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Software developers and computer programmers use SDKs, or Software Development Kits, for developing different types of applications, operating systems, hardware and software programs, and video game consoles. SDKs actually give life to your favorite apps and digital programs and contain a set of tools used by developers to build applications without needing to develop the code from scratch.

Let’s delve into this article to have an in-depth study of SDKs and their importance in software development.

What is an SDK?

SDK, a three-letter acronym, constitutes an important part of the software development lifecycle. It is a familiar term for software developers and applies to mobile marketers.

An SDK refers to a collection of tools that allow developers to design software programs and applications without writing the entire code from scratch. SDKs are most useful for non-technical development professionals as they are supported with pre-built components for developing efficient, quality applications. The most comprehensive package of an SDK includes software tools, libraries, documentation, and resources that provide everything to the developers to build applications for a specific platform, framework, and service. Java Development Kit (JDK), iOS SDK, Windows App SDK, Android Native Development Kit (NDK), and Java Web Services Development Pack (JSWDP) are some of the popular SDKs used by development professionals from various industries.

Features of an SDK

Some of the important features of an SDK are as follows:

➤ Secure – From malicious attacks, unauthorized access, or theft, the SDKs need to be secure.

➤ Lightweight - Programs within an SDK are lightweighted as they make optimal use of the computer resources with low memory and CPU usage.

➤ Customizable – Good SDKs permit the developers to tweak the code and add their own functionalities and designs to build a perfect program.

➤ Easy-to-use – They should provide easy-to-understand, well-written code and a detailed and clear explanation of the components and solutions to common problems.

Characteristics of an SDK

The majority of SDKs have some common characteristics and functions, irrespective of their purpose, developer, and development source. Some of these characteristics are illustrated below:

➤ Documentation: A detailed documentation of the steps needed to input data by the user with processing the code and obtaining the output.

➤ Editors: Code editors are used by the programmers to write, compile, and execute the code.

➤ Tools for testing: Testing tools are implemented for debugging the code, finding issues, and making necessary fixes to let the software work as intended.

➤ Runtime Environments: They provide a platform for a program to run with all the functionalities.

➤ Libraries: Libraries collect a set of files, scripts, programs, and pre-written code that can be imported and used by the developers in their code.

➤ Drivers: Drivers constitute the programs facilitating the communication between the computer and software applications.

➤ Network Protocols: These protocols contain a set of rules, guidelines, and procedures over how data is exchanged between the devices using the network sharing method.

Problems that SDK Resolves

There are a number of common development problems that SDKs can resolve. One of them is about offering access to lower-level APIs that might not be available through other means. This allows developers working to port an existing app or game over to your platforms to do so quite easily.

Additionally, a variety of testing tools are included in the SDKs that make it possible for the developers to find and fix the errors in their code prior to shipping their product out. Finally, SDK brings out so much documentation with it to learn before use, and this can be extremely useful while you opt for debugging the application. There are some common problems that the SDK helps companies solve, including creating the best quality products faster as well as easier than ever before.

✔ Meaningless work

✔ Risk mitigation

✔ Faster Deployment

✔ Smaller development cycle

Types of SDKs

Generally, custom software development companies employ 14 to 18 software development kits while creating a new application so that they can serve various purposes along with maximizing their user experience. The developers can incorporate diversified tools using a full-stack SDK and optimize a program for a particular operating system or device.

Here are some of the different types of SDKs used for various purposes:

#1. SDKs for Hardware

As the usage of IoT has increased in the tech world, many hardware vendors have started including SDKs to improve the connectivity and compatibility of their devices and products. These SDKs work through MQTT and HTTPS protocols to streamline communication between the cloud and the devices. Though HTTPS is thoroughly used in most of the products, MQTT’s publishing and subscription methods make it more suitable for IoT.

#2. SDKs for Mobile Device OSS

Generally, people use Android or iOS mobile devices. Developers work on the individual SDKs for Android and iOS to make the apps work on both operating systems or platforms and be compatible with each other. All the mobile SDKs for Android and iOS devices come with robust functionalities that are helpful to manage issues if they arise at a higher level.

#3. SDKs for Programming Languages

Language-specific SDKs are also available for developers to build a compatible web app in the language they want. SDKs offered by AWS for building quality software programs and applications can be created in JavaScript, Python,.NET, PHP, etc. to simplify the coding process.

#4. Open-Source SDK

The quality of easy customization, in-depth improvements, and transparency of the open-source SDKs make them immensely useful for developers. The only issues with these software development kits are the absence of verifications, contractual obligations, and warranties and agreements that make the developed programs, software products, and applications prone to SDK malfunctions.

#5. Proprietary SDK

The open-source SDKs are used for free and can be freely modified, but the proprietary or commercial SDKs can be used after paying for licensing requirements. These custom-made development kits are used for specific purposes, with the codes owned by the vendor. Developers are not allowed to make modifications to any of these kinds of SDKs.

An SDK ideally comprises tools, libraries, code samples, implementations, and relevant documentation, along with explaining how the process works and what limitations are to be aware of. Comprehensive instructions on usage, other additional information and tools, and dos and don’ts help reduce the efforts of the developers and save their time.

SDK and JDK

JDK stands for Java Development Kit, and it is used to develop Java-based applications. It comprises libraries, jars, and tools that allow developers to write and compile Java files running on JRE, i.e., the Java Runtime Environment.

