We've updated this article to describe all steps needed to create a video call app
As sad as it is to admit, remote work is becoming a new trend. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of remote workers has continued to rise. For example, in the United States, the number of remote workers working five days a week from home has grown fromsince the 2020. Leveling the distance between employees requires quality communication and communication tools to establish a productive workflow.
To provide an uncut conversation experience on-the-go, startups and companies build video chat apps. Apps like Viber and WhatsApp were created by enthusiast entrepreneurs and now gain millions in revenue. Still, you need to define a set of features and understand a video chat app development budget. Not talking about hiring specialists who’d build the app.
In this article, I’m going to outline features, steps, and tech stack needed to build a video chat app.
Video Chat Apps Market Overview
Before we tell you how to make a video calling app, it would be wise to learn the market you want to enter. The market for video conferencing applications is a tidbit for many entrepreneurs due to its high prospects. The pandemic has given an unprecedented leap in the development of this market. According to analysts, the size of this market will reachby the end of 2030. This is a clear indication that companies are investing in developing their products, and new video conferencing applications are emerging.
However, if the market size isn't a compelling argument for you, here's another fact. The number of downloads of the most popular applications is currently breaking through its peak. For example, downloads of the popular Zoom app reachedin March 2020, up from a modest 2.1 million in January of the same year. The surge in demand is another reason why you need to jump on this trend-train with your own video conferencing solution.
What Are the Types of Video Chat Apps?
Building a video conferencing app without knowing all types of apps is not a great idea. Each type has its own purpose, and you must choose one of them. The main purpose of these apps is to stream a video from the user's front or back camera to others. Every app has it's target audience. It can be enterprises with their frequent meetings or general users looking for a simple way to communicate with friends and fight with boredom. You have to keep your target audience in mind to build a successful video chat app that satisfies user needs.
So, there are several types of video chat apps and user groups for whom they’re built for.
Three main types of video chat apps
This type is normally used for meetings involving many participants (around 500 users). Conferencing video chat apps can be used for business, work, and e-learning. The main advantage is the support for dozens of users participating in a conference at the same time.
It’s impossible to develop a video chat app for conferences without a superb video and audio quality. Besides, the app should automatically adjust audio and video bitrate quality according to the user's internet connection speed. But they may lack some other features. Skype is a well-known example. It has a solid mobile app, but a rather weak desktop version. Additional features like reactions and statuses leave much to be desired.
We can name several popular conferencing apps on the market to help you come up with ideas to build video conferencing application:
Zoom is a popular solution for those who want many participants on a call. With an enterprise plan, it can support up to 500 users per conference. However, a recent popularity growth revealed some serious security issues. It turned out that Zoom doesn’t use end-to-end encryption. While this issue exists, it’s recommended not to exchange any sensitive information via Zoom. On top of that, a free subscription provides conferences no longer than 40 minutes, which may not be enough.
For many, Skype is the first application that comes to mind when it comes to video conferencing. For 18 years now, this application has allowed users to call each other and communicate via voice and video, and every year this functionality is only getting better. Skype supports up to 50 participants in a conference, as well as all the familiar functions like screen sharing, raising hands, and much more.
Google Hangouts is Google's video-conferencing application that is part of their infrastructure for other office applications. The application is different from its counterparts since you can’t just call a user. You must set up a video conference and provide your colleagues with a link to connect. Using this method, you can add up to 25 people to a video conference. In addition, this application has synchronization with the popular Google Calendar.
Video Calling Apps
Some messengers have a video chat feature. Even though their main purpose is instant messaging, they still let users arrange conferences. Due to their availability, these applications have gained great popularity, and many use the video calling features to create small conferences. There are several famous video calling apps you should know about:
Even though WhatsApp is primarily a messenger, this application also can make video calls. The simplicity and friendliness of the interface made this application quite popular, and many users use the calling feature to keep in touch with their family and friends. However, WhatsApp has a limit of only 4 people per conference.
