Do you want to know how to make a chat app that will rival WhatsApp or Telegram? This question often arises among business owners who decide to pursue the idea of developing a messenger app.

Messengers have become an integral part of our lives and edged out other means of communication. While a decade ago we could not imagine our lives without phone calls, now we cannot imagine it without messaging apps.

Due to the popularity of chat apps, we often receive inquiries about how to make a messaging app. This article covers the main aspects of chat app creation. Read on to learn all the steps of the development process:

  • why it still makes sense to create chat apps
  • standard and additional features of the best chat apps
  • technology stack needed to create chat app
  • costs required to develop a messaging app

Market State: Is There Still the Potential to Create a Chat App?

Before we proceed to the part on how to make a messaging app, let’s take a look at some of the best chat apps that could become your competitors, as well as related statistics like messaging apps market share.

The Most Popular Chat Apps by Country
The Most Popular Chat Apps by Country

  • Smartphone adoption is increasing and there is evidence it will continue doing so in the future. The adoption of smartphones will grow from 60% in 2018 to 79% in 2026 all over the world.

  • Chat apps will keep up with this overall growth. The market for messenger apps is thriving now and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. By 2025, four out of five mobile connections will be made with a smartphone.

  • While Facebook Messenger is leading the game as the most downloaded app, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world with 1.6 billion monthly users.

  • Almost 50% of all smartphone users use apps mostly for communication with friends and acquaintances.

  • Another interesting statistic about messaging apps is the revenue a company can get from a single user. By 2020, the average revenue per user is expected to exceed $15. This growth will be driven by the evolution of purchasing in messenger apps.

The numbers prove that the messaging apps market share will continue to grow and that there is still room for new messenger apps.

Below you can see the most popular chat apps as of right now based on the number of monthly active users.

Messenger application Number of active monthly users
WhatsApp 1.6 billion
Facebook Messenger 1.3 billion
WeChat 1 billion
QQ Mobile 823 million
Snapchat 293 million
Viber 260 million
Discord 250 million
Telegram 200 million

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How to Make a Messaging App: Feature-Set

The creation of a new mobile chat app is a complex process that is comprised of different steps. Just before we move on to the overview of the main chat app features, let’s first answer another pressing question.

How does a chat app work? If you look at WhatsApp, this instant messaging app allows for the exchange of text, video, or audio messages between two users or multiple users within a group chat app. The application uses Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). This protocol is fully decentralized, which makes WhatsApp highly secure.

Below, you can find more information on features that make up the base of the most popular chat apps. You will find out how to create a chat application like WhatsApp and which features should be added to make secure chatting apps.

Must-Have Functionality to Create a Chat App

Just like with any other type of app, you can create a chat app with a basic set of features.

Want to know how to make a messaging app in the simplest way? It is possible to first create a basic new chat app and include the following functionality.

1. Authorization

To describe the process of how to make a chat app, one should start at the beginning – authorization. There are a few types of sign up features you can offer in an application like authorization via social media, phone number, or email.

It is possible to create a chat app that supports one type of authorization. However, it is much wiser to not limit users to a single method of authorization. It might be a better idea to create a chat app that supports all of the above options and allows users to choose the one that is the most suitable for them.

2. Contact importing

In case you are wondering how to make a messaging app that will not annoy users, you should include this feature. The import of contacts should be automatic and behind-the-scenes. You can create a chat app that will scan all contacts in the contact book and import them to the server.

An additional feature to consider when finding the best methods for how to make a chat app is to let users see who from their contacts has already been using the instant messaging app and with whom they can get in touch through the app. Developers can also enable users to import contacts from their social media accounts and look for other users.

3. Messaging

There is no doubt that you cannot create a texting app without this feature, which is the core of any messenger application. Implementation of the messaging feature depends on the type of architecture you decide to use.

