Key Facts for Integrating Third-Party APIs in Mobile Apps

Introduction

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are crucial for software projects, including the mobile apps we use in our daily lives. They facilitate communication between different products, allowing them to interact with each other.

Simply put, an API in computer programming is like a securely installed door that requires compliance with specific access rules.

APIs are omnipresent today, controlling various aspects of our lives such as GPS navigation, social media data retrieval, online ticket booking, and much more.

Imagine you have released your app MVP(Minimum value Product) and now want to add extra functionality like social login or geolocation. Instead of building these features from scratch, you can utilize pre-existing APIs provided by different services to achieve your goals.

If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, continue reading this article to explore more details about APIs, including third-party API integration and related topics.

What’s A Third-Party API?

A third-party API can be understood using the analogy of a restaurant visit. When you go to a restaurant, you rely on a waiter to take your order and deliver it to the kitchen. Similarly, an API acts as a waiter, receiving requests from your app and forwarding them to a third-party system. It then retrieves the response and delivers it back to your app.

An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a defined method that enables communication between different software components. It consists of tools, subroutine definitions, and protocols that allow your app to access data and functionality from other services or apps.

A third-party API has two main components:

  • Clients: These are the systems or apps that send requests to the server.
  • Server: The server can be a database or a computer that responds to requests from the clients.

How Does Mobile API Work?

Mobile APIs work by providing a means for different software components to communicate and share data. APIs are designed to facilitate connectivity and enable developers to enhance their apps by leveraging external functionality and data.

What’s Third-Party API Integration?

Third-party API integration refers to the use of an API provided by a third-party service or platform to enhance the integration between different business apps or web services. As an example, a company could employ Google’s API to incorporate Google Ads capabilities into their website, thereby enabling third-party API integration. On the other hand, a first-party API integration would involve using an in-house API to enhance the in-app functionality of the business’s software.

Why Use Mobile API Integration?

There are several reasons why mobile API integration is preferred over building functionality from scratch:

Enhanced Value

Integrating third-party APIs can provide advanced features and unique functionality to your app, setting it apart from competitors and offering more value to users.

Business Insights

APIs enable you to gather valuable data-driven insights about user behaviour, device usage patterns and geographical information. These insights can help you make informed decisions to improve app functionality and user experience.

Cost Savings

Leveraging existing APIs reduces development time and effort, resulting in cost savings. Instead of building everything from scratch, you can utilize pre-built functionality, reducing development costs and accelerating time to market.

Improved Convenience

Integrating APIs allows your app to easily connect with popular channels and services that users already interact with. For instance, incorporating Google Maps API for geolocation, utilizing Facebook APIs for social login, or integrating PayPal API for online shopping can enhance the convenience of your app and boost user engagement.

How To Integrate API Into Your Mobile App?

Integrating an API into your mobile app involves several steps and requires the expertise of a mobile app developer. Here are the key API integration patterns:

Step 1: Hire an API Integration Expert

If you don’t have a technical background, it’s recommended to enlist the help of a mobile app developer. They will use a Software Development Kit (SDK), which is a collection of software tools, to properly integrate the chosen API.

Step 2: Register with the API Provider System

The app developer needs to register within the API provider system. This registration is necessary for authentication purposes as every API call requires authentication.

Step 3: Obtain API Key & Authorization Token

Upon registration, the developer will receive an API key. This key allows the API provider system to identify the authentication token and the calling project, ensuring that the user has the necessary access to make the request.

Step 4: Integrate API Framework into the App

The developer installs the chosen SDK containing the APIs into the application’s development environment. This is typically done using dependency managers such as Maven for Android apps or CocoaPods for iOS.

Step 5: Utilize API Request Instances & Methods

Using the dependencies added in the previous step, the app developer implements the new functionality provided by the API. This allows the app to leverage the integrated API features.

Pros & Cons Of Third-Party APIs

Pros:

  • Time and Effort Savings: Using a third-party API eliminates the need to build a feature from scratch, saving time and development effort. This allows you to leverage existing functionality and data provided by the API.
  • Cost-Effective: Implementing a third-party API can be more cost-effective than developing and maintaining the same functionality in-house. It eliminates the need for dedicated resources and infrastructure to build and maintain the feature.
  • Reliability and Expertise: Third-party APIs are often developed and maintained by specialized providers with expertise in their respective domains. This expertise ensures the reliability and effectiveness of the API’s functionality.
  • Access to Established Services: By integrating a third-party API, you can leverage established and popular services that are already widely used and trusted by users. This can enhance the user experience and increase the value of your app.

Cons

  • Limited Customization: Third-party APIs may have predefined requirements and regulations, limiting the ability to tailor the API to specific client or business needs. Customization options may be restricted, and you may need to adapt your app to fit the capabilities of the API.
  • Dependency on External Service: Using a third-party API means relying on an external service. If the service experiences downtime or disruptions, it can affect the functionality of your app. You have less control over the availability and performance of the API.
  • Potential Compatibility Issues: Integrating multiple third-party APIs from different providers may introduce compatibility challenges. It’s important to ensure that the APIs work well together and that updates or changes from one API do not adversely affect others.
  • Lack of Control over Maintenance: As a user of a third-party API, you are not responsible for its maintenance. However, if the API provider makes changes or discontinues the service, it can impact your app’s functionality, and you may need to adapt or find alternative solutions.

Top API Use Cases

Integration of Third-Party Services

APIs allow apps to leverage the features and functionality of other services. For example, using PayPal’s Braintree API as a payment gateway in an app.

Access to External Data

APIs enable apps to retrieve information from external sources. For instance, integrating an API from New York’s subway system to provide real-time travel data, including train schedules and arrivals.

Utilizing Mobile Device Features

APIs provide access to the features and capabilities of mobile devices. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat use the phone’s camera API to enable photo capturing and sharing.

Examples Of 3rd-Party API

Facebook API

This API enables integration with Facebook’s social network, allowing users to authorize new apps using their existing Facebook profile instead of filling out registration forms.

Booking API

This API provides access to hotel booking information, including prices, amenities and accommodation queries, allowing apps to incorporate booking functionality into their platforms.

Movie Database API

This API is suitable for developing on-demand video streaming platforms like Netflix. It offers access to movie details such as IMDB ratings, titles, release dates, and more.

Skyscanner API

This API is useful for travel apps, providing users with ticket prices, flight search options, and information from various ticketing agencies.

Spoonacular API

Essential for diet and fitness apps, this API includes a vast database of over 86,000 food products and 365,000 recipes. It allows users to calculate calorie counts, find recipes based on dietary preferences, and more.

Conclusion

Integrating third-party APIs with your app allows you to enhance its functionality without the need to develop features from scratch. This approach saves valuable time and reduces development costs. By leveraging existing APIs, you can make your app stand out from the competition, providing unique features and capabilities. This, in turn, increases user engagement and improves the overall user experience. So, by utilizing third-party APIs, you can accelerate app development, differentiate your app, and drive higher user engagement.
Photo By: FreePik

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