This is another representative of instant messengers that is an addition to the popular social network Facebook and allows users to send messages to each other and make calls. Online calls have a fairly simple set of functions and are limited to 8 people in a video conference.
FaceTime is Apple's pride, and you can find it on any Apple device since FaceTime is pre-installed by default. Even though this application is not a pioneer in video calling, it was with it that the popularization of video calling for mobile users began. In addition, the conference can be attended by up to 32 people at the same time, which is a large enough number for a mobile application.
How to build a video conferencing app that fights boredom? The final type on our list answers this question. It lets users chat while playing games, watching movies or videos, and so on. We can name few popular representatives of this app type:
This is a simple conferencing application that allows users to play various simple games during video calls like Pictionary, Heads Up! and Apples to Apples, and many others. In addition, there is a screen recording feature that will allow you to capture your game and emotions on video.
Discord is a full-fledged application for gamers that allows, in addition to creating discussion channels, arrange video conferences, stream various games, and much more. This application has various convenient quality-of-life features that make this application indispensable for gamers. For example, you can track which games your friends are playing in real-time.
During a pandemic, many of us most likely miss going to the movies with friends. Rave aims to fill that void by providing thousands of free movies for users to watch, and beyond that, you can invite your friends to a video conference and watch a movie together.
Top favorite video chat apps
How to Create a Video Chat App?
For now, you know all the main types of video chat apps.
However, there may be a situation when you need to integrate a video chat into a ready-made app. For example, telehealth apps can’t survive without video chat. If that’s your case, it’s better to contact a software development company and decide how to integrate this feature.
Now, it's time to find out the major development steps that guarantee a successful product launch.
Five major steps of video chat app development
Select the Team
To bring your project to life, you’ll need a software development team. You can hire an in-house team of developers or outsource your project companies to other countries.
If you’re aiming at long-term cooperation, an internal development team is your choice. With your own team, you can get face-to-face communication and completely control the video chat app development process. However, this approach requires you to rent an office, pay for hardware/software, and waste time on recruiting. On top of that, in-house developers usually charge way more than outsourcing teams especially talking about North America.
On the other hand, you can hire an outsourcing software development team. First of all, this strategy is attractive in its cost flexibility. The average developer rate in Eastern Europe (a popular outsourcing destination) is $50/hour, which is fairly cheaper than $150/hour in the US. Also, a huge talent pool allows you to find developers in no time. It saves team hiring time, so your project will be delivered faster. Even though you may face some communication issues, most companies arrange meetings at a suitable time for the client.
Popular outsourcing destinations
UI/UX design services come in the first place. If you’re aiming at a wide audience, your design should be minimalistic and intuitive. A UI with specific features may suit a particular audience. However, if it has a ton of buttons and menus, it’ll scare off the majority of users.
If you create a video call app for users of all ages and technical proficiency, make sure that it will be convenient for every single person.
4 steps to create an outstanding UI/UX design
Server logic is a foundation for video chat app development. There are several ways to build the backend. You can either build it from scratch or use various software as a service (SaaS) solutions, like PubNub. Building an app from scratch gives you more flexibility, while SaaS solutions will save you time.
We will discuss the tech stack for building a video conferencing app later on.
Video Streaming Protocol Integration
Transmitting a live video/audio via the app is possible due to the WebRTC (Real-Time Communication) protocol. WebRTC protocol provides features, like peering, streaming, audio/video codecs for communication between users. In simple words the server exchanges some data between the clients that are willing to connect to each other. That’s how they can start a direct connection, that is independent of the server.
On top of that, WebRTC is a secure protocol to create a video call app. This derives from the fact that software companies are building healthcare HIPAA compliant apps applying this protocol.