Server-Based Chat App vs Client-Server Messenger Application
Server-Based Chat App vs Client-Server Messenger Application

  • A server-based chatting app stores all messages on a server. If you decide to create a chat app of this type, all the interactions between users and the server should happen via the HTTPS protocol and be encrypted with an SSL certificate. The task is not only to build a chat app, but to create one that will belong to those that are considered secure chatting apps.

  • As these applications require interaction with a server, it is necessary to bring the pulling interval to the minimum – preferably 1-2 seconds. This is one of the methods of how to make a messaging app that will allow instant messaging between users. These applications can also have an additional layer of protection and utilize cryptography to encrypt all messages that a server sends to the recipient.

  • Client-side messenger apps do not utilize servers to store messages. When a user sends a message, it is authenticated by the central server and encrypted by an asymmetric cryptography algorithm, which is often called public-key cryptography. The message is delivered to the recipient via a wireless mesh network.

4. Media file sharing

When you think about how to make a chat app that users will love, consider adding this option. File sharing features allow users to exchange documents, images, videos, and other types of content with others. This feature can be implemented in two ways: either by letting users send content from the gallery or internal storage, or by letting them take photos or videos from the app and immediately send the captured moments to friends.

The above list of features is a must-have for any basic online chatting app. There are also messengers enhanced features that should be included to create a chat app with advanced possibilities.

Chat App Features to Stand Out

How to Make a Messaging App: Advanced Features
How to Make a Messaging App: Advanced Features

If you are seriously considering the development of a messenger and want to know how to make a chat app that will stand out among competitors, think about including the features below.

  • Video calls

When you are considering how to make a chat app that will be highly interactive, take a look at the best chat apps. They all have one thing in common – the support of video calls. These video messaging apps enable visual communication between users that can be based on the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

  • Channels and groups

At the first stage in their evolution, many of the most popular chat apps offered only one-to-one communication. Now, all of the top names including WhatsApp, Telegram, and Viber support the creation of communities. Channels and groups became a new place for communication and encouraged users to share their passions, their thoughts, and to discuss interesting topics.

  • Encrypted communication

Secret chats, which are a signature feature of Telegram, store encryption keys on users’ devices and messages can only be deciphered with smartphones. Other messengers’ enhanced features include a notification about screenshots being taken so that it is impossible to forward messages from a secret chat to outside users.

If you want to know how to make a messaging app that will be up to users’ expectations, think about secret chats as an advanced feature.

  • Self-destructing messages

There is no doubt that Snapchat clearly knows how to make a messaging app with unique features. Users love its self-destructing messages because of the enhanced privacy that this provides. Users have more control over their personal data and can be sure that after a certain amount of time it will vanish from the app.

  • On-schedule messages

Have you ever forgotten to send an important message that you needed to send in the morning? There millions of other users who have experienced the same scenario. Scheduled messages are a secret to how to make a messaging app that will be very useful.

  • Chatbots

Chatbots are a great solution to use for a business chat app. They allow predefined answers to be set for typical questions and messages. This is also one of the ways that can help you monetize your messenger if businesses decide to use it in their operations.

  • Invisible Ink

Want to know how to make a messaging app that will amaze people? Researchers from Columbia University know the answer to this question- they have created a new feature called Invisible Ink. Invisible Ink uses the message-in-a-message approach and helps to hide the true meaning of messages. These messages can then only be deciphered with the smartphone’s camera and only by those who have the decryption code.

  • Stickers

Stickers are a nice addition to the standard set of features. With their help, users can add emotions to their communication. Viber has gone even further and allowed users to add their own sticker packs. Users can add a unique touch to every message they send.

  • Games

In-app games are the answer to the question of how to make a messaging app with a high level of user engagement. A bright example of this solution is Like messenger where users can play games without leaving the product.

If you are looking for a simple solution for how to make a messaging app that users will love, there is no silver bullet. It might be best to not duplicate the features of the top chatting apps, but to try to create a unique user experience and offer exclusive features that will appeal to users.

