SDK vs. API: What’s the Difference?

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SDK vs. API What’s the Difference

Ever wondered about the difference between SDKs and APIs? These are essential tools for developers, but knowing which one to pick can be confusing. Let’s break it down in simple terms, so you can choose the right tool for your needs.

What is SDK?

SDK

A typical SDK might include some or all of these resources in its set of tools:

  • Compiler: Translates from one programming language to the one in which you will work
  • Code samples: Give a concrete example of an application or web page
  • Code libraries (framework): Provide a shortcut with code sequences that programmers will use repeatedly
  • Testing and analytics tools: Provide insight into how the application or product performs in testing and production environments
  • Documentation: Gives developers instructions they can refer to as they go
  • Debuggers: Help teams spot errors in their code so they can push out code that works as expected

Often, at least one API is also included in the SDK because without the API, applications can’t relay information and work together.

If you are interested in SDKs check this article: Best Practices For SDK Generation

What is an API?

An API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of protocols, routines, and tools for building software applications. It defines the way in which different components communicate with each other and provides a set of agreed-upon standards that enables applications to make requests for the service and get data and/or functionality in return.

API can consist of two things:

  • Technical specifications and documentation: This information explains how you’ll need to integrate the API to use it effectively.
  • The interface itself: You can access it directly via keyword (in the case of a web API) or indirectly from a separate interface (in the case of a REST API).

Difference between SDK and API

SDK and API are not the same. An SDK (Software Development Kit) is a set of tools, libraries, code samples, and documentation that helps a developer build applications for a specific platform or technology.

Best Practices For SDK Generation

On the one hand, with APIs, the idea is to act as an interface between two pieces of software and enable defined communication; SDK consists of all the items necessary to make that efficient communication. With that logic, API is one of the fundamental blocks of an SDK and the other essential utilities. 

Both an API and an SDK enable interfacing with another application and building on it.

What is a good API and SDK?

API SDK
Intuitive Easy to use and to build upon
A simple, consistent, and precise naming convention for resources and endpoints
Well-defined functionality organized appropriately
Minimalistic for ease of understanding Proper documentation of how all the code works
All relevant functionality included Compatibility with other SDKs
Clear and simple semantics Does not consume excessive CPU, battery, or data
Source: SentinelOne | SDK vs API: The Differences Explained (and When to Use Which

When to Use Which?

Choosing between APIs and SDKs involves considering several factors, much like deciding which tool to use in different situations. Here’s a breakdown to help you understand when to opt for each:

Flexibility

Think of APIs like a blank canvas allowing for creativity. They provide the basic building blocks, giving you the freedom to customize functionalities to fit your needs perfectly. SDKs, on the other hand, are more rigid, tailored to specific languages, limiting flexibility compared to APIs.

Ease of Use

SDKs are designed to simplify platform usage, making them user-friendly, especially for those less experienced. For instance, Stripe offers SDKs in various languages, enabling quick adoption even for beginners. APIs, while powerful, may require more technical know-how to leverage fully.

Quick Go-to-Market

SDKs accelerate development with pre-built components, expediting the journey from coding to deployment. Handling tasks like authentication and security internally, SDKs reduce development time significantly.

SDK vs. API Integration

Integrating SDKs is straightforward, with platform developers handling complexities behind the scenes. This often results in higher code quality, thanks to adherence to coding best practices. However, if your project is sensitive to third-party dependencies or package sizes, APIs might be a better fit.

Resilience

SDKs, being built on top of APIs, tend to be more robust due to the additional layer of development. This means SDKs are often more stable, requiring fewer updates or fixes compared to APIs. Choosing an SDK can offer peace of mind regarding ongoing maintenance.

SDK vs. API – summary

Understanding the distinctions between SDKs and APIs empowers developers to make informed decisions, ensuring smoother development processes and better-suited solutions.

Whether you’re building a mobile app, integrating third-party services, or optimizing system functionalities, understanding when to utilize SDKs or APIs can significantly impact your project’s success. So, the next time you’re confronted with this decision, carefully assess the specific requirements of your project and confidently choose the tool that best aligns with your goals.

If you face any software development challenges along the way, remember that you can always reach out to us for assistance. We’re here to help you navigate through any obstacles you may face.

Author

  • Zuzanna Macieszko

    Content Creator with a deep passion for Public Relations, new technologies, and traveling. I find joy in bringing creative ideas to life and have been actively involved in various projects to date.

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