Make sure that every line of your code works as it should. Bugs can lead to audio-video desync, failures of some features, or even personal data leaks. That’s why quality assurance is so important. Of course, it’s unreal to launch an ideal product. Developers will fix issues after they get user feedback. Still, the fewer bugs are in the initial version the better user experience will be.
4 stages of software testing
Video Chat: MVP Features
To test the potential of your idea, it’s better to create a video call app MVP (Minimum Viable Product) first. A minimalistic set of features will help you understand what your product lacks and how to improve it. Let’s get through the basic features needed to develop a video chat app.
Vital features for video chat
The registration may be optional for users. For example, Zoom doesn’t require you to register. You may write your name right before joining the conference. However, it’ll be convenient for occasional users only.
Repeated name requests will irritate constant users. That's why it’s obligatory to develop a registration feature for engaging user experience. Also, registered users are more likely to enter your app again. Take care about logging in with third parties. Facebook Login and Google Sign-In will help you to implement this feature.
Skype sign in screen
It’s a vital feature you need to implement when building a video conferencing app. Registered users need to manage their personal data. Usually, it’ll be names, e-mails, passwords, and so on. If your app offers paid subscription plans, you have to take care of payment details. Popular app market platforms won’t let you use payment methods of your choice. Thus you have to integrate in-app purchase tools so that customers will pay with credit cards via the platform's payment system.
Obviously, you can’t build a video calling app without a contact list. There’s a couple of components that form a contact list. The first one is the search engine. Users should be able to find other people in the vastness of your app. It would be great if they could search both by nickname and real name.
Another component is integration with the user's phonebook. You can fill a contact list automatically by searching similar phone numbers in your system. However, make sure to ask permission to access the phonebook before using the numbers. Google Contacts API is the easiest way to import existing contacts into your app.
Skype contact list screen
Video and Voice Calls
A chief ingredient in video chat app development since you can’t create a video call app without calls. Apart from video calls, the app should have voice calls. Thus, users will be able to keep in touch with people abroad. Foreign calls are expensive in terms of internet traffic, so in-app voice calls are a cheaper alternative.
Obviously, the video should be transmitted in at least HD quality, and audio should be loud and clear. Of course, it’s not entirely in your hands, and quality depends on the bandwidth. Still, your responsibility is to optimize the real-time connection as best as possible.
One-to-one calls are good but not enough to create a video call app. Your users may want to organize group conferences, so let them do it. Depending on your audience, decide how many users per call should be supported.
If you’re aiming at businesses, support no less than 50 users. If your app is for everyday conversations with friends, 10 people per call will be enough. Develop some key features for conference hosts, like muting/unmuting users, inviting, and banning. But you have to mind an important thing. The more users you want to be in the conference the harder it will be to build a logic for the app. Thus, the cost of app development will increase.
A 4-user group call
Sometimes, it’s not an option to make a call. The user may be in an area with poor coverage or simply on a meeting. Text chat comes in handy here. To create a video call app with a text chat, you can use Twilio. This SDK contains primary instances needed for a chat, like users and messages. It’s a cross-platform SDK, so it allows engineers to reduce development time.
Discord channel chat screen
This is the type of encryption where devices of recipient and sender are a final transfer point. The message is encrypted on the sender’s device and decrypted only on the recipient’s device. Nobody can read this message when it’s being sent. So, add this feature to ensure that all conversations will be confidential.
Protocols like AES-256 and HMAC-SHA256 will help you to make a video chat app secure. They split the data into 256 bits long blocks. Then these blocks are encrypted, transmitted to the destination point, and decrypted on the side of the recipient.
A simple feature you shouldn’t neglect when building a video conferencing app. The app will automatically notify users about new messages in the chat, missed calls, keep them informed about new updates, and more. Third-party tools like Firebase Cloud Messaging or Apple Push Notification service will help you improve user engagement with minimum efforts.
Push notifications by Discord
As you can see, the development per one platform requires 968 hours and $48,400. However, the development process for the second platform will take 653 hours and $32,650 because you already have a backend.
