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Mighty Glossary: What is an SDK?

Mighty Glossary: What is an SDK?

A Software Development Kit (SDK) is a collection of tools and libraries that software companies make available to other developers. You can use an SDK to build a new app or to add functionality to your existing apps.

How do you use an SDK?

SDKs fall into two main categories:

  • Platforms: Full development environments for a particular platform
  • Extensions: Smaller libraries that you integrate into a larger project

When you’re developing a mobile app, you’ll start with the relevant devkit, such as iOS SDK or Android SDK. These platforms offer extensive developer tools you can use to build sophisticated apps.

But if you want an app with lots of features, you’ll need to import those functions from elsewhere. You can use third-party SDKs to offer cloud storage, single sign-on authentication, social features, or maps. SDKs can also deliver advertising and sophisticated analytics.

Here’s an example: imagine you’re building an iOS app, and you want to use Facebook’s app events feature for analytics purposes. You’d take the following steps:

  1. Download the iOS SDK
  2. Create a new iOS project and start building your app in the development environment
  3. Download the Facebook SDK
  4. Import the Facebook libraries into your iOS development environment
  5. Code the desired Facebook functions in your project
  6. Package the project and deploy it in the App Store

You can use as many SDKs as you like in your app. For example, the TikTok app on Android uses around 28 different SDKs.  

What’s in an SDK?

An SDK is a toolbox. Each SDK contains the precise tools you need for the job. The exact contents vary, but a typical devkit might include:

  • Developer tools: These tools might include a full development environment, such as those found in the main platform SDKs. Other SDKs might offer testing tools, hardware drivers, or network protocols.
  • Libraries: These are code libraries that you can import into your project, allowing you to call functions directly from your code.
  • Code snippets: Reusable code that you can incorporate into your projects.
  • Documentation: Developer documents that tell you how to get the most out of the SDK  

In some cases, the SDK provider might offer support, so you can contact them with development queries.

What are some examples of SDKs?

You can see MightySignal’s data on the most popular iOS SDKs and most popular Android SDKs to see which devkits are most prevalent in mobile apps. Some names you’ll see here are:

  • Firebase: Integration with Google Firebase, which offers analytics, databases, crash reporting, and more.
  • Facebook Core Kit: Allows you to share app data directly with Facebook.
  • Protobuf: Google’s Protocol Buffer system, used for serializing structured data.
  • Google AdMob: Allows app monetization through display ads.
  • Fabric: Development tools that handle event tracking and crash reporting.

These are just a few examples. There are thousands of active SDKs, with new ones launching every day.

Can you analyze SDKs in rival apps?

You can analyze publicly available apps and discover which SDKs they’re using. This can provide some invaluable insights, such as:

  • Which SDKs are most popular?
  • Which SDKs are part of rival apps?
  • If you’re an SDK vendor, how many apps use a rival SDK?
  • Which SDKs are most popular with users?
  • Which apps have recently abandoned an SDK?

To access this information, you need to use specialist tools. MightySignal’s SDK intelligence offers detailed insight into the current state of SDK usage and the app marketplace.

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