Messaging apps have certainly changed the way we communicate. They gave us an opportunity to deliver messages to our friends and relatives in a flash. The popularity of messengers like WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, and others has forced tech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts to think over how to create a messenger app of their own.
How to Create a Messaging App: Valuable Insights You Need to Know
If you're thinking to create an instant messaging app and kick off a startup company, we have a plethora of valuable information for you. Our software engineering team helped create messenger apps for clients from all over the globe and we want to share this experience with you.
In this article, we consider must-have messenger app features as well as provide an easy-to-understand technical instruction (suitable for non-technical founders) on how to make a chat app.
In-Depth Market Analysis: Is It a Good Idea to Create a Chat App?
If you want to make a chat app of your own as successful as WhatsApp or any other popular messenger, you should first understand how many people use them, why, how much time they spend there, and identify the main competitors. All this data might help you in making informed decisions in the future.
- No hold times
- Provides records of a chat
- Easy to multitask
- Can use at work
As for the time, users spend 10 minutes per day with messaging apps on average.
Discover the development cost of your messaging app with the help of our calculator. Underneath, you may also watch our video review of the top 3 mobile app cost calculators
3 Mobile App Cost Calculators: Finding the Perfect One
According to On Device Research, users from different parts of the world have at least two messengers installed on their smartphones.
The number of messaging apps that users from different countries install on their devices on average (Source: On Device Research)
Finally, you should be aware of your competitors if you want to create a messaging app. Underneath, I attach the table with messengers ranked by their popularity.
|Messaging app||Monthly active users in millions|
Diving deeper into the market research, you will discover hundreds more of messaging apps you're going to rival with. This means that a competition in this niche is really high and you'll have to put a lot of efforts to stand out and conquer users' attention.
Nevertheless, the market always offers a chance for breakthrough and interesting products. So your main task is to make sure the messaging app you create at least falls under one of these criteria.
Let's move on and define how to make your own messenger app.
Messenger App Development: Functionality
To understand how to make a messaging app, you should define the functionality implement. Functionally and in-app content (like stickers) are the most powerful motivators for any user.
This means to make your own chat app and succeed, you should pick the relevant set of features. Fortunately, we selected the most demanded ones and divided them into categories: basic and additional. This way, you can create the messaging app's MVP and then complement it with additional features as you scale.
Basic Features to Create a Messaging App
Let's start right off the features that are a perfect fit for the messaging app's MVP.
Answering the question of how to create a chat application, it's better to start with the very beginning -- authorization. Typically, messengers offer several ways to sign up:
- Phone number
- Social media account
Look at these registration options of popular messengers and pick the most suitable one to create your own messaging app
Many apps have social media signup (e.g. Tinder-like apps). It'd be a good idea to add it to your messenger. To create instant messaging app that has an option of registering via social network or email, your mobile developers can make use of open authorization protocol (e.g. OAuth) or direct interaction with the client-server API.
For registration via the phone number, it's usually required to build a mechanism that interacts with a client side of the application and OS on which the device runs on. This way, the client side will be able to read the confirmation SMS that was sent by the server side in response to the request.
2. Importing Contacts
For the sake of good user experience, all the contacts should be imported in messenger automatically. Mobile developers can create chat application that will scan all the contacts in the contact book and send them to the server.
It's also a good idea to let users see who else from their contact book have is using your messenger and whom they can message right now. To implement this, developers may build a mechanism comparing user's contacts with records in the app's database. If the match is found, the app marks those users on the client-side.
The access to the contact book isn't necessary if the messaging app doesn't provide for registration via phone number. In this case, you can allow users searching for their friends and relatives by various parameters like login, email, and others.
You can also encourage existing users to send invites to their friends as Telegram does. This is a pretty important feature to consider when you create a chat app.
Think about the invitation feature if you create messenger app. Here is how it works on Telegram
3. Instant Messaging
No doubts, this is the core feature for messenger development. It can be implemented in several ways. The main difference between those ways lies in the data transmission method. In the first case, the messages are passed through the server, in the second -- from user-to-user.
If to apply the first method for chat app development, the messages will be stored on a server. Correspondingly, the interaction between users and server will happen via the HTTPS protocol with SSL cryptography. In order to make a chat app supporting the real-time messaging, it's necessary to reduce the polling interval to the minimum possible. (1-2 seconds). This method may also include additional cryptography (when a message from the server goes to the recipient in an encrypted form).
How to make a messaging app: Scheme of data transferring
The second method implies that messages aren't stored on the server. The only authentication is done by the central server. After that, each message is encrypted by asymmetric cryptography algorithm (public-key cryptography) and is delivered to the recipient through the wireless mesh network.
