What's the Difference Between SDK vs. API? And Pros and Cons

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 23 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When creating applications and websites, developers use third-party kits, such as APIs and SDKs. These tools comprise templates and boilerplates, which are third-party resources that contain the foundational code and layout of applications and websites, reducing the time and effort required for product development. Knowing about these kits can help you improve your efficiency and productivity and enhance the integrity of your projects. In this article, we define what SDKs and APIs are, discuss their importance and provide tips to help you choose the right one for diverse applications.

SDK vs. API

Before comparing the differences between an SDK vs. API, you can examine their definitions:

What are SDKs?

SDKs, software development kits or devkits are a set of tools, programmes or guidelines for creating applications, websites and other products for a specific platform. Several programming languages and software providers produce SDKs to make it easy for developers in their ecosystem to create products and services and integrate new functions to serve their platforms. For example, if you want to build Android apps, you can use Android SDKs.

These kits provide pre-built functionalities, such as compilers, documentation and code libraries, so that developers can quickly create new websites or products for their community without having to repeat the process from scratch every time. For example, Google provides SDKs to help developers create applications for the Android operating system and web-based applications. SDKs comprise several tools, including:

  • APIs

  • Code samples

  • Frameworks

  • Network protocols

  • Documentation and instructions

  • Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE)

  • Test products and examples

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What are APIs?

APIs or application programming interfaces are sets of tools and protocols for building software. It's used to communicate between two platforms. An API delivers an app's request to a server or another software somewhere else, and then shows a user the response on their device. For example, you want to buy an item online. The e-commerce site integrates several cards and electronic payment channels on their site. When you pick any of the payment options, an API sends your request to the company handling that platform, processes it and then shows you a confirmation message once it approves the payment.

An API can be a standalone solution or part of an SDK and comprises two things. The first is the technical specifications and documentation that shows developers how to integrate the API into another software or application. The second, and most important, component is the interface itself, which allows users of a web or mobile app to use the functions of another app or software.

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Benefits of SDKs for developers

Whether you want to develop web applications, mobile applications or desktop software, there are several types of SDKs for your requirements. These tools provide several benefits, including:

Faster integration

SDKs can help make the integration of apps into a platform faster. It provides a wide range of pre-built resources you can add to your existing tech stack, reducing the time and effort to deliver a complete product. SDKs can also enhance developers' ability to gain new information on projects since they aren't starting from scratch. This means you can quickly launch new products and integrations, shortening the production and sales cycles. Shorter sales cycles not only reduce the workload of development teams but can also help companies gain an early mover advantage over competitors.

Shortens deployment time

SDKs allow development teams to quickly scale production and deploy products faster. These devkits provide development tools and several sets of code libraries, allowing programmers to test multiple functions with shorter sprints. Since they don't start each software or application development from a blank slate, SDKs reduce the time required to create and deploy new products. If your product becomes prominent and other companies want to integrate their software or products into it, creating an SDK for your platform can reduce their deployment time and make your ecosystem popular among developers.

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Reduces risk

Besides reducing deployment periods, SDKs also allow companies to exert more control over what goes into their platforms. Since devkits provide the foundational code, frameworks and documentation for integrating other apps and software into a platform, the SDK owner limits the amount of buggy code and vulnerabilities that can affect their users. This can result in increased system integrity and enhanced user experience.

Lowers costs

SDKs provide developers with a large percentage of the resources they require to build products. This makes it easy for the development team to remain within budget. It can also reduce maintenance costs after deployment.

Benefits of APIs

Here are some benefits of APIs:

Improves integration

APIs allow developers to integrate their apps with other software. This can improve the capabilities of such products, giving them more functions and features that can enhance user experience. It can also help the team avoid the cost of building such capabilities from scratch.

Reduces development lifecycle

Like SDKs, APIs can help reduce the software development lifecycle. APIs do this by leveraging the functions of third-party software and applications. Instead of building the features into an app, developers only integrate an interface that allows customers to use the same functions from third parties without any drops in their level of satisfaction.

Lowers costs

You can use APIs to reduce the cost of software development. One way to achieve this is to create a strong code base that allows for the integration of key features from third-party providers. This not only speeds up the production rate but can also lower personnel requirements and eliminate some phases of the software development life cycle.

Increase efficiency

APIs can help enhance customer satisfaction. This is because it allows you to bundle a variety of capabilities into an app or software, so users don't require standalone apps to perform those functions. Not only does this free up space on their devices, but it can also reduce app hopping and promote battery life.

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Differences between SDK vs. API

Developers use both SDK vs. API when creating applications and websites, but these two tools have distinct applications. Here are some of their differences to help you know which is ideal for your project:

Purpose

Companies create SDKs to make it easy for developers to create products for their platforms. Devkits provide a wide range of resources that help developers reduce the time spent on coding, documentation, testing, debugging and deployment. SDKs also typically have APIs, so you can view the latter as a component of the former. APIs serve as a bridge for connecting two apps. They facilitate communication between applications, allowing developers to add unique functionalities to their products to enhance user experience and boost their brand's reputation.

Usage

There's a distinct difference between how developers use SDKs and APIs. To use an SDK, developers download the kit onto their computer and integrate its resources into their project. They use the integrated development environment (IDE) and compiler to do the actual coding. The code samples, documentation and instructions guide the app-building. Testing tools show programmers how the product behaves in a testing environment and the APIs provide an interface for the software to communicate seamlessly with other software or web applications.

An API works differently. Once you instal the API, it sends a request to the server hosting the information a user wants, following a specific set of instructions. It's the API's ability to send correct instructions to the server at the other end that makes it possible for the user to receive the right response.

Properties

APIs usually serve only one function. Because APIs are essentially a set of instructions for performing specific tasks and retrieving information, they tend to be lightweight. Conversely, SDKs are typically bulky and contain all the resources dev teams require to build a functional software or website. Devkits contain sample codes, documentation, testing tools, compilers and debugging tools and even APIs.

SDKs are based on platforms, such as Android. Whereas, APIs are used to add functions to apps and websites to facilitate interaction within a platform or between platforms. There are several types of APIs, including web APIs, which allow users access to apps via web browsers and open APIs, which serve as a key communication node for a wide range of software and apps.

Choosing between SDK and API

If you find yourself trying to decide between SDK vs. API, it's important to consider the function you want to achieve. SDKs are ideal when you want to build an app or website for a specific ecosystem. If you want to leverage the capabilities of third-party software in a new or existing product, APIs are perfect for adding such functionalities. You can also use APIs to facilitate communication between two apps on different platforms. It's essential to know that SDKs and APIs are complementary, especially since some platforms don't include an API in their devkit.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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