Mobile devices comprise the largest segment of Internet-connected devices, surpassing computers in the mid-2010s. Consequently, developing functional, powerful, and responsive mobile applications is crucial to ensure the best possible user experience.
Top-performing SDKs for developing applications on mobile platforms provide developers and publishers with the tools and functionality they need to build the best-rated apps.
What is an SDK?
A Software Development Kit (SDK), also called a dev kit, is a package containing pre-built software tools and functions that app developers can use to build new applications.
SDKs help developers save time while developing a program or application by providing ready-made code libraries, APIs, and other essential elements, without the need to code bespoke solutions from scratch.
Although SDKs aren’t exclusive to the mobile landscape (e.g., many desktop PC and Mac applications were built using SDKs), apps developed using SDKs are most commonly found in the mobile market.
Types of Mobile SDK App & Tool Frameworks
Application SDKs allow developers to build many different types of applications, grouped into three broad categories: native apps, web apps, and hybrid apps.
1. Native Apps
Native applications are mobile apps designed explicitly to run on a specific operating system. In the context of mobile applications, native app SDKs are grouped by mobile OS. For instance, you may find SDKs for building Apple iOS applications, SDKs for developing apps on Android, and SDKs for creating Windows Phone apps.
Generally speaking, native applications only work on one operating system. For example, an Android application (e.g., a .apk file) does not run on any Apple iOS device.
Occasionally, and particularly in the case of long-running operating systems that have been updated and iterated on for many years, specific SDKs let developers build applications that are only compatible with a particular range of version numbers.
In practice, such applications may not function or work reliably on old versions of that OS, requiring developers to exercise caution, especially if compatibility with a wide range of devices is a concern. For example, an application developed for Android 12 (release date October 2021) may not necessarily run on Android 3.0 (released February 2011).
Pros of native apps:
- Consistent User Interface: A native application can utilize the operating system’s native UI, resulting in a consistent look, feel, and interface functionality.
- Access to Device Features: Native applications can take advantage of the host device’s full suite of features and capabilities. For example, a native Android app designed to run on an Android phone could request access to the device’s cameras for the app’s functionality, in part or whole.
- Optimized Performance: A native application isn’t dependent on any other program or shell to run, allowing it to use the device’s resources more efficiently than the other app types. If you want an application that runs well or demands significant system resources, native apps are the only reliable solution.
Cons of native apps:
- Compatibility: By nature, a native app only works on a single operating system, and unless it is regularly updated to support newer versions of that OS, it risks becoming incompatible with more recent devices as time passes. The developers must regularly maintain such apps. Additionally, if you want the same application on a different OS, it must be effectively built a second time from the ground up using an appropriate SDK.
- Storage: Native apps are much like computer programs on a desktop PC or Mac: they take storage space. Every time the application needs to be updated, the user must download the new version, requiring them to pay attention to their remaining storage space.
2. Web Apps
Although web applications may appear to have similar functionality as native apps, they do not run directly from the user’s device. Instead, a web app runs from a web browser and is effectively an advanced, application-like website. A web app comes with its own interface, which adapts itself to the user’s device and web browser.
Pros of web apps:
- Lowest Development Costs: The most significant advantage of a web app is the ease of development. There is no need to use SDKs or technologies specific to a particular mobile device’s OS; the general rule of thumb is that if it runs on a web browser, it can run on any web browser and, therefore, any device.
- No Downloads: Users access web apps like websites; by visiting the corresponding URL from their browser, then letting the app load. All functionality is immediately available, with no file downloads.
- Easy Maintenance: When developers must update the app, users don’t need to download files; at most, refreshing the page is all that should be necessary on the user’s end. This trait makes updates painless and eliminates the need to rely on app stores.
Cons of web apps:
- Online Connectivity Required: Unless the apps use special technologies that allow them to function at least partially offline (e.g., Progressive Web Apps), web apps typically stop working or become unavailable if the user doesn’t have an Internet connection.
- Browser Dependency: Unless your web app only uses the most basic functionalities found on most web browsers, user experience (UX) may vary depending on the device and browser they use, which diminishes UX consistency.