Make a chat app: Scheme of passing messages without involving a server
If you want to create a messaging app with the video chat, it's necessary to select video and audio codecs that'll contribute to good quality of video even at the minimum flow (Internet speed). The quality of video and audio should be able to change as the call goes in case the Internet speed decreases.
You should also think of the way the video is going to be transferred. It can be done either via the server or from user to user. The second variant can fit better as you won't overload your servers.
3. File Sharing
How to create a messaging app that would succeed? One of the answers to this question lies in the following: let users share their documents, photos, videos, and any other relevant content.
To make a chat app with file sharing capabilities, developers can use specific APIs as well as pass the data to servers with the help of SOAP and RESTful APIs.
This feature should enable users doing the following: send already existing files (e.g. photos and videos from the gallery) and take photos and videos directly from the app to let users capture the moment and send it to a friend immediately.
How to make a messenger app with file sharing: How it works on Telegram
4. Tracking Location
CLLocationManager Class (iOS) and android.location package (Android) classes can be used to create a messaging app with the support for geolocation tracking.
Why is it for? Users can share their location with friends to find each other or just show where a store, office, parking or whatever is located. For example, in Telegram, a user to whom a location was sent can build a route from current to the final point.
How to make a messaging app that tracks location: How it works on Telegram
Taking into consideration the increasing incidents of stealing personal data, the robust encryption is a must for any app. If you want to create instant messaging app, you have to guarantee the security for users' personal data.
The latest surveys show that 62% of U.S. citizens are worried about hacker attacks. That's why you'll need security and compliance specialists for chat application development.
Turning back to the example of Telegram chat app features, it has two encryption types:
- Cloud Messages. This type is a standard encryption method.
- Secret Chats. When the user enables the secret chat mode, the app encrypts their messages in a completely different way -- end-to-end. All the messages users send to each other in the Secret Chat can be deciphered only with the help of their smartphones. There are several more security features like the ban for forwarding messages to someone outside the secret chat, notifications about taking screenshots of a chat, etc.
Security features are really important nowadays. I assure you that every person wants to feel safe when using such a personal thing as a messenger. That's why to create a successful chat app, you should pack your product with a bunch of security and data privacy features.
Additional Features to Create a Messaging App
Above, we've already considered how to create a messenger app with a basic set of features. It's high time to dive deeper and learn several additional features you can make use of to create your own messaging app.
1. In-App Voice and Video Calls
Even though the main idea of messengers is texting, most users would love to communicate using other available means. There are several options you can offer in the app:
- Voice calls and messages. You can create an instant messenger app with the support for voice communication. Let users record voice messages or call other users in a real-time at no charge.
- Video calls and messages. The same thing with video. Add the support for video calls, messages or both.
- Group video calls. This feature is much harder to implement due to technical difficulties. However, as practice shows, users love this feature and if your budget is enough to cover it's development -- go for it.
How to create a messenger app with a group video chat? First, your software development team should select appropriate codecs. Also, they should think of the ways how for gathering video streams and distributing them among each participant. Note that every of X chat participants transfer Y bytes per second. In case the server gives video and audio streams for and from each participant, the channel might quickly go down. In addition, users that participate in this group video chat will spend a lot of internet traffic.
Streaming features are pretty complex by their nature, so it may take a lot of time to implement them.
How to make a chat app with group video features: Group video calls on Facebook Messenger
WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram and many other popular messengers allow their users creating and joining various communities inside the messenger. They are created to encourage like-minded people to discuss various topics or just get the latest news.
3. Self-Destructing Messages
I suppose that the purpose of this feature is clearly understood from it's name. The practice of Snapchat shows that self-destructing messages and media files through are very popular. The decision to make a chat application with this feature under the hood will give users more control over their personal data and, in turn, enhance the privacy options.
For example, the Wickr app makes recovery of self-destructing messages impossible even with the help of specialized software.
What Else is Needed to Make Your Own Chat App?
We've already considered basic and additional features you can use to create a messaging app. However, there are two more things needed to make a successful chat app: availability across the main platforms and synchronization with the cloud.
Availability Across Multiple Platforms
The ability to use applications on different operating systems offers ample opportunities to attract new customers. If you want to create instant messaging app, you should think not only about the iOS and Android app but create the web version as well.
All popular messengers like Telegram, Viber, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger have a web version.
This feature allows synchronizing the chat records including text messages and media files. This feature may become your competitive advantage over competitors like Viber and WhatsApp. The latter at least provides a synchronization option with the help of Google Drive or iCloud, while Viber doesn't have it at all.
So, if you want to make a messaging app, it's a good idea to add the synchronizing opportunity since it makes the overall user experience better.
