How Much Does it Cost to Build a Video Chat app Like WeChat?

It’s the modern age – the age of digital life and online communication. And right now all we need to do to reach a dear friend or a relative who’s somewhere on the other side of the world any time of the day, is to push some buttons of our iPhones or Smartphones. And I’m talking not just about the standard mobile call, I’m talking about instant messages and video calls.

All of us like it free or at least as cheap as possible that’s why we use the Internet and are driven to install special mobile apps. We have every needed service just in our hands – the endless possibilities, so much potential and a chance to become rich.

First and most important, video chat apps offer convenience and ability to talk to someone else face-to-face. Yes, you can communicate by voice calls, texts, e-mails, mails etc. But none of these can compare or substitute that incredible feeling when you see the face of you loved one... This way the distance between you two, no matter how big it is, just vanishes giving you the opportunity to enjoy each other almost fully, while you’re hoping to meet soon.

It’s hard to imagine our lives today without this magical video chat apps. Or even... it’s pretty impossible.

How to build a video chat app. Short guide through basics

Most smartphones are equipped with built-in video software, yes, but it’s the fact that they may not function across all platforms. So, there is a wide field for you where the gold mine is hidden. The video chat app’s niche is a beacon for hundreds of entrepreneurs and business owners across the globe. Just imagine, one day you wake up with a unique idea for startup – you plan to give the world next Facebook or WhatsApp. Someone can say that it’s a bad idea, but... what do you know? A couple of years later your company is worth billions!

So, what do you need to do? First of all, believe in yourself and be bold, put all your heart into this idea. And secondly... Prepare to be involved in the time-consuming and costly video chat app development and its marketing campaign. Custom video chat app development is a booming industry, but there is still plenty of opportunities for you to make a fortune, believe me.

How can you do this? There are several methods available for you and we hope that this article will make face-to-face chat app development process more understandable and easier for you.

If you decide to develop a video chat app, you’re going to need a general guide on Mobile app development which we already made for you here. Read it, pay attention to details and start with the project for your chatting app. While you do this, we’ll tell about some difficulties you may face developing a video chat app. The whole development process won’t be so different, but there are some issues you study more carefully because your success will depend on them.

But first thing first, let’s go for a ride!

First Base. Functionality & Features

This is your must-have if you want to beat your competitors, so get yourself a pen and piece of paper.

Basics of video chat app functionality:

  • It’s establishing real audio-video communication along with instant messaging for the users providing live video stream.
  • The app usually has four scripts: client, server, video feed and video socket.
  • The app works only when there is a reliable internet connection.
  • Chat app can’t establish a connection itself, but assists other media in effective communication.
  • Video chat app utilizes web conferencing for video streaming.

Probably, we should describe the scripts some more?

1. Client script is needed to:

  • open socket;
  • initialize video socket plus normal socket;
  • connect sockets;
  • send/receive code.

2. Server script is needed to:

  • open server-side socket;
  • transfer data;
  • listen to incoming chat messages;
  • wait for a client response.

3. Video Feed script is needed to:

  • initialize thread;
  • CAM video capture;
  • set data;
  • show image/video.

4. Video Socket script is needed to manage the transfer of fixed size frame strings over usual sockets.

Images in mobile video chat

Based on the tasks of functionality Video Chat app’s working process depends on the web conference and push technology. That last one is entwined with the internet communication in which request for a transaction is initiated by a central server or publisher. For examples of push servers, we can name Synchronous Conferencing and Instant Messaging. As for Web Conferencing – it is a web service which allows conferencing event to be shared with remote location.

Okay, enough, for now, let’s proceed.

The main video chat app features that you absolutely need

  1. User Registration & Profile with the avatar option & Account management
  2. User Status & Adding friends & Search Users & Contact management
  3. File sharing options & Social Integration with other media resources
  4. Online Presence of other users
  5. Messages exchanging with location sharing integration & Delivery and reading confirmations & Self-destructing messages
  6. Geofilters & Geolocation integration
  7. Video and Voice Calls
  8. Video Chats & Group calls
  9. Payment System & Monetization
  10. Event management and calendar synchronization
  11. End-to-end conversation encryption & Encrypted chats
  12. Cloud services synchronization (user files storage) & Server backend & Offline backup
  13. Support for various data formats (text, video, audio, pictures, photos, stickers etc.)
  14. PUSH- and in-app notifications about app events

It’s just a really crude model for a set of desirable features based on user’s preferences. In time, after promoting your MVP of a video chat app, you’ll get your first feedback and see what should be removed from the app and what should be added – it can be a vast amount of new incredible features, which will provide the rise of user interaction with the app.

Second Base. The Project skeleton & The Playground

Well, we move slowly, but steadily. Time to learn some hard stuff. To make a messenger part of your app you can use the ready-made solutions already available on the Internet in order to save yourself some money, time and effort. For example, something like Facebook Messenger SDK or Telegram SDK. And to provide a video chat itself there are a couple of technologies for you that we will discuss further.

