or a platform for finding influencers with a powerful search engine like Upfluence, your efficiency can increase if you use SDKs. If you are planning on creating an app for a specific platform or in a specific language, you must check out the SDK they offer. Trying to build an app or new functionalities from the ground up to fit a platform without using its SDK would be bordering on impossible.
Why Use an SDK?
As a newcomer to programming, you might have some doubts about using SDKs. After all, they include APIs and code written by other developers. Should you trust SDKs? Absolutely! In fact, using SDKs is possibly a safer option than writing everything from scratch. And that’s by far not the only benefit. If you’re still unsure about SDKs, we’ve highlighted some key reasons why you should use SDKs when developing apps or new functionalities. Here are 4 advantages of SDKs:
Saves you precious time and funds
One of the most beneficial advantages of using SDKs is the amount of time and money you will save. First, you will be able to cut the number of programmers you require to build your product. Second, the programmers you hire will complete the job much faster, thanks to the pre-built components contained in the SDKs. So, you can launch your app or new features much faster, using fewer resources than ever before.
To put it simply, writing all the code from scratch rather than using SDKs is like choosing to raise your own chickens and getting your morning eggs from them rather than buying the eggs from a shop.
Supports multiple languages & platforms
Thanks to SDKs, you can develop an app using various programming languages, dedicated to various platforms. Whether it’s Java, C++, .NET, or Python, SDKs have you covered. You simply have to find and choose the SDK fit for your desired platform that supports your desired programming language. So, if you wish to build an app all for iOS, Android, plus desktop, you’re going to need an SDK for each.
Makes sales cycles shorter
If you use SDKs in your app’s core development and maintenance processes, you stand to make bigger profits. Why? Because SDKs allow you to be as efficient as ever, giving you the ability to follow up on hot leads faster. In other words, SDKs facilitate in making your sales cycles shorter, naturally leading to higher productivity and a bigger bottom line.
Support from developer & other users
When you choose to use a specific SDK written by another developer, you are choosing to save your time, plus not write everything from zero. And you are by far not the only one. Experienced developers surely utilize high-quality SDKs, and many of them are ready to help you when something goes wrong. Major companies like Apple that offer SDKs also offer customer support. So, if there’s a bug or any other issue, odds are you can find a solution. After all, it’s better to use something that’s been proven to work.
Types of SDK
Devkits are used for completing different tasks in the sphere. Some of them enable apps to connect to various tools, while some are required for properly running apps on certain operating systems or devices. Although there are numerous kinds of SDKs, here are the 5 main types:
Although SDKs are used for web and mobile apps, they’ve been found to be common among hardware products as well. Specifically, IoT products, which include some form of development piece and require a connection to the internet to perform their “smart” task, include SDKs. For example, if you acquire solar panels from the hardware supplier, they will surely include an SDK for that product. This SDK will later be used by programmers to set up the solar panels the way you wish.
Mobile Operating System
As mentioned earlier, to build an app fit for running on a certain operating system, you will require a distinct SDK for that specific platform. Whether it’s Android or iOS, you’re going to require an SDK. This will allow you to utilize and connect to features of the operating system from inside the app you are building.
Web app programming language
Open-source SDKs are available for free on the internet and allow other programmers to make modifications. Such SDKs offer much more customizability but also come with security risks.
Proprietary SDKs are not open source but instead require a special license to be able to use it. Other developers may not alter or make any changes to the source code.
Elements of an SDK
Now that you know what SDKs are, why you should use them, and their types, it’s time to talk about their contents. Naturally, different SDKs include different components, but here are some parts that you can expect.
- Compiler: Compilers translate the high-level programming language you used into lower-level code. This allows your program to be executed.
- Debugger: The debugger tool helps programmers catch any errors in their code. This is used for running your program in a controlled environment, track the execution process, and understand what can go wrong.
- Application Programming Interfaces: APIs are bridges between certain programs. For instance, if you want to add the functionality of logging in through Google on your app, Google has a special API for it. In this case, the API is the bridge between your app and Google. We will discuss APIs further at the end of this article.
SDKs May Also Include
- Documentation: High-quality SDKs will always include thorough documentation that instructs programmers on properly using that specific SDK and its code.
- Libraries: This is where the raw code is stored. The code you find here will need to be plugged into yours in order to apply the functionality.
- Runtime/Development Environment: Easy-to-use SDKs usually include Development Environments, through which programmers will do their coding.
- Editors, Testing/Analysis Tools, Drivers, Network Protocols
Examples of SDKs
- Android SDK
- Java Development Kit
- MacOS X SDK
- Kubernetes Operator SDK
- PayPal SDK
- Unity Ads SDK
How SDKs and APIs are different
Very often, the terms SDK and API are mixed up. That’s why it’s so important to learn the big distinction between them. It’s true that they are used in the same manner, but there’s a simple difference. Do you remember how APIs are bridges used to integrate other third-party functionality straight into your app? SDKs are more complex tools, and almost all of them include at least one API.
APIs can connect programs to your app, but you can’t build an app with an API. Not only can you connect programs and build apps with SDKs, but they also come with documentation on how you can do it. So, you can use SDKs to build grandiose systems or complex applications. On the other hand, APIs are quick ways that teach you how to connect small functions to an already existing app.
Finally, for an even clearer explanation of how APIs and SDKs are different, or which one you should choose, here’s a short comparison.
|Goal||Make building apps faster and easier||Connect programs and apps|
|Contents||Compiler, Debugger, APIs, Documentation, Code Libraries, etc.||Definitions and protocols for integration|
|Used for||Building functional apps from scratch||Adding functionality to existing apps|
|Key advantage||Saves time & funds, built-in support||Lightweight, lean, customizable|
|Key disadvantage||Not for small tasks, requires full integration for proper functioning||Requires in-depth knowledge to implement|
Software development kits are the ultimate tools for efficiently developing an app from scratch. They include all the necessary pieces of the puzzle such as documentation, code samples, compilers, debuggers, APIs, etc., for developers to craft apps or systems for any platform. SDKs help programmers cut down the time they may spend on creating systems that already exist. This means that you will save time, as well as the money required for building your application.
SDKs are easy-to-use, all-in-one toolkits that ultimately make sales cycles shorter and positively influence your bottom line. Whether you are a programmer or a product manager, SDKs will help you become more efficient and productive.
Remember – the goal of SDKs is to assist you in making an app faster and easier. If you are tasked with adding some functions or simply integrating third-party software to an app, APIs might be the right choice for you. But if you are looking to optimize an app for a certain platform or build the next trendy IoT gadget, you should definitely look into SDKs.
Author: Angel Poghosyan
Angel Poghosyan has 6+ years of doing content, marketing, and strategy for startups & businesses. Specializing in social media, entertainment, and tech.
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