The user experience mobile apps deliver is more intuitive, streamlined, and seamless than ever before—and it has to be. It’s nearly impossible to imagine living our modern day to day without the support of mobile GPS, payments, weather forecasts, and communication at our fingertips.
•Published: Jul 7, 2022
While the benefit of these standalone functionalities is clear, there are plenty of solutions working behind the scenes, like social preferences, geo-location, and usage history that enhance UX even more. Mobile APIs make these advancements possible and affordable for engineers to integrate with their app’s infrastructure. In this article, we’ll cover the most common mobile APIs, the full spectrum of advantages they provide, and how to effectively manage them after implementation.
What is a Mobile App API?
A mobile application programming interface (API) is a software intermediary that allows multiple applications to interact and share information with one another. As user demand increases and capabilities evolve, mobile apps must leverage APIs to integrate data from multiple sources into the presentation layer of the app. Always-on availability is, naturally, of highest priority—but so is the ability to secure that data, combine it with other data sources, and make it available to developers so they can create more channels. Nearly every mobile app relies on APIs to help them utilize a massive amount of data in a usable mobile framework.
For more information: API Programming: Backbone of Mobile App Development
Examples of 3 Common Mobile APIs
The best way to gain an understanding of APIs is to think of them in an everyday context. In fact, you’ll likely recognize the three mobile app APIs below and have probably used at least one of them today already. These examples are backend APIs that make app development, management, and maintenance tasks easier to perform—there are also frontend APIs that a user directly interacts with, like a weather forecast or GPS.
For more information: Frontend vs. Backend: What’s the Difference?
A payment API is an API (application programming interface) that enables eCommerce businesses to seamlessly manage payments. Payment APIs have the power to optimize the payments process for both businesses and shoppers, as they can make transactions faster and more secure.
A major benefit of payment APIs is that they can help automate transactions, meaning less time and resources are needed on the business end to maintain those systems. A payment API can be used to enable both recurring and one-time payments, which makes them an important tool for mobile apps with a subscription model. Payment APIs are highly customizable and scalable for developers and can be integrated with a variety of other eCommerce tools and applications.
For more information: 9 Best Payment APIs for Developers
Chat APIs, also known as Chat as a Service (CaaS) provide access to a back-end chat service & server infrastructure along with stability and an extensive feature set that can easily embed real-time chat inside of any mobile app. Chat APIs allow apps to scale at their own pace, from intimate 1:1 conversations to chat groups with hundreds of members, and chat interfaces with multiple channels, admins, media capabilities, and more.
There are many benefits to including a chat functionality within your mobile app, but its often not feasible to build the quality of interface your users deserve from scratch. Chat APIs typically include user-centric features that would otherwise require many development resources to produce like, @mentions, chat threads, reactions, file sharing, and safety components like blocking, muting, and block lists.
For more information: 5 Best Chat APIs for Mobile Development
A Geolocation API is a communication interface between a client device or application (client-side), and an application or service (server-side) that identifies and returns information about the client’s geographical location. Developers have the option to include additional information about the location such as time zone, currency or country through geocoding.
Geolocation APIs are especially useful for mobile apps that need to make decisions based on the user's location, like rideshare and delivery apps. But, they can also be leveraged to serve users contextual advertisements and tailor content and the language it is written in based on region.
For more information: 10 Best Geolocation APIs in 2022
Benefits of Leveraging APIs in Mobile App Development
The mobile app market conditions are changing—consumer activity in the digital world drive that change. Leveraging APIs in the development process enables apps to stay relevant, on top of trends, and delight their users with cutting-edge experiences.
Faster Time to Market
One of the core benefits of leveraging APIs in mobile development is that they expedite the time to market for apps. They do this by greatly reducing the need to code specific functionalities, which frees up time for engineering teams to focus on other areas of the app and lightens the burden of maintenance. With thousands of apps launching each day, a speedy development can offer your app an advantage over the competition that chooses to build out all features in-house.
More Functions with Less Coding
Similar to the benefit of a quicker launch time, the use of APIs means there is no need to waste time on coding complex functionalities from scratch. To reach feature-parity with competing apps means that yours will likely need more advanced offerings from the start. Leveraging APIs to plug-and-play features that are difficult to develop not only saves time, but also answers the age-old dilemma of build vs. buy in three words: lower development costs—integration, support, and maintenance all wrapped into a neat API pricing package.
Social media platforms are no longer just another form of entertainment, they are an extension of modern life. For many apps, it is crucially important to connect APIs of popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. as it will allow users to share content across multiple channels, comment, connect with other users, and share feedback directly within the application. You can leverage this engagement to increase user retention, conversion rates, and lower churn. By integrating social APIs, your app will not only deliver a more enjoyable experience for users but will also become a database of reviews, critiques, and candid feedback your team can look to for inspiration.
Deeper Audience Insight
With a quicker time to launch, a wider variety of features, and the social element APIs bring to your mobile app, users will have more opportunities to enter information, complete surveys, engage with your app, and talk with other users about their experiences. In turn, your app collects this information and translates it into data your engineers can reference to make changes and updates that will improve the user experience.
How to Manage Threats to Your Mobile App API
Security is a top priority for virtually every business and developer. But as mobile apps evolve to become more complex and data-rich, threats loom large. There are even organizations dedicated to regulating the safeguarding of customer data, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is important for engineers to remember that security measures must extend beyond proprietary data, but also to users’ personally identifiable information (PII), payment details, and the platform content itself. The three tactics below are all excellent ways to ensure your mobile app and all subsequent APIs remain secure.
Your app’s users expect a seamless sign-in experience—they want to enter your app by clicking on its mobile icon without fielding requests for their credentials. If access is too hard, they simply won't use it; but inadequate user authentication can open your app to risk. Using an OAuth-based server provides the safest, most flexible, and least difficult environment to engineer a desirable authentication flow.
Threats don’t always originate from an external source. Harmful content, spam, and harassment are just as much of a threat as a traditional data breach. Creating and enforcing community guidelines is a great first defense against bad actors, but in order to cultivate an authentic sense of trust and safety within your mobile app community implementing a chat moderation solution is key.
Whether your mobile app is designed for banking, eCommerce, marketplaces, etc., integrating a slick payment API can make transactions a sinch for users. However, if your app stores or processes credit card information, achieving PCI DSS compliance is essential to avoid data breaches, reputational damage, and fines.
Visit an API Marketplace to Get Started
APIs are essential to the functionality and efficiency of modern mobile apps. They offer support to engineers who wish to create dynamic digital experiences for their end-users, while also making aspects of the development process smoother and more efficient. Enhance your app’s UX without the hassle of maintenance or the requirement of additional resources by integrating an API today.
Not sure where to start? API marketplaces aggregate many different types of APIs while also providing a space for consumers to discover the perfect addition to integrate and create a more powerful and user-friendly application. API developers, also called providers, use API marketplaces as a tool to increase the accessibility and universality of their applications.