It doesn’t mean that if you have JDK installed on your system, you will be able to develop Android applications. This will give you a hard time due to the absence of the key packages. You would have to install an Android Development Kit to proceed with the development of Android apps and programs. The Android Development Kit is essentially based on Java but is customized with Android code. It also supports emulators and tools for developing Android apps.

The Java Development Kit is composed of the jvm and jre and ensures the development of Java apps. It also includes javac, which is a code compiler in Java, a document generator, and a jar achiever to transform the Java code into an executable jar file.

SDKs and APIs

SDKs and APIs are both indispensable tools in modern software development practices. SDK stands for Software Development Kit, and API stands for Application Programming Interfaces that contribute significantly towards enhancing and extending the capabilities of the software. Though both of these tools have different use cases, they target resolving a specific concern in the arena of software development.

API vs SDK: Key Differences

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and SDKs (Software Development Kits) are essential tools for software development, but they serve different purposes:

API:
An API is a set of rules and protocols that allows different software applications… pic.twitter.com/hnImEscBbL

— Sahn Lam (@sahnlam) November 4, 2023

Both of these tools are essential for developing modern applications.

An SDK facilitates a complete development kit for developers for building applications for a specific language, service, and platform.

An API provides an easy way to communicate between two platforms.

Developers use SDKs for creating software applications and APIs for integrating with third-party platforms or services to enhance the additional functionalities of the application. SDKs themselves include APIs that facilitate interaction between the targeted platforms.

Additionally, SDKs are also used to create APIs that allow external parties to interface with your application. However, both of them simplify the development process by providing the necessary tools to develop applications while utilizing the capabilities of targeted platforms and services. Both of these tools have become extremely valuable in today’s cloud-first environment, where applications are developed across different platforms and integrated with various services.

Challenges of Developing an SDK

Using SDK simply directs our focus towards a reduction in development costs. Like email and chat systems, SDKs are also prevalent among engineers and business teams. However, they also get hindered by some obstacles, such as:

➤ Security Risks: Data security is still a matter of importance for companies and businesses. Such data breaches and losses hinder the brand image and profits of the company and ultimately harm the end users. Today, the techniques of data breaches are getting more complex and imply inadequate protocols and integrations, welcoming hackers and data theft.

➤ Updates: When a custom software development company handles different versions of SDKs, there arise some synchronization-related difficulties between an SDK and an API and backend systems. Hence, the versioning scenario should be carefully monitored by the DevOps team to avoid security vulnerabilities and end-user problems.

Why is it important to integrate SDKs?

Integrating the functionality of a third-party SDK is easier than developing your own functionality. There are many advantages that you can obtain while incorporating an SDK into your applications. They are as follows:

1️⃣ Faster Development: It takes a lot of time and resources for the developers to create everything from scratch. Through incorporating an SDK, they can easily pre-code the functionalities, expedite development, and lower the time-to-market for business applications and software programs.

2️⃣ Improved User Experience: Businesses provide a great user experience when the software they include is free and stable from bugs and problems. Developers can seamlessly do their work using other products and smoothly operate by leveraging an existing and well-built SDK.

3️⃣ Personalization: SDKs help businesses tailor their software and applications and provide a unique user experience that will last longer.

4️⃣ Reduced Cost: Initially, an SDK may seem costlier than developing a feature. On the other hand, the cost of maintaining and updating your code and engineering time may be reduced using an already-available SDK.

Also Read:- How much does it cost to create a software in 2024? A detailed guide

What is a Mobile SDK, and why are SDKs important for Mobile Applications?

Mobile SDKs enable developers to build mobile applications specifically for iOS and Android platforms. It essentially provides a framework for developers to build applications with specific functionalities and features without starting from scratch every time.

For example, a mobile software development kit for developing push notifications might provide code samples and APIs through which developers can easily send notifications to users. Similarly, for in-app messaging, the mobile SDK includes the necessary tools for designing and displaying messages within the app.

All programming languages and platforms have their own development kits. It means that an Android SDK is needed for building an Android app, an iOS SDK is needed to build an iOS app, and so on. The SDKs include APIs and mobile libraries as pre-defined pieces of code that enable developers to perform common programming jobs on platforms like the Integrated Development Environment (IDE).

There are the following benefits to using mobile SDKs for app developers:

✔ Providing a standardized set of tools and resources that save time and effort in the development process.

✔ It enables faster development and efficient app use of resources so the developers can create innovative and unique features for the app.

✔ Ensures app compatibility across different devices and platforms, saving developer’s time and resources in testing and debugging during the development process.

✔ Provides access to an extensive range of third-party tools and services like advertising, analytics, and social media integration to improve the functionality of the app and the user experience.

✔ It enables the developers to use their resources efficiently and keep focusing on solving complex tasks instead of wasting time on basic coding jobs.

✔ Facilitates new functionalities and feature integration into the app, allowing the developers to add advanced capabilities to the app.

Conclusion

Software developers use SDKs during the production process for creating new software and app products and expanding existing ones. However, the SDKs are not just specialized programming kits, they significantly influence the customizability, security, and marketing time of the software or app.

Usually, SDKs are made available for free, but many of them come with a set of rules and agreements that differ according to the custom software development companies releasing them. However, all the developers should consider a range of factors before agreeing and using SDKs and checking whether they meet their demands or not.

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