Breaking Down APIs — Why They’re Crucial To Your App’s Daily Functionality
Josue Castillo wrote this article
At Chop Dawg, we try to demystify technical terms, so the everyday user can better understand the nitty gritty of app development.
Everyone should have at least a basic understanding of the APIs powering their app.
Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this post, we’ll make it easy to gauge some of the most useful functionalities the right API can provide for your app.
APIs — What They Do, With A List of Our Go-To’s
Think of an API as a waiter, serving up the desired functionality within your app by acting as a middle-man between the user and the server (or in this analogy, the kitchen). API stands for Application Programming Interface, and it is at the very heart of app development.
Without APIs, some of your favorite functionalities on apps just wouldn’t be possible.
Many of the most commonplace, every day functionalities are provided by APIs, including payment processing, map-based directions, messaging, notifications, social media sign-in and so much more.
Without them, we would have to hard-code these features, which means more money upfront to build.
Additionally, building out your own solution would then require you to provide ongoing support and maintenance for that hard-coded feature. Sometimes, this is the best way to go. Every app and scenario is different.
A great example of using an API instead of B-Y-O-F (building your own functionality) is with app login and password management. Many apps choose to utilize social media login APIs, as they not only save you upfront in development costs, but also maintenance down the road. Each password-related support request from a user costs companies on average about $70!
Social login APIs also allow you to leave username security and maintenance up to the big boys and focus on your core business instead.
Users seem to like social logins as well, with 54% of users reporting they may actually leave a website or an app and go to another rather than complete an individual registration form.
With APIs, you get time and cost savings, and support.
Ten APIs Commonly Used by App Developers
3. Google Maps
4. One Signal
5. Facebook Graph
8. Google Analytics
At Chop Dawg, we carefully weight out the needs of each app we are building before deciding on possible APIs to implement together with our partners and our team.
Here’s a breakdown of our favorites when it comes to performance and what makes sense for many apps in the market.
MailChimp: “Marketing Smarts for Big Ideas”
Email marketing plays a crucial role for business of all sizes.
Allowing businesses to keep in contact with customers and potential customers with a simple click of a button, MailChimp is a game-changer because it allows businesses to easily send beautifully designed email campaigns to many users at once. By automating the whole process, businesses don’t have to send emails one-by-one.
More than two-thirds of online shoppers leave the checkout without buying, but a simple email sent afterwards to recapture their attention can be the deciding factor of a sale.
A shopper is on the fence about a product, you send them an automated email reminding them their basket is still full. On top of that, you sweeten the deal by giving them a discount! That’s an offer most users can’t refuse!
The cost to include MailChimp in an application varies.
There are four different pricing options:
1. Free version with limited functionalities
2. Essentials ($9.99) version for people who want around the clock support
3. Standard ($14.99) for developers looking for full automation and optimization
4. Premium ($299) for those that want advance features and need more customization
What if you want to add payment processing to your app? Well, we have the right API for that!
Stripe: “Payments Infrastructure for the Internet”
Stripe allows users to process payments conveniently through an app.
We live in a day-in-age where e-commerce is king, online shopping is replacing brick-and-mortars, and users need ways to make purchases online. This is where Stripe comes in.
It simplifies adding the ability for your app to handle transactions, so that purchasing a product is only clicks and a few keystrokes away for your users.
Stripe offers pay-as-you-go pricing. It costs 2.9% + 30 cents per each successful transaction.
This API can easily be charged as a fee to the user, so you don’t have to worry about the overhead cost of using this particular API.
Now that you have email marketing and payment processing down, let’s take a look at geolocation tracking in your app. We have just the API for that, and you might actually recognize this one.
Google Maps: “Customized, Agile Experiences That Bring the Real World to Your Users”
Google Map’s API is a robust tool that can be used to create a custom map, a searchable map, display live data about a specific location, and can be used for directions from point A to B.