Video Chat App: Advanced Features
Features listed below are totally necessary to build a video calling app but aren’t enough to build a product that stands out. Features covered in this section are the best bet for any video chat app.
Top favorite advanced features of video chat app
This feature is a must-have for any online conferencing app. It’s used to illustrate the contents of your screen without irritating anyone. Screen sharing is useful for tutorials, streaming games, or even watching movies together. It can be used both in business conferencing apps and in apps for everyday conversation. Screen sharing can be implemented into your app with the help of the WebRTC protocol.
Virtual Noise Cancellation
It’s vital to add this feature when you build a video calling app. Sometimes background noise is ruining the whole conversation. Someone watches TV loudly, or kids are playing in the backyard. Noise cancellation may come in handy in this case. With the help of deep learning algorithms, engineers can separate a user's voice from the background and suppress the background sounds with white noise.
This approach is complicated and requires a lot of development time. But no need to worry, there are some turn-key solutions on the market. For example, Krisp, an AI that helps you to create a video call app with noise cancellation. It can be integrated into any conversational app on any platform. It cancels the noise on both sides of the conversation. A lot of famous apps trust this solution. For example, Discord recently integrated Krisp into their app.
Custom Emojis and Stickers
How to create a video chat app that is personalized for users? Let them create custom emojis and stickers. Sometimes default in-app stickers may seem boring, and users take matters in their own hands. It’s a common practice among messengers and chatting apps. Users often have their local jokes, and they want to move them into chats. So, a custom sticker pack is a great chance to share their sense of humor with others.
Main tools for the development of advanced features
Video Сhat App Development Cost
So we looked at how to make a video calling app and listed all the features you can add to your video-conferencing application. It's time to calculate the approximate cost of developing this type of application.
This estimate is APPROXIMATE and includes DEVELOPMENT EXPENSES ONLY. To develop your application, you will also need a team of designers, QA engineers, PMs, and other specialists who form the backbone of the development team. Their services are priced separately and are NOT INCLUDED in this estimate. Besides that, this estimate is for SINGLE PLATFORM ONLY.
|Feature||Approximate development time (hours)||Approximate cost ($)|
End to end ecryption
Video Chat App Technical Stack
How to make a video calling app? You have to decide on the tools you will be using during the development. There's a vast range of technologies used in mobile app development, but I’ve tried to outline the most important ones that are used to create a video chat app.
Remember: this tech stack is APPROXIMATE and depends on the features you need. It’s always better to discuss the tools with an experienced app development company.
To develop an application for different platforms, you need your own programming languages. For example, to build a video calling app for iOS, you should use Swift since it is the only language for creating applications for iOS (not counting Objective-C). On the other hand, for development for Android or Web, it is best to use the two most popular languages on this platform: Kotlin and Java.
No development can do without frameworks. So Spark and Node.js are ideal choices for developing video conferencing applications. Spark is a handy framework for building Java web applications, while Node.js is perfect for creating video conferencing applications, as it allows you to send data in small chunks and increase performance.
To create a video call app database where various data will be entered, such as usernames, their accounts, and other things, it is worth using time-tested tools like MySQL and Oracle.
If you want to host the power of your video conferencing application in the cloud, two of the most popular tools on the market are ideal: Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3.
Processing, buffering, and transmission of video requires implementing various protocols that allow you to broadcast the picture in real-time. For example, you can use the free WebRTC protocol, connect it with the RTP traffic transfer protocol, and add the RTMP webcam video transfer protocol.
To ensure protection from broadcast interception, the data that is transmitted must be well encrypted. To do this, developers use encryption protocols such as the standard AES-256 and the HMAC-SHA256 data integrity check algorithm.
API & SDK
To facilitate development, you can also use ready-made tools. In order to create a video call app you can use the famous Twilio API. This tool provides out-of-the-box technologies and enables web services to leverage existing web programming languages and skills to create voice and video calling applications.
