A software development kit (SDK) is defined as a collection of software tools and programs that helps create applications for a specific platform or programming language. These tools can include APIs, compilers, debuggers, code libraries, and samples.
A software development kit (SDK) is a collection of software tools and programs that helps create applications for a specific platform or programming language. These tools can include building blocks, debuggers, code libraries and samples.
Often referred to as a devkit, an SDK contains all the elements that a developer would require to build new applications based on a particular platform or programming language. Based on the manufacturer, some SDKs will have an example or sample test project. This enables developers to initiate their application building without starting from scratch.
Components of a typical SDK include:
- Code libraries: Code libraries are a collection of reusable, prepackaged, and purpose-specific pieces of code. A set of shortcuts, they enable easy implementation of preset tasks developed to be added to an application.
- Compiler: A compiler is a program that translates a high-level language source code into the programming language the developer is using. Compilers usually tend to be large in size as they contain error-checking and other related capabilities.
- Code sample: A code sample is a finished web page or application that explains programming jobs, scenarios, or specific software architecture. It also includes links to all the required source files.
- Debuggers: For the smooth operation of a software, it is crucial to check for potential errors and resolve them. A debugging tool automatically corrects and prevents defects and gets the application ready for execution.
- Documentations: The SDK documentation is a manual or guide from the devkit manufacturer that assists the programmer in the different stages of software development. These guides include instructions as well as tutorials.
- API: An application programming interface, or API, is a software bridge that enables communication between two applications. API’s flexibility and simplistic design and administration allow developers to innovate efficiently.
- IDE: Integrated development environments (IDEs) help programmers quickly lay the groundwork for an app by combining the functions of a source code editor, local build automation, and debugger. A code editor can be used by the developer to write and edit source code. The compiler transforms the source code into a language that can be read and executed by computers. In addition, the debugger in the IDE examines the software to find any issues or flaws. An IDE’s graphical user interface enables application switching with lightning speed for developers.
Moreover, SDKs can also include other supporting tools, such as network protocols and testing/analyzing tools.
Software development kits perform best on specific platforms that they have been designed for. An app developed on Android and/or iOS would require two different SDK toolkits that can automatically integrate with these platforms. Similarly, if the app inculcates Bluetooth or wireless capabilities, a Nordic SDK would be the perfect fit.
Designed to expedite and simplify app development processes, SDK toolkits are fairly easy to use. Here’s how they work:
- Once a platform-specific SDK has been identified, the developer can purchase, download, and install it.
- Since a solid and well-planned foundation is required for the successful deployment of an app, starting with IDE is the best course of action. APIs and a compiler are used to facilitate a majority of the coding at this point.
- With the help of pre-existing documentation, tutorials, testing, and debugging tools, software developers can leap through and swiftly create various high-performing applications.
Choosing an appropriate SDK gets half of the job done. However, it is important to consider the rules, agreements, and licenses relevant to the devkit. Additionally, some SDKs may have conditions or requirements that must be met before use, especially for brand-new apps in the initial (alpha/beta) stages of development. The circulation or use of developed programs under a permit that contradicts the license agreement of SDK can be restricted.
The kind of license — proprietary, general public license, lesser general public license — might hamper application development in certain cases.
- A general public license (GPL) SDK is incompatible with commercial applications due to justifiable restrictions.
- On the other hand, a business SDK is fundamentally incompatible with the creation of open-source programming.
- Applications with constrained code sections commonly use SDKs distributed under a lesser general public license (LGPL).
While building any new application, developers can employ an average of 14 to 18 SDKs that serve various purposes and maximize the user experience. With a full-stack SDK, developers can incorporate different tools and optimize a program for a particular device or operating system.
Here are some of the different types of SDKs:
- SDK for hardware: With the rise in the usage of IoT, many hardware vendors now include SDKs, allowing improved connectivity and compatibility. Created to streamline communications between the cloud and devices, SDKs work through HTTPS and MQTT protocols. Although HTTPS is more popular, the publishing and subscription method of MQTT makes it perfect for IoT. VMware Liota, Microsoft Azure IoT SDK, and AWS IoT Device SDK are the best SDKs for IoT in 2022.
- SDK for mobile device operating system: Most people either use Android or iOS mobile devices. To ensure that an app works on both platforms, developers should use individual SDKs that are compatible with each other. Mobile SDKs for any Android and iOS devices have robust functionalities that can manage the intricacies of a higher level.
- Open-source SDK: Easy customization, transparency, and in-depth improvements of open-source SDKs make them highly preferred and valuable. However, without a business company to support, open-source devkits are void of verifications and contractual obligations. The lack of service agreements and warranties also means that there is no liability if the SDK malfunctions.
- Proprietary SDK: While open-source SDKs are free to use and modify, proprietary or commercial SDKs can be used after paying to acquire the license. These are curtail-made devkits for specific purposes with the codes owned by the vendor. Developers need to use these SDKs as is, with no modifications allowed.
