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What Is an API (Application Programming Interface)?

Good apps make users’ online shopping or browsing experience more efficient. On top of being aesthetically pleasing, mobile apps have to function smoothly in the technical side of operations. 

However, achieving efficiency and functionality isn’t possible for most apps without an application programming interface or API. When developed and implemented correctly, APIs help users stay connected online and have a smooth experience far better than on browsers or other apps. 

But what is an API, and how is it necessary for creating the right mobile app for my organization? Here’s a guide through APIs and how they can help with mobile app development. 

What Is an API in Mobile App Development?

APIs are software components that affect how two or more applications interact based on their defined rules. It affects how data is transferred between systems and how different parties process it. 

In simpler terms, think of APIs as assistants for both app developers and end users. But what does an API do? For developers, APIs make integrating an app with another program easier as it already has a code that relays what type of data either party can do. On the other hand, users use APIs to access different programs and online software conveniently and streamlined. 

You might be wondering, “How can I use an API?” Chances are that you’ve already used an API as an end-user. Here are some examples of an API that many people may be familiar with:

  • Travel Booking: When you search for flights on booking sites that provide the lowest prices, you send an API request that looks for the lowest-priced deals that meet your search. Through APIs, you’re reducing the time to find flights that meet your preferred dates and location at the best prices.
  • Facebook API: Have you ever played a mobile app game that asked you to link your Facebook account to share your milestones and awards? To connect your account, you have to allow an API to use data such as your profile picture, name, and friends list.
  • Universal Logins: Instead of creating an account on a new platform, you might have seen options to log in using your Google or social media accounts. This popular API for end-users saves time for authentication and allows you to create a new profile based on your information from that linked account.
  • PayPal API: When you go online shopping, you may find that the seller offers various ways to pay at checkout. Rather than manually going to PayPal’s website to send payment, online stores allow you to click a button to make secure payment transactions. The store connects you to PayPal to make your shopping experience more convenient, but PayPal doesn’t share your sensitive banking information with the seller.
  • YouTube API: Video integration on other sites is a popular API for users and those building their websites. Rather than posting a link to a video that takes the user to a specific video on YouTube, you can embed the video onto the page. This makes it easier for users to watch the video without leaving your page. 

How Do APIs Work?

What does an API do? This will depend on what kind of API you’re working with. 

In general, APIs work with a client and a server. The client – the developer or end-user – sends a request for what they want. This request is then brought to the other application, the server, using the provided rules on how data is transferred. The API is in charge of delivering the request and the server’s response based on the parameters of the rules provided. 

APIs provide this in different ways, depending on how they were developed. These include:

  • SOAP APIs: These are Simple Object Access Protocol APIs. These are built with XML and make it easier for two apps to communicate and share data even if they’re written in different languages.
  • RPC APIs: Remote Procedure Call APIs use a specific XML format to transfer data. Clients complete a function on the server, which then sends the output back.
  • REST APIs: Representational State Transfer APIs follow certain REST architectural constraints. This is one of the more popularly used APIs where the client sends requests while the server uses it to create internal functions and then returns output data. 

How APIs Improve Application Development

By adding APIs to their app’s development, developers can benefit from the simplified ways of connecting their apps to other software and programs. Some of the key benefits of using APIs include:

  • Integrate for Faster Development: Developers don’t have to create everything from scratch to connect their new apps with existing software. Instead, they can leverage existing code and adjust as needed.
  • Innovate As Needed: New apps and software can be a game-changer for existing apps. Instead of creating new codes that can take time, developers can create APIs to add to their existing code.
  • Seamless Communication: Your app can communicate with other programs that benefit both the development and the end-user experience. Through integration, you can create apps that make it easier for clients, servers, and end-users to communicate with each other.
  • Enhanced Security: This protects your app’s system and the privacy and security of your end-users. APIs require authentication credentials, and not all data from one app is shared with the other. These minimize security threats, especially during data exchange.

Implement APIs on Your App with Jackrabbit Mobile

APIs benefit both app development and customer experience. Whether you want to implement existing APIs or create custom APIs, working with efficient mobile app developers can get you custom digital solutions that fit your and your users’ needs. With Jackrabbit Mobile, we can help you design, build, and maintain an app that works best for your business or organization. 

APIs are just one of the few components needed to keep your app running smoothly and up-to-date. For more information about implementing APIs and other app development services, get in touch with Jackrabbit Mobile today. 

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