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SDKs vs APIs – Know The Difference

Debarpita Banerjee Published on : 28 February 2024
SDK vs API - Know The Difference copy

Building apps and platforms can take time. Luckily, developers have tools called APIs and SDKs that help them work faster. These tools are like pre-built blocks for your app. They offer ready-made features and tools that save time and effort compared to building everything from scratch.  This means you can focus on your unique ideas more, instead of thinking about the code complexities. 

If you’re a developer, curious to know how SDKs and APIs work, you’re in the right place! This blog will explain what they are, how they help, their pros and cons, and when to use each one for your project. Let’s dive in!

What is an API?

APIs stand for Application Programming Interface. At its core, it is a messenger that allows different software applications to communicate with each other. You can imagine it as a middle layer between two applications, that defines rules and delivers instructions on how applications can request and receive data from each other. 

So, why are the developers going mad over it? Because it lets them skip the difficult part of development! They don’t need to understand every detail of how an app or service works. Instead, the API gives them a simple way to use its features. This saves them tons of time and lets them focus on their creative ideas.

Types of APIs

Based on access level, APIs are basically of two types:

  • Public APIs: They are open and publicly available. Hence, anyone can use them in whatever way they want. 
  • Private APIs: They are restricted to specific users or developers.

 

But when it comes to technical specifications, APIs can be of many types, like:

  1. REST (Representational State Transfer): It is the most popular API style. REST APIs leverage the familiar HTTP protocol (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) and web-like resource addressing for data access. They are known for their simplicity, flexibility, and scalability.
  2. SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol): They are more structured and secure than REST. SOAP uses XML messages and a defined protocol for communication. While less common now, they are still used for complex transactions where security and data structure are critical.
  3. RPC (Remote Procedure Call): Similar to making a function call within your own code, RPC APIs directly invoke procedures on the server, often using JSON or XML for data exchange. This approach can be efficient but less flexible than REST.

 

What is API Documentation?

So, if you are a developer, you must be familiar with the API documentation. It is basically a guidebook or an instruction manual for using an API. It serves as a critical resource for developers like you, who want to understand how to interact with and effectively integrate the API into their projects.

What information will you get from API documentation? – Typically everything that you would need, including: 

  • API Reference: Detailed information about each available endpoint, including:
    • Purpose: What the endpoint does and what data it handles.
    • Methods: Supported HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE).
    • Parameters: Required and optional input parameters expected by the endpoint.
    • Request format: Data format used for sending requests (e.g., JSON, XML).
    • Response format: Data format used for receiving responses.
    • Error codes: Possible error codes and their meanings.
    • Authentication details: How to authenticate and authorize requests.
  • Tutorials and Samples: Step-by-step guides and code examples demonstrating how to use common API functionalities.
  • Troubleshooting Guide: Help with common issues and error resolution.
  • Changelog: Updates on API changes and new features.

 

Pros and Cons of APIs

We all know that APIs enable modularity, reusability, faster development cycles, and reduced time-to-market. But their benefits don’t end here. There are many more. Let’s walk you through some of them.

Benefits of APIs
  • APIs allow applications to easily access and integrate features and data from other applications and services, expanding their capabilities beyond what they could achieve alone.
  • APIs streamline communication between applications, eliminating the need for manual data transfer and redundant code development.
  • APIs enable developers to integrate specialized features and functionalities into their applications without building them from scratch. 

 

Some Downsides of APIs

APIs do have some cons that you need to be aware of, like:

  • Developers who rely heavily on specific APIs can become locked into a particular vendor, making it difficult to switch to alternative solutions.
  • Managing and maintaining APIs can be complex, especially for large and diverse ecosystems. This requires dedicated resources and expertise.
  • Applications that rely on external APIs are dependent on their availability and performance. Outages or disruptions can negatively impact the user experience.

 

When Should You Use an API?

Here are some key situations where using APIs might be the best decision for your project:

  1. When you need specialized functionalities: If your project requires features you lack, and the resources or expertise to develop them internally are not easily available, APIs provide a cost-effective and efficient way to access them. Some examples of such features include payment processing, AI capabilities, and social media integration.
  2. When you need to integrate with existing systems: APIs enable seamless data exchange and communication between your application and other systems, whether internal or external. This can streamline processes, automate tasks, and improve data consistency.
  3. When you want to expand your reach and audience: By opening up your own services through APIs, you can attract developers to build new applications around them, potentially reaching a wider user base and increasing brand awareness.

 

What is an SDK?

Now coming to SDKs, they stand for Software Development Kits. As the name suggests, SDK is a collection of tools and resources provided by a specific platform, operating system, or software vendor. It empowers developers to build applications for that particular platform more efficiently and easily.

It is basically a toolbox for developing your software. Just like a construction toolbox contains various tools and instructions for building something (e.g., pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, chisels for carpentry; levels, floats, trowels, and string lines for masonry), an SDK contains all the necessary components to create applications specifically for a platform or ecosystem (e.g., Android, iOS, specific cloud services). 

One thing you need to know at this point is that APIs are often themselves a part of the SDKs. As we discussed before, APIs help you develop specific features. Now those features can be a part of a software too. In that case, the APIs will be included within the SDKs. 

Components of an SDK

An SDK fundamentally includes the following components:

  • APIs: An SDK usually includes relevant APIs specific to the platform, simplifying interactions and data exchange.
  • Code libraries: SDK contains pre-written code snippets and modules that developers can leverage to implement common functionalities like user authentication, device access, or UI elements. This saves time and effort compared to coding everything from scratch.
  • Documentation: Comprehensive guides, tutorials, and examples explain how to use the SDK components and effectively build applications for the platform.
  • Development tools: Debuggers, simulators, and other tools aid in developing, testing, and troubleshooting applications within the specific platform environment.
  • Samples and demos: Ready-made applications showcasing how to use the SDK and demonstrating its capabilities, providing inspiration and starting points for developers.