This category includes additional tools that help improve the overall functionality and quality of the video-conferencing application. For example, Krisp is an AI-powered app that removes background noise and echoes from meetings. PubNub allows you to create a real-time chat for your video conference, while OpenTokRTC is a tool for deploying an application to a server running on the WebRTC protocol.
Technologies that are used in the majority of video chat apps
Video Chat App Monetization Strategies
One of the most important questions — how to make a video calling app that earns money? Investors love products that already generate income, while you’ll need funds to continue with product development.
There are four main ways to make your app earn money. Let’s go through all of them.
Four ways to earn revenue of video chat app
This one is a kind of secondary option for a video chat app. The reason is that advertisements suit more to video streaming apps, because commercials can be integrated right in the middle of the video. In the case of video chat app development, you can’t integrate the ads during the call.
Instead, you can display small promotional banners during the whole conversation. Also, you can place unskippable ads at the end of the call, but that can be annoying, so don’t overuse it. The income of the listed options is not that high compared to video streaming services, but it still has the right to live.
It’s obvious that basic features like video calls should be free. However, you can set some limitations on time or number of participants.
For example, Zoom provides free conferences up to 40 minutes long and 100 participants. If users need longer conferences, they have to pay $14,99/month to get 24 hours long conversation. The plan that costs $19,99/month increases the simultaneous amount of users up to 300.
How to create a video conferencing application feature that gets revenue and entertains users? Create paid stickers.
Everyone likes funny and creative stickers. So, hire additional designers that will focus on this task. Users will be glad to pay a reasonable sum for quality stickers with a good idea. For example, in Discord, you can buy exclusive sticker packs made by developers. Users can buy these packs to use in their chats to make their conversations more funny and colorful.
Monetization strategies that well-known video chat apps use
Our software development team has considerable experience with streaming applications.
We’ve recently updated Blockbuster — a video streaming app.
Blockbuster was an iconic video and gaming rental company in the US. Some time later, a top-tier Danish provider purchased it's brand rights and launched a streaming platform for Nordic countries. We were updating the mobile version of Blockbuster on both platforms.
Blockbuster video streaming app
During the development, we used the following technologies:
- Mobile/Tablet: Kotlin for Android and Swift for iOS development
- Authorization: Facebook Login
- TV streaming: Google Cast SDK
- Video analytics: Youbora
- Libraries for Amazon Web Services: Apollo, CloudFront, Lambda, Elastic Beanstalk, GraphQL, AWSAppSync
Cleveroad is an experienced end-to-end team developing custom software for businesses of various sizes. Our development process will guide your application from an initial idea to a full-fledged working product created with the latest technologies,, and that will benefit your business.
Video chat app should necessarily have following features:
- Profile management
- Contact list
- Video and voice calls
- Group calls
- Text chat
- End-to-end ecnryption
- Push notifications
To make a video chat app you have to develop an attractive design, reliable backend logic, integrate video streaming protocols, and perform overall testing of your app.
Basically, most of technologies for video streaming are the same for both platforms. Still, for Android, you'll have to use Kotlin or Java programing language. Also, you'll have to apply tools for in-app payments provided by Google Play. If you'll decide to import contacts to your app, you'll have to integrate Google Contacts API.
Here's basic stack of technologies used in video chat apps:
- Amazon EC2
- Amazon S3
API & SDK:
The majority of video chat app development tools are crossplatform. Still, some technologies differ. For example, you'll have to use Swift on iOS instead of Kotlin or Java on Android. As for the payment system, you'll have to apply the tools provided by the App Store.
To build a video chat app you have to come up with idea. Decide what type of video chat app you want to create. Conferencing app for businesses, video calling app for everyday conversations, or app for entertainment. When you have a clear idea, contact a software development company to get an explanation on features and estimate of your project.
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Great article! Wondering what's the ongoing costs would look like?