Detailed Guide on Third Party API Integration for Mobile Apps
Releasing an app as MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is not enough, it needs to be enriched with several functionalities so it can be productive to the users. Building additional functionalities from scratch is no longer required as APIs (Application Programming Interface) are readily available to be integrated. Here is a detailed guide on third-party APIs and their integration for mobile apps:
What is the third-party API?
API is a set of functions that enable communication between two software components using a set of defined protocols and definitions. Basically, it allows the mobile app to borrow data and functionality from other services and applications.
A 3rd party API comprises of two main components:
Technical specification – Which describes the data exchange options amongst solutions with specification in the form of a request for processing and data delivery
Software interface – Is written to the specification that signifies it.
Why Mobile APIs are Preferred Over Developing Features from the Beginning:
- The development cost drastically decreases when the development team can easily access the functions of other applications.
- Adds value to your application by providing more features.
- APIs make your application easy to access on multiple channels, including social media, and increase engagement.
- Analytic components like geographical locations, usage patterns, etc., help in making data-driven decisions for the functionality of your app MVP.
APIs are categorized based on ‘Use Cases’. It is basically the action that it performs. There are 3 API use cases:
1. Using Other Services Features – an example may be a news app integrated with Spotify that lets users listen to music as they read the news.
2. Receiving Other’s Services Information – an example may be if an app is integrated with Washington Metro system API the users can stay updated with all information of metros, including their arrival, real-time update, etc.
3. Getting Access to Mobile App Device Functions – an example may be a social media app like Instagram using the phone’s camera API to click pictures.
Fundamentally, third-party APIs serve multiple purposes – they offer additional features and even gain access to other features from the mobile device effortlessly.
Some third-party API examples:
Uber API allows users to book rides, pay for them through the app and even leave reviews.
Google Maps API offers help with directions and locations.
Skyscanner AP can get live ticketing quotes, flight searches, and prices.
Movie Database API is perfect for developing video streaming platforms as they can offer access to movie and series titles, release dates, ratings, awards, plots, and more details related to it.
If you have found the best API for your app, then here is how you can integrate it:
1. API Integration Developer
People without technical knowledge should hire an API integration developer to complete this task. They use a special software development kit (SDK) that allows them to integrate the API correctly.
2. Create the Project Within the API Provider System
The API should be registered in the API provider system, as every call to the third-party API endpoint needs to be authenticated.
3. Receive API Key and Authorization Token
The developer acquires the API key post registration, so the API provider system can identify the authentication token and calling project to authenticate that the calling user has access to make this request.
4. Integrating the API Framework for the App
The developer uses selected SDK with the APIs along with dependency managers like Maven for Android and CocoaPods of iOS to integrate into the app.
5. Use API Request Instances and Methods
The developer uses dependencies to implement the new functionalities so the app can use the new features integrated into it through the API.
Once the third-party API integration is complete, it will enrich the mobile app and add a myriad of features and functionalities to it. It also reduces the time and cost of its development and makes it unique and different from other apps.
Different Types of APIs
APIs can be categorized into 4 different types: private, public, partner, and composite. This categorization is done based on their usage and the level of permissions.
Public APIs – Any developer can access them, and they are monetized based on the number of calls to the server or the number of users. These APIs help share data with businesses and offer services like social media authentication, payments, maps, etc.
Partner APIs – These APIs are not available for everyone. Only some developers can access them. They are meant for interaction between some businesses and are often used to share semi-sensitive data. Partners are required to undergo a detailed authentication process to access another company’s data through an API. In partner APIs, businesses pay their partner companies, and the APIs are not monetized directly. APIs basically serve as a tool to offer these services easily and safely.
Internal APIs – Internal APIs are also known as private APIs, and they are used within a business to connect systems – often to connect various parts of software so they can function as one. Internal APIs usually don’t have good security as they are used internally. But as businesses are becoming aware of government policies and security threats, they have been working on adding more security.
Composite APIs – Many APIs are combined to facilitate complex processes and to manage co-dependent operations. They also have good speed and incredible performance.
Further, let us learn more about which type of APIs are better and explain the third-party API integration best practices.
