Every company looking to perform mobile marketing through an application will come across the term “SDK,” along with many other technical acronyms. Unless an individual is dealing with an SDK directly, the term may get overlooked. However, that shouldn’t be the case, as the correct use of a Software Development Kit can ultimately benefit a marketing app designed for a variety of digital platforms. Though, to use an SDK, a company must first understand what it is.
What is an SDK?
An SDK or Software Development Kit is a collection of software development tools and programs that all types of software developers, from apps to video games, from marketing to information, use to create a piece of software. These devkits come with a variety of programming tools, including libraries of resources, code samples, documentation, and guides, which can then get implemented into the creation of a new app. Unfortunately, many of the larger SDKs get restricted to the specific platform it was designed for. An Android SDK won’t work for developing an iOS app, and an iOS SDK won’t work for developing an Android app, and so on. There are workarounds for this lack of compatibility, as detailed below.
What Makes a Good SDK?
A basic understanding of a Software Development Kit can only do so much. It is necessary for a business looking to build a marketing app to be able to tell the difference between a good SDK and a bad SDK. Luckily, what makes a great SDK is detailed below.
Easy to Understand Documentation
Documentation that comes with the SDK is essential. The fact that the software application will be one of the building blocks of the final app means an app developer needs to know what they are getting. How-to Guides and references make an SDK more accessible to a broad community. Testing code samples also don’t go a miss as part of the SDK documentation. Easy to understand documentation along with a variety of sample code to test makes a great SDK, which ultimately leads to a great application.
Simple Setup and Design
An SDK needs to do its job and that’s it. The system doesn’t need to get complicated with multiple options an app won’t need. A developer wants to get to work on their app and an SDK should let them do that. The SDK should give a developer the metrics they need to access it, without overcomplicating the situation.
That simplicity should carry over to the design. The design of the SDK interface should reflect the user needs while remaining simple. A website developer will have different requirements over that of an app developer and the SDK should reflect that.
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Has Enough Utilities for Common-Uses
Creating apps requires a selection of standard functionality among each SDK, whether specialized or not. A website may require a contact form or a transactional service or there might be a need for authentication on an app. These functions aren’t unique to one type of app or site, so every SDK should be able to cater to them. If an SDK fails to provide some essential utilities, it is not worth both the time and financial investment.
Clear Error Messages
If things go wrong, a developer wants to know where it went wrong and why. A simple 404 error code is not helpful, at an already stressful time, can be detrimental to progress. The SDK should provide an easy to understand error message that details the issue. Additional troubleshooting tips wouldn’t hurt, but if a developer at least knows what is wrong, they can get started on fixing it.
The Two Most Popular SDKs
The above outlines what a great SDK should do, though, in truth, a potential developer does not have to search far for a reliable SDK. There are two popular SDKs in the form of the iOS SDK and the Android SDK. There are also plenty of third-party ones, as a developer very rarely relies on a single one, as touched on below.
The iOS SDK
The iOS SDK, as the name implies, works with Mac devices and is free to download. However, a developer will need to subscribe to the Apple Developer Program. Doing so will allow a developer to test the application they have built, reach out for technical support, and then distribute the app through the iOS App Store.
There are multiple features included within the iOS SDK, including though not limited to:
● Camera support
● Video playback
● Audio recording and playback
● Application security
Application security stands out with the iOS SDK, with one particular feature leading to the alternative name, Facebook SDK. With some additional downloading, a developer can implement a login system that will allow users of the app to log in with their Facebook credentials, which is a convenient feature for users of one of the biggest social media platforms.
In terms of coding language, a developer must have some knowledge to work with an SDK. Luckily, the iOS SDK comes with multiple options to help with creating iOS applications. Those coding languages include:
The Android SDK
The Android SDK is Google’s development kit. The SDK gets included in Android Studio, which is a piece of free software that gives an app developer everything they need to get started on building an app for Android. The software is free, though there is a $25 one-time fee to include the app on the Google Play store.
Like the iOS SDK, the Android version is not lacking in tools for a developer, including a debugger, libraries, tutorials, and handset emulators. An additional advantage to the Android SDK is that it can work with a variety of operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and even Mac OS X. It is worth noting that there is a Windows SDK for dedicated Microsoft Windows applications.
In terms of coding languages, there is not too much difference between the two pieces of software. The programming languages supported by SDK are:
Though they are the three main supported languages, other languages are compatible due to the inclusion of the JDK or Java Development Kit. Some of these languages allow for cross-development, allowing the developer to create an app for both Android and iOS.
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A mobile SDK is a specific type of SDK used for, as the name suggests, solely developing a mobile application. A mobile SDK allows a developer to create both complex and simple apps. These SDKs can get used in conjunction with the ones above, to give a developer even more tools. In truth, an Android app uses approximately 18 different SDKs, with a mobile SDK being one or more of them.
API vs SDK
If a developer is looking for an SDK for the first time, they may also come across APIs. These two things are different, though both hold an essential place in the development of an application.
What is an API?
An API, or Application Programming Interface, is what allows an app to function. The use of an API can bring specific functionalities too, depending on the type of API used. For example, a developer may want to include some form of payment processing terminal. Implementing a payment processing API will allow a developer to do just that. Alternatively, they may wish for their app to send a push notification meaning it would require a push API.
How Does an API Differ from an SDK?
There is no denying that an API and an SDK are similar, hence even experienced developers mixing up the two, on occasion. Things become even more confusing when many SDKs have APIs included in their tools, though it is impossible to find an SDK within an API.
An API is a tool that gets designed to perform a specific function between two different applications, whereas an SDK is a platform that provides the tools to create the applications. In other words, an API can bring features to an existing application, whereas an SDK will allow the app to get created from scratch.
IDE vs SDK
Another piece of software that a developer is likely to come across is an IDE or an integrated development environment. The IDE provides a user interface that gives a developer all they need for programming. A developer writes the code into the IDE and then runs it with the system. The integrated development environment can also assist with debugging code.
As addressed, the SDK contains tools for creating an application, with an IDE often being one of those tools, which in itself can include a source code editor. However, that is not always the case though there are multiple IDEs available for downloading if an IDE is needed explicitly by a developer. Again, like the above verses, no one SDK tool is better than another, with an SDK being a collection of multiple tools.
On occasion, an IDE can create issues when working alongside other components within the SDK. An IDE is a text editor, meaning any spelling errors can interfere with some functions, such as automatic notifications.
Applications Wouldn’t Exist Without SDKs
Any developer building an application will need the right Software Development Kit for the task. Without one, each element would have to get created piece by piece, which is both time-consuming and expensive. The bundle of tools that often comes to a developer with an affordable price tag gives every developer a chance to create a new app and then distribute the completed project among multiple platforms, whether the app is for a mobile marketer or a different purpose altogether.
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