6 Mobile Development Terms You Should Know

Do you ever feel like the mobile phenomenon has left you in the dust?  Do you sometimes wonder what an “SDK” is, and if it is anything like an “API”?

If so, fear not.  I’m here to show you that you too can speak the techno-jargon-fueled language of a mobile developer.  Let’s examine six of the most common mobile buzzwords, and see what they really mean.


An acronym that stands for “software development kit”.  It’s like the developer’s equivalent of a special workbench, just for certain jobs.  The purpose of an SDK is to provide developers with a basic starting point where they can go to lay the foundations of their projects.  It can include simulators for testing things, programs for actually building things and anything else that a developer might need.

Some examples of SDKs are the iPhone SDK for building iPad and iPhone apps, and the Android SDK for building Android apps.


Like SDK, API is an acronym that stands for “Application Programming Interface”.  The easiest way to explain what exactly an API does is to use an example.  Facebook offers an API that lets developers tie their applications directly into Facebook.  The Facebook API is what developers use to let people upload pictures, update their statuses and send messages from within applications.  Some other examples of services with APIs are Twitter, Youtube, Google Maps and eBay.


Smartphones, like computers, have to have some kind of underlying system controlling what they do.  iOS is the collection of applications that power iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches.  Everything on these iDevices that that isn’t downloaded from the App Store is a part of iOS, from the lock screen to the Maps, iPod, Photos and Mail applications.


Ah, yes.  The app.  The word “app” is actually short for “application” which is really just another way of saying “program” or “thing on a computer that does stuff.”

“App” is usually used to described a “native application”.  Native means that the app has been designed to run on that kind of device, and that kind of device alone, and before it can run, it has to actually be installed.  Some examples of apps would be Angry Birds, Tweedeck, a barcode scanner and Foodspotting.

Mobile Websites and Mobile Web Apps 

Last but not least, we have a two-for-one special: the mobile website and the mobile web app (Not to be confused with #4 on our list, the native app).

I’m talking about these together because they are so similar.  In fact, they are almost exactly the same; the only difference is what they can do.

A mobile website is a mobile version of an existing normal website.  They don’t really do anything different.  There is no special functionality.  It’s just a scaled down website, optimized for viewing on mobile devices.

Mobile web apps, on the other hand, actually provide utility.  They have some sort of added ability.  Some really great examples of mobile web apps are the mobile versions of Facebook, gmail and Google+.  They are not only scaled down and reformatted versions of their desktop counterparts, but they are fully functional all by themselves.

See? Was that so bad? I didn’t think so.

Now, you can go use the Android SDK to tie into the Twitter API so that your users can tweet from both your app and web app.  Easy, right?