Let's sum it up with the checklist of features.
To create a messaging app like WhatsApp or other you'll need the following basic features:
- Import contacts
- Instant messaging
- File sharing
- Tracking location
- Robust encryption
If you want to create a chat app full of features from the start, you may also consider the following features:
- In-app voice and video calls
- Voice and video messages
- Group video chat
- Self-destructing messages
- Cloud synchronization
- Presence on multiple platforms
- Possibility of creating stickers
- Scheduling of messages
Let’s now consider technology stack that can be used to create a messaging application. It may vary depending on project complexity and your requirements towards the app’s functionality.
- Programming language — Kotlin
- Networking — Retrofit 2, OkHttp 3
- Database — Room, Anko SQLite
- JSON parsing — Gson, Jackson
- Image caching — Glide
- Programming language — Swift
- Networking — Alamofire
- Framework — Express 4
- Database — MySQL
- API documentation — Swagger
- Infrastructure — AWS
- Storage — Amazon S3
- Real-time engine — Socket.io
- SMS — Twilio
- Emails — Elastic Email
- Push notifications for iOS — APNS
- Push notifications for Android — FCM
How to Make Money With Your Chat App?
Of course, if you create your own messenger app, you should think how to monetize it to keep your company afloat and offer even more features to users in the future.
For instance, WhatsApp was initially using a subscription model. Users were billed $0,99 annually. Later, the company refused from this model and shifted to building communications between users and businesses/organizations they want to hear from.
Underneath we've listed several ways you can monetize your own messaging app:
- Advertisement. The main rule for this monetization method is not to overload your chat app with ads. Users should feel comfortable when using the application. Ads shouldn't be too annoying and take much space on the screen.
- In-app purchases. You can make a profit by providing users with the ability to buy extra content like sticker packs, themes, games, chatbots, etc.
- Subscription. You can add a subscription fee with the help of which users will be able to access premium features like making in-app calls, calling to ordinary phone numbers (e.g. Viber Out), turning off ads, etc.
Remember that the subscription model is rather a good pick for apps with a large user base. It'll be extremely hard for a recently-released app to compete with dozens of other big players in the market that are distributed at no charge.
How to create a messaging app with an appropriate monetization strategy
How Much Time and Money Will It Take to Create Your Own Messenger App?
|Type of work||Development time (min)||Development time (max)|
UI/UX design (one platform)
The estimate you see above is approximate and made based on the basic set of features that were previously described in the article. The technical complexity of additional features makes it really hard to estimate them without knowing any project details. The number of hours may change depending on your requirements.
The total number of hours includes:
- iOS app development;
- Android app development;
- Back-end development;
- UI/UX design for each platform.
If you want to get a price in cash equivalent, you should multiply those numbers by an hourly rate of your in-house developers or the software company you're working with.
Taking our company's hourly rate ($50/h) as an example, we will get the following sums:
|Type of work||Price in $ (min)||Price in $ (max)|
$28,900 (578 hrs)
$42,600 (852 hrs)
$28,900 (578 hrs)
$42,600 (852 hrs)
$26,200 (524 hrs)
$38,400 (768 hrs)
UI/UX design (one platform)
$3,000 (60 hrs)
$4,000 (80 hrs)
$90,000 (1800 hrs)
$131,600 (2632 hrs)
How to Create a Chat App [Final Checklist]
- Step 1. Research the market.
- Step 2. Define the competitors of your instant messaging app.
- Step 3. Select relevant features to make a chat app.
- Step 4. Pick the first platform(s) to create a chat app for.
- Step 5. Think through the monetization strategy for your instant messaging app.
- Step 6. Write your thoughts down.
- Step 7. Decide on features for the app's MVP.
- Step 8. Find and hire a reliable developer or software development company.
- Step 9. Share your vision with them.
- Step 10. Work on your messaging app together to achieve better results.
- Step 11. Draw up a marketing strategy and launch it before the app's release.
- Step 12. Publish the app.
- Step 13. Maintain it and continue gradually adding new features.
You may use this short checklist to be sure not to forget anything when you'll decide to create a messaging app of your own.
As you see, there are dozens of factors to consider as well as a lot of features to implement. The way your own messaging app will look like is only limited to your imagination.
However, you have to find reliable developers or hire an experienced software development company to build your ideas. Having an extensive experience of working with instant messaging application development, our engineering team is ready to help you!
So, if you are searching for a dedicated team of professionals to create your own messaging app -- contact our managers to get your free consultation and custom project estimate.
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Before you go, you can also watch another video from our team that may be of interest to you.
How Much Does It Cost to Create an App Like Snapchat?
Use our app cost calculator to find out the approximate time and cost of developing a messaging application.