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SDK (Software Development Kit)

What is an SDK?

SDK (Software Development Kit), also known as devkit for short, is a package of tools used for developing software that you download and install on your device.

It’s used to help software developers create an application faster and more easily. Instead of writing code from scratch, SDKs provide the ability to develop navigation menus and user authorization features, to name a couple of benefits.

Furthermore, depending on the tasks at hand, more than one SDK can be used to develop an app.

SDKs are used by industry leaders like Android, Microsoft, and Apple. For example, an Android SDK toolkit helps to build an Android app, and an iOS SDK helps iOS apps.

Although SDKs are widely associated with mobile apps, there’s also been a rise in the need for SDKs for other forms of technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, or even headphone devices.

For example, VMware SDK is used for integrating with the VMware platform, and Nordic Semiconductor provides tools for building Bluetooth or other wireless products.

Typically, an SDK contains:

  • Documentation – instructions on how to use the utilities inside an SDK.
  • Libraries –  refers to the application programming features and functionality within an SDK.
  • Other supporting tools – used to measure performance and detect bugs, such as a compiler or debugger.

Examples of SDKs

While there are plenty of SDKs out there, let’s take a look at two of the most widely used platforms: SDKs for iOS and Android.

iOS’s Facebook Login SDK allows users to log in to an app with their Facebook account credentials. This way, developers can cut development time instead of writing the Facebook login code from scratch.

As for the Android SDK, a great example would be Android’s Google Maps SDK which automatically downloads the necessary data to an app from Google’s servers.

Features of a good SDK

Software development kits are meant to provide valuable tools to software developers. Here are some of the key features that make a good SDK:

  • Easy to use – provides an open-source reference sample code for basic actions. 
  • Thorough documentation – explains how the code works with live documentation, issue tracker, and support through active community.
  • Functionality – works well with other SDKs, thorough error reporting, multi-language support, and follows good programming practices by including libraries and supporting utilities.
  • Stability – enables users’ data consumption, battery, and devices’ CPUs to work properly.

What is the difference between an API and an SDK?

API (Application Programming Interface), true to its name, acts as an interface, while SDK is an implementation tool.

Both are aimed at developers but used at different stages of software development. The difference is to do with whether the developer needs to create and build an app, or ‘consume’ or use existing functionality.

An API is simply an interface that specifies how one piece of software should interact with another.

An example of this would be weather apps, since the phone’s operating system uses an API of third-party software. Apple, for instance, uses the Weather Channel’s API to provide users with weather forecasts.

On the contrary, SDK is a kit that provides a set of tools like code samples, documentation, guides, and so on to allow developers to build a software application.

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Olivia is a writer for Zyro and an eCommerce know-it-all. Having spent many years as a retail buyer, she loves writing about trend forecasting, brand building, and teaching others how to optimize online stores for success. She lives in London and spends a lot of time exploring the city’s parks with her whippet.

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