Could the Mobile SDK You Are Using Be Holding You Back?

Posted in October 2017 by Mohammad Farooq

App Development

Generally, SDKs or Software Development Kits, are meant to make the lives of developers and product managers a lot easier. With SDKs, you don’t have to spend time writing code for the backend functionality or stability of your app. All you have to do is plug in the SDK and you can get instant code for all manner of things including; design, user acquisition, A/B testing, App analytics, crash reporting, social, payment and advertising and a lot more.

Android app development has skyrocketed in recent times, due to the increasing popularity of this operating system. Thanks to this, developers are scrambling to find ways to fast-track their App development process so they aren’t left out of the mobile phone revolution.

According to the January 2017 Mobile SDKs Data Trends Report, an average app uses about 17 SDKs. This shows that mobile SDKs are definitely quite popular and there is no doubt that mobile SDKs have a lot to offer during and after the development process. The question is, do you know the risks and benefits of using the SDKs that we use? And probably more importantly, could the Mobile SDK you are Using Be Holding You Back?

The reality is that while SDKs provide a lot of help, they also cause a lot of issues ranging from crashes, slowdowns, mischievous behavior and even quick battery drain. If you want to use SDKs efficiently, then you should be aware of the following issues that could be holding you back.

There’s too much dead weight of SDKs

Do you know how many SDKs are implemented in your app? You may think that this is an obvious question with an obvious answer but the reality is that, quite often, you could have dead weight in terms of SDKs and not even know it.

For example, someone in your development team may add an SDK that you are probably not aware of. In other occasions, you may have to use huge packages like Google Play Services that you may not be fully utilizing.

The problem with this SDK bloat or dead weight is, that even if it is inactive, it still takes up space. As such, it needs more bandwidth to download and takes up unnecessary space in the user’s device.

Additionally, since SDKs are mostly plugged into the apps ‘onCreate()’ stage, so that the SDK is able to start doing its job as soon as possible, it means that apps often take a lot longer to load than is necessary.

Users care about these issues and so should you because long loading time, bandwidth and disk space issues related to the SDK can create a bad user experience and hence hold back your success.

You are using the wrong SDK version

There are many issues when it comes to the SDK version that you choose to use. For example, if your colleague or team member recommends a certain SDK for analytics as being ‘the best’ because they have had a great experience with it, you are likely to use the same SDK. The thing is, it may not work as well for you because:

  • You may have a different class structure in your coding
  • You may have a different build methodology
  • You may be using an older or newer SDK version.
  • You could be using the SDK on a different platform (iOS or Android)
  • You could be using a cross platform app instead of a native app or vice versa.

Identifying the right SDK version to use may have bigger implications for you app if you are not well versed in app development. If this is the case, you may take longer to fix the issues caused by the wrong SDK version. Therefore, it is important to use the right SDK version before you patch it to your main program.

Example of an SDK architecture
Source: wikitude.com - Example of an SDK Architecture

Fixing SDK issues can take a while

Once you have deployed your app, whether on Android or iOS, it usually takes some time before you can find all bugs and get them fixed.

For example, it may take a while before you find out that a specific SDK is draining batteries too fast or is causing certain devices to crash.

Once you fix the problem, you need to send the updated version to the app store. In Android, this is not too difficult to do but it still takes some time and effort to do although not anywhere as close to the effort and time that it takes to do the same for an iOS app.

All the same, even after you manage to get the app approved and published, many app users still fail to update their apps immediately, if at all. This delay or failure to update an app is enough to cause a bad user experience that may mean that the user doesn’t use the app again.

Your app runs into compatibility issues

All sorts of compatibility issues can arise when you get to use SDKs. For example, once an SDK is updated, additional functionality could mean that the SDK does unanticipated things. For example, a newer version of a GPS or location SDK may seek to access location data more times than a previous build and this could lead to faster battery drain. In other cases, if the OS is updated, the delicate ecosystem for the apps best performance is affected and this could lead to UX issues or loading issues.

What all this means to you is that there are many more things that you have to pay attention to when you use SDKs if you want to ensure that your app is always performing optimally.

The bottom line

So, what is the solution to these SDK challenges? Well, the solution lies with understanding the SDK that you use and how the SDK is useful to your exact needs. You also need to decide whether using a certain SDK is in your best interest or whether you are better off doing the coding yourself if it is possible. At the end of the day, you need to find the right balance between the convenience that SDKs offer and how much control you have to relinquish by not doing the coding by yourself.

Guest Author
Mohammad Farooq
Mohammad Farooq works as a Social Media Analyst. When not working, he goes backpacking around India. He regularly blogs about Travel, Movies, Political Issues and a lot of other things on his blog “ReveringThoughts”.

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