An SDK should ideally have libraries, tools, relevant documentation, code samples, implementations, explanations of how processes work, and what the limitations are. Comprehensive usage instructions and other extra information or tools that help dot the i’s and cross the t’s, minimize developers’ efforts and reduce the timelines in the software development kit, prove its significance.
Some apps may require features such as billing, communication, or authentication, which can be challenging for developers to create internally. Mistakes could result in serious security problems and delay the project timeline. Depending on the app development project’s short- and long-term objectives and priorities, more than one of the above SDKs will be required.
Also, with SDK integration for a fully functional app, the issue of app size cannot be neglected. The success of a well-built app hinges on how efficiently and elegantly it runs. Minimal coding to achieve the desired result helps keep the app light and saves device space. The only way to overcome this challenge is to look for SDKs that are lightweight and have proper and practical documentation.
Structured documentation that is easy to understand and follow can save developers a ton of effort. Ease of use, integration, and customization are some other factors that definitely need to be checked while selecting the right SDK. A rigid default setting in an SDK, resistant to change, will not fit the unique requirements of the job.
Another essential factor to consider is security, mainly the security of user data. A 2018 study by SafeDK indicated that 58% of apps have at least one SDK that collects users’ private data. Getting an SDK from a trusted source is the only way to avoid the legal implications of several data privacy laws.
Lastly, all the SDKs used to create an app must be compatible and integrated for smoother interaction.
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Creating a new app requires innovation and a set of capability-enhancing tools. Developers can choose to write all the necessary code. However, SDKs help avoid the tediousness and open avenues to add new dimensions to the app.
From easier tasks in the app, such as logging in, to complex features, such as augmented reality (AR), software development kits allow developers to add several capabilities to the app in a simplified manner. They offer strong pillars on which programmers can create and innovate freely.
Here’s why SDKs are significant to the app-building process:
1. Faster integration and deployment
As most of the coding and capabilities are pre-built, programmers can easily integrate and modify them to get the required results. Most SDKs come with auto-error checkers that can detect and resolve problems in design on the go. App stability can also be easily maintained by adding new features and fixing potential bugs. Devkit equips the app to function effectively in any environment.
Traditionally, a developer was required to write all the code to make the mobile app compatible with separate languages and platforms. Now, the same can be achieved with a full-stack Android and iOS SDK.
Android Studio has the quickest tools for creating apps for every type of Android device, allowing programmers to concentrate on creating exceptional and high-quality apps. It has an exceptional code editor, debugger, a customizable build system, and a quick build/deploy system. A good SDK can accelerate app-building and deployment with fewer setbacks and issues.
The cost of any project is determined by the amount of time and effort put into it. With SDKs, the timeline of creating a new app can be significantly reduced. Moreover, with pre-built codes, developers can access all the necessary information and expertise. They can utilize the time to perfect the app rather than testing and rewriting the code.
The faster an app can be built, the quicker it can be made available to the public, thereby increasing the ROI. Also, with SDKs such as Google Mobile Ads SDK, app developers can increase in-app sales, maximize ad revenue, and gain insights into the behavior of users.
3. Control and customization
SDKs offer more control over the elements of an interface that interact with other programs. This gives developers the ability to control third-party app operations advantageously — how an app looks and functions can be easily altered. Developers can redesign the color palette or add user feedback after publishing the app.
The ultimate control of what can be changed remains with the developer, thereby ensuring that no vital component of the app is tampered with.
Open-source or proprietary, software development kits come with a high level of security and are practically untouchable. With open-source SDKs, developers around the world contribute to making them safer. Proprietary SDKs are designed to withstand any kind of cyber attack, as failure can mean financial and legal trouble for the vendor. This makes these kits resistant to hacker attacks and fraudulent activities, making them easier to publish on any platform for end users.
An SDK is available for possibly everything. From design to security, all the features of an app can be created with these devkits. This is why an average app can end up using around 17 to 18 SDKs. When backed with good-quality SDKs, apps have a better possibility of getting uploaded to platforms such as app stores. These platforms have protocols in place to filter apps and publish only those that are trustworthy. Once an app is published on recognized platforms, it boosts its credibility and marketability.
6. User experience
Performance, battery, data and space usage, and aesthetics can be extremely vital to app users. By selecting lightweight and secure SDKs, developers can ensure that the app functions smoothly, works in tandem with other apps, and is free of errors. With the help of IDEs, the app can be given a user-friendly design and boost the overall user experience.
Developing an app has become very easy with several low-code and open-source platforms. Innovation has now become a race. Any new idea is marketable only if it gets to the market as a new product and not as a copy of another product. Software development kits make it possible for developers to achieve this. By expediting the project timeline and subsequent sales cycle, SDKs allow developers to stay on task while also streamlining their work processes.