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API vs SDK what’s the difference and what they do

If you would like to learn about what the differences between and API (Application Programming Interface) and SDK (Software Development Kit). This quick API vs SDK guide will provide an overview of the features of both and how they can be used in software development, but serving different purposes.

In software development, two terms frequently pop up that might sound like arcane jargon but are incredibly essential: API and SDK. Here’s a quick example of each. For instance if you’re a business owner looking to integrate a third-party payment system into your website, you’d likely use an API from a company like Stripe. However, if you’re developing a new mobile application that requires various functionalities like mapping, payment, and messaging, you’d opt for an SDK, which provides a comprehensive set of tools for all these functions.

In summary, an API is like a menu in a restaurant: it shows you what you can order. An SDK is like having the kitchen with all the utensils, ingredients, and recipes to make the dish yourself.

What is an API?

Let’s kick things off with API, which stands for Application Programming Interface. At its core, an API is a set of rules and protocols that allow for seamless interaction between different software applications.

  • Functionality: Allows specific operations without revealing the underlying code.
  • Interoperability: Enables different software components to communicate.
  • Language-Agnostic: Can be accessed regardless of the programming language.

In layman’s terms, think of an API like a waiter at a restaurant. You (the application) give your order (request), and the waiter (API) brings you your food (data or service) from the kitchen (another application).

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The building blocks of APIs include operations, parameters, and endpoints. Operations refer to HTTP methods like POST, PUT, GET, DELETE, which define what kind of request is being made to the server. Parameters are optional pieces of information that can be included in the request to further specify or modify the operation. Endpoints, on the other hand, are the URL of the service being communicated with.

A typical interaction with an API involves making a REST API request and receiving a response. The request is made to an endpoint using an operation and possibly parameters. The server then processes the request and sends back a response, which the original app or service can then use.


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What is an SDK?

On the other hand, SDK, or Software Development Kit, is like a toolbox of code that calls APIs. SDKs are available in a variety of programming languages, allowing developers to use the language they are most comfortable with. They simplify the process of calling an API in code, eliminating the need to manually configure requests and deal with raw JSON objects.

SDKs serve as tools for calling APIs. For instance, in a mobile app development scenario, a Java SDK might be used to call a method that configures the request and makes the API call. The response is received as a native model object in Java, which can then be used in the app. This process simplifies the coding process for developers, making it more efficient and less prone to errors.

Software Development Kits, or SDKs. An SDK is essentially a treasure trove of software tools that facilitate the development of applications for specific platforms or frameworks.

  • Comprehensive Tools: Includes APIs, libraries, code samples, and documentation.
  • Platform-Specific: Tailored for developing applications for particular platforms like Android or iOS.
  • Built-in IDE Integration: Comes with tools that easily integrate into an Integrated Development Environment (IDE).
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To enhance your experience, imagine an SDK like a fully stocked kitchen with all the utensils, ingredients, and recipes you need to cook a dish from scratch.

API vs SDK: Core Differences

You might be asking, “Well, if an SDK includes APIs, aren’t they the same?” Great question! While they’re closely related, they serve different purposes.

  • Scope: SDKs are more expansive, providing a full suite of tools, while APIs offer targeted functionality.
  • Purpose: APIs are designed for interaction, whereas SDKs are geared towards creation.
  • Flexibility: APIs allow you to integrate only the features you need, while SDKs offer an all-in-one toolkit but may include unnecessary elements.

In case you’re curious how these differences manifest in real-world applications, consider Google Maps. Its API allows other services to utilize Google’s mapping capabilities, while its SDK enables developers to build entirely new applications around Google’s mapping framework.

Additional areas of each


  • Functionality: Provides a set of rules and protocols for how software components should interact.
  • Components: Typically consists of a set of functions, classes, or protocols that a developer can use.
  • Scope: More limited in scope compared to SDKs, providing specific functionalities.
  • Language-Specific: Can be language-agnostic or specific to a particular programming language.
  • Usage: Often used for enabling communication between different services or applications.
  • Examples: RESTful web APIs, database APIs like SQL, or system-level APIs for operating systems.


  • Functionality: A collection of software tools and libraries aimed at a specific platform or for a specific type of development.
  • Components: Includes APIs, IDE (Integrated Development Environment) integrations, libraries, documentation, and sometimes even hardware.
  • Scope: More comprehensive than an API, often providing a suite of tools for developing a complete application.
  • Language-Specific: Usually tailored for a specific programming language or platform.
  • Usage: Used to develop applications that are usually tied to a specific platform or framework.
  • Examples: Android SDK, iOS SDK, AWS SDK.
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API vs SDK key differences

  • Granularity: SDKs are generally more comprehensive, including APIs as a component.
  • Purpose: APIs are for interaction between software components, while SDKs are for building these components from scratch.
  • Flexibility: APIs offer more flexibility to use just the functionalities you need, while SDKs provide an all-in-one solution tailored for specific use-cases.

In essence, APIs and SDKs are fundamental tools in cloud app development. They enable efficient communication between different services and simplify the coding process for developers. APIs provide a standardized way for services to interact, while SDKs provide a simplified way to make these interactions happen in code.

Understanding the difference between APIs and SDKs, and their respective roles in app development, is crucial for developers. It allows them to make informed decisions about how to structure their code and how to best leverage these tools to create efficient, robust, and scalable apps.

APIs and SDKs are not just tools, but they are the backbone of modern cloud app development. They streamline workflows, enhance productivity, and ultimately, drive the creation of better, more efficient apps. Understanding their roles and differences is a fundamental part of being a successful app developer in today’s fast-paced tech world.

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John Smith

My John Smith is a seasoned technology writer with a passion for unraveling the complexities of the digital world. With a background in computer science and a keen interest in emerging trends, John has become a sought-after voice in translating intricate technological concepts into accessible and engaging articles.

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