What Are The Differences Between API And SDK?

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Aditya Rayaprolu
Written by
Aditya Rayaprolu

Updated · Oct 25, 2023

Aditya Rayaprolu
Technology Architect | McKinsey & Company | Joined February 2023 | LinkedIn
Aditya Rayaprolu

Aditya is an Azure DevOps and Infrastructure Virtualization Architect with experience in automation,... | See full bio

Florence Desiata
Edited by
Florence Desiata


Florence Desiata
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
Florence Desiata

Florence is a dedicated wordsmith on a mission to make technology-related topics easy-to-understand.... | See full bio

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Forecasts say that the software industry is expected to reach a revenue total of $659 billion. This statistic shows the pivotal role software development plays in today's world.

Behind the successful applications that you enjoy on the web or your phone are tools like API and SDK. They help make the app-building process more efficient, which results in higher-quality programs.

The question is, what is the role of those tools in software development? Find out more about the differences between API and SDK, as well as how they work. 

🔑  Key Takeaways

  • An API enables applications to communicate and share data, while an SDK helps build programs on a specific platform.
  • APIs are prevalent in digital activities—like online shopping, social media sharing, and mapping.
  • SDKs are used in developing mobile apps or websites and processing online payments. 
  • Choosing between API and SDK depends on project requirements. Use APIs to automate tasks and SDKs to provide control and versatility in your app.

API vs. SDK: What’s the difference?

Both APIs and SDKs enhance and extend a software's capabilities. The key difference between the two is the role they play. 

An Application Programming Interface or API is a tool that allows apps to work together. Developers use it to collect specific information or features from a source application and put them into their program. 

A Software Development Kit (SDK) is a toolbox containing different software tools (like libraries and APIs) used to create applications for a particular platform.

Together, APIs and SDKs help developers build software that connects and interacts across different platforms effortlessly.

Continue reading to learn more about how APIs and SDKs work in software development.

Understanding API and How It Works

Think of API as a librarian in a huge library. If you are looking for a particular book (data), you can find it faster if you ask the librarian (API) for assistance instead of searching independently. 

APIs act as crucial intermediaries between programs and servers. When an application seeks specific data, it sends a  request to the API. Like a librarian, the API efficiently fetches it from the server. 

Check out the video below to understand more about APIs through another comparison: 


API Benefits

Using an API in software development comes with many benefits. Here are a few:

Faster Development

Faster Development

APIs help developers build applications faster. It gives them a starting point for building software, so they don’t have to build from scratch.



With APIs, you automate repetitive tasks involved in the interaction between apps. For example, you can use APIs to automate filling out forms or connecting two systems. 

Enhanced Productivity

Enhanced Productivity

Using APIs helps teams work on more critical tasks because APIs can handle automated tasks.

API Use Cases and Common Examples

With how valuable API is, it is no wonder how many daily digital activities rely on it. Below are typical use cases and examples of APIs.

Use cases of API

  • Online Shopping - When you buy a product online and pay with a credit card, you use an API for secure transactions. A typical example of this is PayPal API, which handles your digital payments to different online shops. 
  • Social Media Sharing - Social media apps use APIs a lot; one example is Facebook API. When you share an article from an app or site to your profile, the Facebook API makes the sharing process more manageable.
  • Maps and Directions - When you use a navigation application to find the nearest restaurant or coffee shop, it uses mapping APIs like Google Maps to provide directions.

💡Did You Know?

There are many APIs, but the most popular are Web APIs and Rest APIs. Either type works depending on the user’s needs. 

Get a Web API if you need a personalized experience and support. This type is suitable for streaming services.  

On the other hand, using a Rest API provides users with a straightforward experience. It works well for cloud services and most apps. 

Explaining What SDK Is

An SDK is a collection of tools and programs to develop applications in a specific platform. Inside an SDK, you will often find the following:

  •  Libraries (ready-made code pieces)
  •  APIs 
  • Code samples 
  • Documentation
  • Debugging tools

These SDK components are made for specific jobs, like building applications for iOS or Androids.

How do SDKs work?

SDKs work like a manual for creating a particular application. Imagine you want to bake a cake. You get the recipe, ingredients, mixing bowls, and oven. The recipe tells you what to put together and how to do it. 

An SDK works similarly to the recipe. It gives developers instructions, resources, and sample codes to build a specific type of app.

Benefits of SDKs

Using SDKs helps developers to build software efficiently. Below are some of the benefits of using them:

Efficient Development

Efficient Development

SDKs contain tools, packages, and libraries that assist developers in building applications. These components make the process easier and more efficient. 

Easy Integration

Easy Integration

With its built-in features, you can rely on an SDK when building programs that work adeptly with other software.

Effective Debugging

Effective Debugging

Developers spend time finding and fixing errors manually when building applications. SDKs come with built-in tools that can do the task automatically.

SDK Use Cases and Common Examples

Like APIs, SDKs are vital in improving digital experiences. Here are some common scenarios of how SDKs are used:

SDK Use Cases

  • Mobile App Development - SDKs are important in creating applications that work for a specific operating system—especially for mobile phones. 
  • Web Development - Besides mobile apps, SDKs are also used to build websites and web applications. An example is the React SDK, which can help create an interactive web interface.
  • Payment Processing - SDKs are the anonymous heroes behind safe online payments. Digital payment SDKs like PayPal SDK help make online transactions quick and efficient.

Key Differences Between API and SDK

APIs and SDKs are paramount in software development. Besides their roles in the application-building process, here are some differences between the two tools: 





To make apps communicate and share data

For building applications for a specific OS


Provide a standard way to use the limited functions of a tool 

Offer different tools for building applications with features


Work with any software program or application, no matter the system

Specifically made for one operating system like iOS or Android

Programming Language

Can work with different programming languages and different systems

Work best with specific programming languages for one system


Easy to integrate into applications since they have built-in functions

Requires a deeper understanding of integration


APIs and SDKs are essential tools for building applications. They both help make the software development process more manageable.

Choosing between an API and an SDK depends on your project requirements. You can use APIs to connect other systems to your program and streamline development. Get SDKs if you plan to offer control and versatility when creating applications.


Is Stack Overflow an API?

Stack Overflow is not an API. However, it provides an API developers use to access data.

What is the difference between video SDK and meeting SDK?

Video SDK is for applications with video and audio features, while the meeting SDK is for applications where people have online meetings.

What is the API limit for Zoom?

You can make up to 20 requests per second for general usage. If more speed is required, there is an option to go up to 40 requests per second.


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