How to Make a Chat App: Vital Considerations & Tech Stack

The tech stack that is available also influences how to make a messaging app and which features you can build. Let’s investigate which technologies can help you make a chat app that users will fall in love from the first use.

1. Security

Security features are a vital consideration when you create a chat app. There are a few methods of how to make a messaging app with a superior level of security.

The first great example of security is the WhatsApp messaging application. In order to create a chat app that will not jeopardize the privacy of users, WhatsApp partnered with Open Whispers systems. This partnership helped the company build an end-to-end encryption system that secures all communication happening inside the app. Not even WhatsApp can decrypt the messages that are sent via the app. This is one of the possible solutions for how to make a chat app with the encryption protocol of a third-party provider.

Telegram is another example of how to make a messaging app with superior security. Unlike its competitor, Telegram uses its own in-house encryption protocol. Cryptographic keys are changed every week or after users have sent a certain number of messages. Even if one message is intercepted, it cannot be used to decrypt all the other messages.

Want to learn more about the creation of highly secure messaging apps?

We recommend that you take to look at the article Signal Messenger App: Tips on Making a Solution for Secure Communication. Learn about the process and some example of the most secure solutions for online communication.

2. Well-planned back-end

In the first stages of chat app development, the architecture of the solution should be planned and implemented. When you create a chat app, you need to understand that the application will need to process and store a lot of data including text messages, videos, images, and files of different types.

The key functionality of a messaging app, or the back-end, involves infrastructure like RESTful API, databases, storage servers, messaging protocols like XMPP, notification services, etc.

3. Push notifications

Want to know how to make a messaging app that users will enjoy navigating? Notification can help you convert one-time users into some of your most dedicated. When you create a chat app, think about push notifications as a must for your solution. If you are wondering how to make a chat app with this feature, take a look at the Firebase Cloud Messaging technology for Android and for Firebase, or Apple Push Notifications for iOS.

4. Integration of geolocation

Why would a messenger need location tracing? The answer is simple – for the convenience of users. With CLLocationManager Class for an iOS messaging app, and android.location package for messenger apps for Android, you can enable users to share their location, or the locations of stores and restaurants they have visited, etc.

Telegram utilized geolocation tracking to help users to build a route to the destination they had been sent in a message.

5. Cloud

Cloud synchronization is one of the ways to make your app different from competitors. With cloud synchronization, all records including text messages, videos, and other media files are synchronized between different devices. What’s more, if a user loses a device and wants to retrieve their data, it is possible with cloud syncing. If you want to know how to make a chat app that will be different from WhatsApp or Viber, this is your biggest clue.

6. Native or cross-platform app

The first step for you is to decide whether you want to create a native app or one that is hybrid. It might seem like a great idea to create a hybrid solution, but, in reality, it is far from that. Native applications provide flawless performance and a better user experience, and allow for the addition of sophisticated features. On the other hand, hybrid apps are limited in terms of functionality and cannot ensure smooth performance on all devices.

Want to know more about why native apps are better than hybrid?

Take a look at the article Native App Development vs. Hybrid and Web App Building and the head-to-head comparison of different types of applications.

If you are really interested in figuring out how to make a chat app that will attract many users, create an application that is available on different operating systems and devices. Think beyond iOS and Android and create a web version too.

How to Make a Messaging App: Cost & Timeline

Now that you know how to make a messaging app and which features to include, it is time to move on to another important aspect of app development – cost. Many factors influence the final prices of the app development process, including design, features, the development company you hire, the number of supported operating systems, etc.

How much does it cost to build an app like WhatsApp? Depending on the project size, number of supported platforms, features and design, the cost may start at ~$50,000-$80,000 and exceed $240,000. It might not be a good idea to copy an existing application, as a chat app like this will not be able to attract customers. The better solution is to create a new app with unique features that will be different from WhatsApp or any other existing messenger.

