Most of the organizations today have their own app. Apps have become a common means of marketing a company’s brand and reaching more and more customers. Thousands of apps are added to the app stores every day.
As a result, the programmers want to add more and more advanced features to their apps. This is where an SDK comes in handy.
SDK is an acronym for Software Development Kit. SDK is a set of software components that let you design applications for a particular software package, hardware, framework or operating system. It is also known as Devkit.
Introduction to mobile SDK
In the similar fashion as an SDK, a mobile SDK comprises of various elements like APIs, libraries, IDEs, and other development tools and utilities which help in creating mobile apps.
A mobile SDK lets a programmer design a wide spectrum of apps ranging from simple ones to those that provide complex functionality. Mobile apps are very important these days. In the US, the mobile digital media time is 51% which is much higher than desktop (42%). Also, the mobile app usage is increasing 6% year by year. This shows how important mobile apps are.
There are various SDKs which incorporate different APIs, libraries, and more both for iOS and Android. You must choose the SDK which provides the functionality you require without writing very lengthy code. The app’s stability is critical to the app because if the SDK is not stable the app might crash. Some app may also slow down the app or steal user data so it is important to choose the correct SDK.
According to a study by safeDK, an Android app on an average use around 13 SDKs and this number is even higher for mobile apps. The SDK must integrate well with the operating system. If the SDK is not compatible with a subsequent version of the operating system, then performance or UX issues may arise.
Most common Mobile SDKs used these days are – iOS SDK for iOS apps and Android SDK for Android apps.
iOS (former iPhone) SDK is the software development kit provided by Apple Inc. and is available as a free download for Mac users. Xcode is the IDE (Integrated Development environment) provided by iOS. You can use iOS SDK along with XCode to create apps using either Swift or Objective C programming languages.
Android SDK (Android Studio) provides a set of tools that let you develop Android apps using various languages like Java, Kotlin or C#. Android SDK typically contains Platform tools, Build tools, SDK tools, Android Debug Bridge, Android Emulator, sample code, and tutorials.
You should always have the latest Platform tools which should also be backward compatible. Build tools help during the build process of the application. For e.g. the zipalign build tool help the app to use minimum memory when running prior to the final APK.
The SDK tools help you with the real development of your app. The Android Debug Bridge lets you communicate with any Android device. It can, for instance, be used to find out the device ID or install the app.
With the Android Emulator, you can test your mobile apps on a computer. An android image is used simulate a mobile phone and can be used to test the app as if running on a mobile phone. The Virtual Device Manager is a tool that can be used to choose an appropriate mobile version along with other device specifications.
Some useful features of iOS SDK
The latest version of iOS SDK is 11.1. It can run on a Mac Computer running macOS Sierra 10.12.6 or higher.
The iOS SDK is very comprehensive with varied features to help you develop robust and user-friendly apps. Here are just a few but very useful features that iOS SDK provides you:
- ARKit – This is the Augmented Reality (AR) framework that lets you create an AR experience. AR is implemented by integrating iPhone device camera with 2D and 3D elements.
- WatchKit – watchOS is the operating system used in Apple Watch. The watchkit framework provides a set of classes which can be used manipulate the visual elements like tables, buttons, sliders, etc. and respond to user inputs.
- BusinessChat – This framework is still in the beta phase. Through BusinessChat, your customers communicate with you through Messages and you can respond back to the Customer Services Platform.
- AdSupport – This framework provides an identifier which can be used for showing advertisements and a flag which that you can use to limit ad tracking.
- HealthKit – HealthKit framework can be used to store data from a very wide range of applications including iPhone and Apple watch. This data can then be used by other apps.
- HomeKit – This framework allows you to integrate your home automation accessories with iOS, tvOS, and watchOS. With this framework, you can integrate with devices from multiple vendors.
- CloudKit – Cloudkit is a framework which you can use to store your app data on icloud containers which let you access it on multiple devices. If the data is stored in a public area, all the users can access it.
- SiriKit – Siri is an intelligent personal assistant that lets you interact with voice commands in natural language. SiriKit can take requests from Siri or Maps.
- Social – This framework can be used to support social media services with your app. You can create a network session, make a new post, get the activity feed for a user, and more.
Some useful features of Android SDK
The first version of Android SDK was Android 2.1 (Eclair) was the first Android SDK which was released on October 26, 2009, and the latest is Android 8.0 Oreo released in August 2017.
Here is a list of some useful APIs provided by Android SDK.
- Screen Compatibility – Android SDK provides APIs to adjust your User Interface to different screen sizes of multiple devices.
- Intent and Intent Filters – Intents are used to communicate to other components using messages. Intents can be used to :
-Start an activity – An activity is a representation of a single screen in an App.
-Start a service – A service is a process that executes in the background without a user interface.
-Broadcast – Broadcast is a message that any app can receive. The system sends various messages for instance when the system starts or begins charging.
- Notifications – Android provides API for sending notifications. A notification is a message or reminder displayed outside the UI of an app like on the status bar, as a badge on app’s icon etc.
- Location updates – If your app needs to track the location of a user then Android provides features to fetch the location of the user.
- Building apps for chrome OS – You can now develop android apps for Chrome OS devices such as Chromebooks.
- Wearable apps – Like iOS you can create Android apps for wearable devices. Android provides many watch specific APIs that you can use.
- Security – Android provides various APIs which can help keep the user data secure which is very crucial to the customers.
Choosing the right SDK
It is very important to choose the right SDK. It is important that you are clear of the purpose of your app in order to choose the right SDK. If the SDK you choose does not conform to your requirement you could end up creating an app which is low on performance.
There are a number of factors on which your choice for an SDK depends:
- The SDK has a proven record of being capable and stable.
- The SDK has a proven track record i.e. you must track the SDKs performance history.
- Data usage.
- Ease of use
- Well documented.
- The third party libraries incorporated in the SDK must not crash.
- The SDK should integrate easily with your app and within no time.
- The SDK should not use too many resources so that it is cost effective and does not use any mobile data.
- It should not use too much memory.
- It should provide for offline capabilities if it is required by your app.
- The SDK should provide for push notification and should be capable of delivering highly responsive apps as per requirement
Benefits of using an SDK
- The most important benefit of building your app using SDKs is that you can customize it according to your user’s requirements.
- They help in incorporating many advanced and useful features in your app which would otherwise be a cumbersome process.
- They come along with sample code and tutorials to make your life easier.
- They also provide you with a debugger which let you test your app. The iOS SDK also provides a view of how your app will look on the mobile.
- It saves a lot of your time and speeds up the development process.
- It lets you design well written and superior quality code.
- An app which has been written using a robust SDK has a lot more chances of being published in the app stores.
These days so many apps are developed every day with different functionalities. Many companies develop SDKs which provide a specific functionality. Developers are creating apps for almost every need of the users. So, they are constantly on the lookout for quality SDKs which can help them create apps with the required functionalities. So, the success of an SDK is dependent on how dependable it is and how useful is the service which it provides.
So, it is a great idea to choose an SDK during the development process to save time and create an app which provides value to the customers.