 

Benefits of SDKs

SDKs offer loads of unique benefits, like: 

  • Faster development: Pre-built components and tools significantly accelerate the development process. It allows developers to focus on application logic rather than reinventing the wheel.
  • Reduced complexity: Abstracted functionalities and clear documentation simplify development, especially for platforms with complex APIs.
  • Platform-specific optimization: Tools and libraries within the SDK are tailored for the specific platform or ecosystem. It ensures optimal performance and adherence to platform guidelines.

 

When Should You Use an SDK?

You should consider using an SDK when:

  • You are building for a specific platform or ecosystem: If you’re developing an app for a particular platform or ecosystem like Android, iOS, or Windows, or a specific cloud service like AWS or Azure, the corresponding SDK provides valuable tools and resources tailored to that environment. It streamlines development and ensures your app adheres to platform guidelines and leverages platform-specific native features for optimal performance.
  • You need to develop faster: Using pre-written code and tools significantly accelerates development, allowing you to focus on your app’s unique logic and features rather than basic functionalities. This is especially beneficial for projects with tight deadlines or limited resources.

 

SDKs vs APIs – What’s the Difference?

The major differences between APIs and SDKs are tabulated below:

SDKs vs APIs – Major Differences

Parameters

SDK

API

Purpose

Provides tools and resources for building applications specifically for a platform

Enables communication and data exchange between different applications

Components

Includes APIs, pre-written code, documentation, samples, and development tools

API references and details, tutorials and samples, and troubleshooting guides.

Focus

Platform-specific development toolkit

Standardized interface for accessing functionalities

Complexity

Can be complex due to additional tools and resources

Varies depending on the API, can be simple or complex

Flexibility

Restricted to the specific platform the SDK is designed for

Can be used with various platforms and applications

Use cases

Building platform-specific applications, leveraging native features

Integrating with external services, accessing specialized functionalities

 

Difference in Usage of APIs vs SDKs

As it might seem somewhat clear to you by now, SDKs are meant for developing an entire application – native, efficient, and robust, without writing your codes from scratch. On the other hand, APIs are used to integrate specific features that other platforms might have but your platform lacks. 

Let’s understand the difference in their usage with some real-world examples. 

Some Real World Examples of Differences in Usage of APIs and SDKs

In this section, we will take a look at the difference in usage of APIs and SDKs, using Muvi APIs and SDKs.

Muvi APIs vs Muvi SDKs

Muvi offers multiple SDKs and comprehensive APIs that help you build almost all the features you would ever need for streaming. 

Starting with our SDKs, Muvi offers four different types of SDKs as of now:

  1. One SDKs
  2. Player SDK
  3. Live SDK
  4. Minis SDK

 

One SDKs

You can use Muvi One SDKs to create an end-to-end streaming application or platform. It comes with all the available Muvi APIs that give you access to 1000+ pre-built features. 

We also offer specialized SDKs for developing Android and iOS streaming applications. That makes app development extremely easy for you as you don’t need to code it from scratch. 

Player SDK

Using Video Player SDKs, you can add a feature-packed customizable HTML5 video player to any of your web application, mobile, and TV apps. 

We offer ecosystem and stack-specific player SDKs too, including React Native Player SDKs, Android TV SDKs, LG WebOS SDKs, Samsung Tizen SDKs, and iOS and Android SDKs.       

Live SDK

You can use Muvi Live SDKs to add live-streaming functionality to any of your websites and applications. Our SDKs will help you initiate a live stream that can be handled using your own platform. 

Minis SDK

Using Minis SDKs, you can add short videos to all of your existing or new websites and applications. 

Muvi APIs

You can integrate built-in features with an existing application or with a brand-new application using Muvi APIs. 

For example, if you are already developing a web application and want to add the geo-block feature to it, you can easily use our APIs for the same. 

Using Muvi APIs, you can integrate 500+ built-in features into your websites and applications. You can check out our API Documentation for more details. 

Summing It Up

Hence, in a nutshell, we can summarise the comparison of SDK vs API in the following points:

  • SDKs help you develop a complete platform or functionality from scratch, while APIs are good for integrating some specific features into your website or application quickly.
  • SDKs contain all the APIs that are needed to develop that specific app, platform, or functionality. Hence, APIs are just a small part of the entire SDK. 
  • SDKs are often platform-specific, while APIs can be used across multiple ecosystems. 

 

Muvi’s extensive API documenting and extensive platform and stack-specific SDKs help you develop almost any feature, platform, or app related to streaming. Also, our Muvi Player SDKs let you add video players to all your websites and apps as effortlessly as possible. Click here to go through our Muvi API Documentation, while you can always start using our Muvi Player SDKs for FREE. Sign up with Muvi Player SDKs to get started!

FAQs

You should use an SDK when you need to develop an entire platform, app, or functionality involving multiple features from scratch. 

You should use an API when you need one specific feature to be added to your already-developed platform.

APIs can be used individually also, depending on your needs. But, in case you need to use multiple APIs to build a complete functionality or platform, it is actually better to look for an SDK that provides all the necessary APIs together. 

Written by: Debarpita Banerjee

Debarpita is a Content Writer with Muvi. With around 2 years of experience in content creation, she has worked across industries like SaaS, EdTech, eLearning, AR-VR, and Metaverse. She believes in delivering content that can be of some value to the readers. In her free time, she likes to try her hand at website and app development.

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