So, how much does it cost to make a messaging app? The following information table will help you decide how to make a messaging app within your budget.

Development of the first app version (basic features) Development of a medium app version (some additional features, more complex design) Development of a complex app (complex features and design)
Development cost ~$50,000-$80,000 ~$100,000+ ~$240,000+
Timeline ~3-5 months ~6-9 months 9+ months (ongoing development & support)

A number of factors influence the final app development cost and timeline. At MLSDev, the development process is divided into the discovery and development stages.

Discovery stage consists of the following steps:

  • business analysis
  • UX/UI design
  • software architecture building
  • project management
  • team review

Development stage has the following steps:

  • early planning
  • development
  • QA and testing
  • project management
  • team review

Are you interested in knowing all the aspects that influence app development cost?

Check out the article App Development Cost: Understand Your Budget to Build Powerful Apps where we have highlighted the main influential factors and described how you can calculate a budget for app creation.

Your task is to create a messaging app that will have a high return on investment (ROI). It is important to conduct thorough market research and develop a business strategy with possible monetization options.

Business Model Canvas For Messaging Apps: WhatsApp Example
Business Model Canvas For Messaging Apps: WhatsApp Example

A thought-out monetization approach will be able to return expenses on app development. The expenses of web development can be returned with a well-thought-out monetization strategy. There are a few methods for how to make a messaging app that will bring in money. The most popular monetization strategies include:

  • subscription fee
  • advertising
  • in-app purchases
  • sponsorship

Interested in knowing more about how to make a messaging app that can make money?

Take a look at the article How Do Free Apps Make Money and learn about the best ways to monetize a free application.

How to Create a Chat App in 10 Simple Steps

Want to know how to make a messaging app? The following is a list of ten steps you need to accomplish in order to create a chatting app and ensure its successful launch.

  1. Conduct a comprehensive analysis of the market and your competitors
  2. Identify a unique selling proposition and some specifics of your app
  3. Define your business goals and expectations
  4. Choose and hire an experienced and reliable software development vendor
  5. Make a list of the app’s features for the first version and another for the fully-fledged product
  6. Create a user-friendly chat app UX/UI design
  7. Be prepared to become deeply involved in the chat app development process
  8. Plan and launch a marketing strategy
  9. Test, deploy, and launch the messenger to app stores and your target market
  10. Connect with app users, collect feedback, and plan further app scaling and product evolution

This is a general overview that describes how to make a messaging app. We should note that the process can be tweaked in accordance with your requirements and timeframe. This gives the full picture of how to make a chat app and it is recommended that you go through all the steps before launching your app on the market.

Do you want to create chat app that users will fall in love with?

Reach out to our team for a consultation and get a free quote for your custom messaging app. At MLSDev, we know how to make a messaging app from scratch.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Is there still a demand for a chat app?
Smartphone adoption is increasing from 60% in 2018 to 79% in 2026 and it will continue doing so in the future all over the world. Chat apps will keep up with this overall growth. The market for messenger apps is thriving. By 2025, four out of five mobile connections will be made with a smartphone.
How does a chat app work?
If you look at WhatsApp, this instant messaging app allows for the exchange of text, video, or audio messages between two users or multiple users within a group chat app. The application uses Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), which is fully decentralized making WhatsApp highly secure.
What features can help stand out with a new chat app?
Logically all possible functionality for communication should be covered in a messaging app with features of video & audio calls and encrypted communication. Also, the possibility to create groups and channels allows users to share their ideas and jump into discussions. Features like self-destructing on-schedule messages as well as invisible ink, custom sticker packs, games will help amaze chat app users.
How much time does it take to create a messaging app?
It takes around 3-6 months to develop the first version of a messaging app. This includes client front-end development on one platform, back-end development as well as a basic admin panel. In case you want to build a fully-fledged chat app, the timeline extends to 8-10 months or more.