3. Hybrid Apps
Hybrid applications are a technological bridge between native and web apps, offering a mixture of both technologies to balance performance and ease of maintenance. Hybrid apps are, at their core, web apps augmented with an array of tools and technologies to make their behavior and performance closer to a native app.
For example, hybrid apps may have app icons like native apps, offer partial or full offline functionality, or access device features like the microphone, cameras, or accelerometer.
Consequently, the SDKs used to develop a hybrid app usually include a mix of tools and libraries useful for both native and web apps. Programming frameworks include React Native, Flutter, and Ionic.
Pros of hybrid apps:
- Balanced Performance and Costs: The development costs and performance of a hybrid app both fall between native apps and web apps. They are cheaper and faster to develop than native apps but offer better reactivity, use of the device’s capabilities more efficiently, and provide a more consistent UX than web apps.
- Reliability: Developers building apps for markets with slow or unreliable Internet connections may find hybrid applications an attractive solution because they load quickly and maintain partial functionality even when the connection is lost.
Cons of hybrid apps:
- Performance Compromise: While hybrid apps offer many advantages, they cannot use the device’s resources as optimally as a native app, and they are, by nature, more complex and more expensive to develop than web apps. Developers and publishers must carefully consider the app’s goals before choosing this type of application.
Top 10 Best SDK Apps and Tools
Most of the top-performing applications available for app stores and web browsers today were developed using industry-standard SDKs. Here are the top 10 SDKs today:
1. Best SDK for Ad Networks: Google Mobile Ads SDK (Google AdMob SDK)
The Google Mobile Ads SDK is the official Google AdMob development kit. Google Mobile Ads SDK is designed for integration into Android and iOS applications and allows developers to monetize apps by integrating Google Ads. The primary purpose of this SDK is to access Google’s extensive advertiser network and generate revenue with your application.
The Google AdMob SDK is the most commonly utilized ad network SDK and one of the most widely used dev kits in the mobile market overall, with over 1.65 million apps (1.38 million on Google Play, over 270,000 on the Apple App Store) integrating this SDK.
2. Best SDK for Communication: OneSignal
The leading Software Development Kit for adding communications channels to an application is the OneSignal SDK, available for Android, iOS, Huawei, and web.
OneSignal is a notification service for native, web, and hybrid apps. It includes the powerful OneSignal API, allowing developers to use the service to send push notifications, native (in-app) messages, and even send messages via SMS and email. Over 325,000 applications use OneSignal, covering 57% of all applications using a communication SDK.
3. Best SDK for Socials: Facebook SDK
Leveraging social media platforms can be vital to an effective digital property monetization strategy. The most prominent social media platform today is Facebook, and the Facebook SDK contains tools and software for developers to monetize apps using the platform’s extensive ad network and audience targeting solutions.
For example, it is possible to use Facebook SDK components to implement a Facebook login page into an application.
4. Best SDK for Marketing Analytics and Attribution: AppsFlyer
Marketing analytics and attribution SDKs contain tools and APIs designed to capture marketing activity and performance inside an application. Developers typically implement this type of functionality into applications to collect and manage customer data, calculate acquisition rates, and evaluate marketing campaign effectiveness.
AppsFlyer is the leading marketing analytics and attribution development kit for Android, iOS, and web applications, with an app share of 33% and a download share of 53% on Android. The AppsFlyer business model is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), providing its functionality directly through the internet using a subscription system.
5. Best SDK for UX Optimization: UserExperior
User experience (UX) is a critical aspect of any mobile application. However, measuring and quantifying user experience and satisfaction while using a mobile application can be challenging, as overall experiences are often subjective.
However, UX optimization SDKs such as UserExperior can help break down an experience into quantifiable elements, measuring the most critical aspects of an app’s usability and providing actionable information to developers and publishers.
6. Best SDK for Mobile Commerce: Google Play In-App Billing
Mobile commerce SDKs are primarily utilized for implementing payment systems and billing functionality into mobile applications. Although useful for eCommerce apps, mobile commerce SDK tools are also integrated into many games, facilitating transactions for premium purchases.
The most widely employed mobile commerce SDK is Google Play In-App Billing, which lets developers directly integrate Google Play’s pay interface into apps and games. Because this SDK is intended to function with apps on Google Play, it is only available on Android.