How do APIs Work: Protocols and Architecture
APIs need structures, rules, and constraints to work properly, which are imposed using architectures and protocols. REST, SOAP, and RPC, also known as formats, are the main protocols used by Modern APIs. They differ in characteristics that are used for various purposes.
REST(Representational State Transfer) – Most commonly used architecture for API and is known for its flexibility. It is stateless, meaning the API does not store data between requests. APIs built using REST are known as RESTful APIs, and they can either communicate directly or use API gateways and load balancers to communicate.
SOAP(Simple Object Access Protocol) – SOAP is combined with XML to build web APIs. It supports a variety of protocols, including TCP, HTTP, and SMTP. In comparison to REST, SOAP is more standardized and structured.
RPC (Remote Procedural Call) – It is an easy way to send specifications and receive results. While REST APIs come in handy in resource and data exchange, RPC is great for actions and processes. It is compatible with XML and JSON for coding. Depending on the language, the APIs will be known as XML-RPC or JSON-RPC.
How to Select the Right API Protocol for Third-Party Integration
API determines the way an app works. Thus, it is significant that they are picked intelligently, keeping your requirements in mind. Here are some things that influence the choice of API protocol:
- The complexity of data that will be exchanged
- Level of security required
- Speed and performance necessities
It is significant that an API protocol with a balance of performance, security, and ease of implementation is selected.
For instance, SOAP and REST use the same commands and HTTP protocols. Both can utilize XML in requests and responses. SOAP just uses XML, and REST have other options such as HTML, JSON and plain text. Here, REST has lesser restrictions than SOAP.
Enterprise software products use SOAP as it is easy to manage complex data exchanges when rules are standardized and limited. Internal and partner APIs use SOAP frequently.
REST is used mostly for scalability, data exchanges, and active user base support because of its flexibility. It is often used by public APIs.
RPC, like SOAP, works well with processes. It goes well with XML and JSON and supports programming languages such as PHP, Python, and Java. RPC may not be a good choice for enterprise APIs because of its limited data type support and security, but it is good for internal composite APIs because it supports asynchronous calls and permits call without having to wait for a response.
Best 5 Most Prevalent Third-Party APIs for Businesses
Let’s look at the five most popular third-party services that can be integrated into your mobile and web products through APIs.
1. Google Analytics –A famous analytical tool that helps track and collate website visitors’ data. SEO and marketing specialists utilize this tool to get insight into their target audience.
2. Google Maps –From taxi services to social media sites and from logistics to delivery, it is a common API that is used by almost all modern software.
3. Facebook Login –Not just Facebook but other social media networks like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter logins are also a convenient way to access user profiles on websites or apps.
4. PayPal and Stripe –Both APIs are common payment processors that easily integrate into apps and websites to facilitate payments.
5. Twilio – It is such a useful API for voice, text, and video messages. Zoho, Zendesk, and Chatsdk are also APIs that offer similar features.
Third-Party Integration Best Practices
Secured Documentation Process – Always remember to select a provider that provides detailed information about the API they offer. They should give detailed instructions for its integration and use. Documentations should include price details, implementation particulars, and restrictions, if any, so the development team doesn’t have a problem.
Well-Tested API –From an apparent downtime to loss of functionalities, API errors could lead to significant losses. You must ensure that you have a trusted provider who gives you a well-tested API./p>
Security Should Not be Neglected –Good APIs come with reliable security measures. But for some reason, if they don’t, you must incorporate them. Encryption is the best way to implement security measures.
Select Scalable APIs –APIs must be purchased, keeping in mind the future expandability of your business. Always think big when integrating APIs; otherwise, you will require rewriting the code and change the third-party integrations. Scalable APIs will easily adjust to a growing audience.
Change is Inevitable –An API provider controls how their APIs work, meaning they may make some changes in how your software connects to the API. They may also add or remove features. You must always have alternatives when selecting APIs that offer similar features so you can move to the other without facing downtime issues.
Know About the Pricing Details – Businesses often end up paying more for the APIs because of their confusing pricing structure. You must do enough research about how the price plan of APIs works before you can purchase them. Compare estimates from API providers and take help from an expert before you can pay.
Third-party integrations using APIs are an easy way to add unique features and make your app more functional. They are very handy and help in making your apps useful and popular. However, follow the above instructions to ensure you pick the right APIs before integrating them into your application.