Whenever you see a map on an app 9/10 of the time the API powering the map is Google Maps.
Pricing for Google Maps depends on usage and users.
With $200 free monthly usage, Google Maps is one of the cheapest APIs to incorporate.
Once you have traction and more users, the pricing depends on the number of requests the API receives.
What if you want push notifications?
One Signal: “Push Notifications Delivered”
OneSignal is the fastest and most reliable service to send push notifications, messages, in-app messages, and emails to users.
At Chop Dawg, One Signal is our go-to when sending push notifications.
There are four different pricing options:
1. Free version with limited functionalities
2. Growth ($9) version for users who want to personalize and test
3. Professional ($99) for users looking for advanced personalization
4. Premium (Custom Pricing) for those that want ultimate control and support
Our next API allows users to fetch data from Facebook and helps populate the application with the user’s facebook data.
Facebook Graph: “Get Data Into and Out of Facebook”
The Graph API is the primary way to get data into and out of Facebook.
It’s an HTTP-based API (meaning it sends and receives requests, remember the customer, waiter, and kitchen analogy) that apps can use to post new stories, manage ads, upload photos, and perform a wide variety of other tasks.
Lucky for developers and users, Graph API is free to use for all applications.
Now that Bitcoin is hot, you may want to add Bitcoin to your website.
Well, now you can with the Coinbase API.
Coinbase: “Integrate Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin and Ethereum “
Coinbase makes it easy to integrate bitcoin, bitcoin cash, litecoin, and ethereum into both new and existing applications.
With Coinbase, integrating Bitcoin into applications has never been easier.
Lucky for developers and users, Coinbase API is free to use for all applications.
Plaid: “Access Your Bank Accounts With a Click”
Plaid is the easiest way for users to connect their financial accounts to an app.
This is one of our favorites at Chop Dawg, it allows applications to connect directly to your bank account.
Without this API apps like Acorns, Chime, and Venmo wouldn’t be possible.
Luckily for developers and users, Plaid API is free to use for all applications.
Google Analytics: “Web/Mobile Marketing Analytics”
Google Analytics allows you to get a deeper understanding of your customers. Google Analytics gives you the free tools you need to analyze data for your business in one place.
With this information you can better understand your site and the tendencies of your users to better evaluate the performance of your marketing, content, products, and more.
Get the most out of your data with features like analytics intelligence, detailed reporting, and so much more.
Google Analytics has a free and a paid version.
For many small businesses, the free version is more than enough, but for those looking for more customization and features there is a paid version.
The paid version cost significantly more at a whopping $150,000/year.
Twilio: “Robust Messaging Center”
Connect with customers everywhere they want to interact with you—from text messages to emails, phone calls to video, intelligent chatbots and back—within a single powerful API.
Twilio offers many different options, discounts, and packages for users.
They offer packages for programmable chats, programmable voice, programmable SMS, Whatsapp integration, and etc.
Chrashlytics: “Insight Into App Issues”
Firebase Crashlytics is a lightweight, realtime crash reporter that helps you track, prioritize, and fix stability issues that erode your app quality.
Crashlytics saves you troubleshooting time by intelligently grouping crashes and highlighting the circumstances that lead up to them.
There are two different pricing options:
1. Free spark plan with generous limits to get started with
2. Paid Blaze plan which varies depending on the app
The Crucial Decision When Dealing With APIs
When building an app, choosing the right API to utilize is a delicate process.
You must first decide what functionalities the app needs, then designing the expected functionalities, and then we incorporate the necessary APIs to fuel our applications.
With over a decade of experience dealing with APIs, this process is crucial to developing high quality apps.
The neat part about APIs is that they are pre-programmed code. You can easily add it to an application and it doesn’t need to be programmed from the ground up.
Developers simply follow the blueprint laid out by the designers, and incorporate the necessary APIs + functionalities required (of course this is a very simplified version of the job of a developer, but you get the point).
About ChopDawg.com: Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.
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