7. Best SDK for eCommerce Apps: CleverTap
Software Development Kits for eCommerce applications typically contain APIs and functions to measure and optimize customer engagement, conversion rates, retention rates, and other critical eCommerce key performance indicators (KPIs).
The CleverTap SDK is the most widely employed dev-kit for real-time tracking of customer insights and eCommerce KPIs. This SDK is available for Android and iOS.
8. Best SDK for User Data Analytics: Google Firebase
General-purpose user analytics offer a plethora of insights and data points regarding the users of an application, allowing developers and publishers to adjust and optimize the app’s performance accordingly.
Google Firebase is the current leading development kit in the data analytics segment. Powered by Google’s well-known analytics technology, the Firebase SDK is one of the most widely implemented in the mobile landscape, found in over 2.26 million Android and iOS applications. On Google Play alone, the share of applications utilizing the Firebase SDK is 93%.
9. Best SDK for Data Intelligence: AltBeacon
Data intelligence devkits allow app developers to integrate functions and tools for obtaining, processing, and interpreting location and sensor data. One of the most common purposes for this type of SDK is collecting user location data for retail and eCommerce applications.
AltBeacon is one of the most widely employed data intelligence SDKs on today’s mobile app landscape, with an Android app share of 14% and over 2.61 billion app downloads. This SDK uses the AltBeacon Specification by Radius Networks, which enables advertising via Bluetooth proximity beacon broadcasts.
10. Best SDK for Stability: Google Firebase Crashlytics Fabric
Although most Software Development Kits are designed to help developers build or enhance app functions, other SDKs turn toward application performance and reliability. The general category of stability SDKs encompasses devkits, APIs, and tools designed to measure the health and performance of an application (e.g., number of crashes, types of crashes, frequency, etc.) and ensure it behaves as expected.
Google Firebase’s Crashlytics Fabric SDK is the leading stability SDK, providing mobile app developers with real-time monitoring of app stability issues as well as features for easy triage and prioritization, letting developers decide what to fix and in which order to repair or restore an app’s functionalities.
Benefits of Using SDK Apps and Tools for Publishers
Publishers and developers greatly benefit from using Software Development Kits to build and optimize mobile applications. They contain libraries containing pre-written code and tools that can accelerate the development of an application and help developers and publishers.
Consequently, these tools are crucial for shortening development time and either releasing, updating, or scaling applications as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Cutting development times also helps save significant amounts of money and effort, eliminating the need to program 100% bespoke solutions for each application. In short, SDKs streamline app development and help maximize revenue from app monetization avenues.
1. What does SDK stand for?
SDK means Software Development Kit. SDKs contain third-party tools and libraries to aid developers when building or updating applications.
2. Is SDK a framework?
A Software Development Kit should not be confused with a software framework. The primary purpose of an SDK is to serve as a toolkit. In contrast, a software framework is a platform that provides developers with a foundation to develop an application for a particular operating system.
Some SDKs are designed to work with specific frameworks (e.g., Microsoft Windows SDKs and Microsoft .NET Framework).
In short, while an SDK isn’t the same as a framework, each can complement the other and help a developer build applications more efficiently.
3. What is an analytics SDK?
Analytics SDKs include tools and elements that developers can integrate into their applications to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) and other vital metrics. Developers and publishers can use the data to obtain insight into the application, its users, and other relevant details.
4. Which SDK is best?
There is no best SDK for all purposes, as it depends on the intentions of the developers and the publishers.
The types of SDK you might need most depend on the type of application you intend to build, whether you’re looking to monetize it, which operating system you are developing for, and what functionality you wish to add to the application. It’s not uncommon for developers to integrate multiple SDKs into the same application to leverage their functions and development tools.
Let CodeFuel Help You Choose the Best SDKs to Optimize Your Apps
CodeFuel’s digital property monetization experts have the resources to help you make the best decisions. Our team can help you choose the best SDKs, APIs, and other development tools to build the most profitable and efficient applications possible.
We can also help you find other high-efficiency monetization options and make the most of your apps. Get started with CodeFuel today.