As you can see in our guide on Mobile App Development, there should be some unreplaceable steps during the creation of the app. Below we listed the absolutely needed ones for video chat app making:

Video chat communication

  • Create a strong structure of the app including scripts and back-ends
  • Create variables package
  • Design interfaces – UI/UX
  • Build an information storage manipulation part
  • Sockets & Video stream
  • Set up a Web Server
  • Provide authentication for users
  • Develop a messaging and video chat parts
  • Configure your app
  • Exercise Files & Test the app
  • Prepare the MVP of your app & Launch and promote it

Starting from the first point above, what do you have to do in order to build a fully functional video chat app? As always in the mobile app industry, a very important step is to choose the platform or platforms on which your app is going to work properly. So, we decided to take a closer look at two possible situations.

1. iOS Video Chat App

If you want to develop your own video chat app on iOS platform you’ll need to use Objective C or Swift languages. We recommend to start with Swift anyway – it’s much easier than Objective C, first of all, and you can get some help within online forums in case you run into issues or errors. Secondly, it’s a lot faster to learn one language and deliver the app to the app store than to try to excel in both languages at the same time.

The iOS SDK (RealtimeChat, for example) provides you with a complete peer-to-peer (P2P) streaming solution, including WebRTC for the fast audio creating, video and data-channel streams. When you started, don’t forget to add static libraries and headers from the SDK to your project (Xcode) such as libFM.a + FM.h (supporting code), libFMIceLink.a + FMIceLink.h (IceLink core), libFMIceLinkWebRTC.a + FMIceLinkWebRTC.h (WebRTC stack). And maybe some Apple framework dependencies: libz.dylib, Security.framework, CFNetwork.framework.

2. Android Video Chat App

And if you wish to create a video chat on Android platform, then your option is Java programming language. If you plan to code yourself, download Android Studio (the official integrated development environment for Android platform development) and SDK tools (Quickblox SDK, for example). There are plenty of information and tools that you will need.

Java SDK also provides a complete peer-to-peer (P2P) streaming solution and WebRTC. For the start, add some JARs from the SDK to your project classpath (IntelliJ IDEA, Eclipse, command-line): fm.jar (supporting code), fm.icelink.jar (IceLink core), fm.icelink.webrtc.jar (WebRTC stack, optional). IceLink’s purpose is to create custom streams with any number of possible data formats.

Regarding the information above, you can always search the Internet and GitHub particularly to find many other open source projects, video chat app development tutorials, and free quickstart kits. There are plenty of similar apps out there which you can research to have an example on how to design your own app and make it function as a top-rank peer-to-peer video chat app.

If you don’t know enough about programming I recommend to start with the prototype for one platform – iOS or Android. Just to test your abilities and see if you can handle it at all. Then, when you’re sure everything is going well, you’ll be ready to build a chat app for both iOS and Android.

Okay, not to stop you from making your dream come true, a couple of quick words about WebRTC – the standard video chat protocol mentioned earlier.

Why is WebRTC your best friend?

State-of-the-art tool, really. WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is a free, open source technology that provides browsers and mobile applications with RTC capabilities via simple APIs. WebRTC is a web standard supported by Google, Mozilla, and Opera that allows peer-to-peer communication between browsers. Its built to help you create high-quality RTC apps for the browser and mobile platforms, while allowing them to communicate via a common set of protocols.

One of the major challenges for the web is to enable human communication via voice and video without special plugins and payment for these services. WebRTC represents open standards for real-time, plugin-free video, audio and data communication.

Such giants as Skype, Facebook and Google Hangouts already use RTC, but at the same time, they require downloads, native apps or plugins. And we all know that downloading, installing and updating plugins sometimes is really annoying, difficult and error-maintaining process.

WebRTC makes it easier for you to develop voice and video chat apps because the full WebRTC package consists of such features as Peer-to-Peer, Data Streaming, Video and Audio Codecs for transmission of live conversations between one or more peers. Most important fact – WebRTC is easy-to-use especially for mobile app development.

Here are three APIs in WebRTC:

  • MediaStream – allows the client to access the stream from a WebCam or microphone;
  • RTCPeerConnection – enable audio or video data transfer, with support for encryption and bandwidth management;
  • RTCDataChannel - enables peer-to-peer communication for any generic data.

To make a fully functional video chat app using WebRTC you’ll need servers for WebRTC purposes:

  • users management;
  • exchange of information between peers;
  • data exchange about media, such as formats and video resolution:
  • the connections need to traverse NAT gateways and firewalls.

Information about how WebRTC works, you should check here Getting started with WebRTC and here GitHub WebRTC Documentation.

Unfortunately, just one WebRTC isn’t enough for a video chat app project. You’re going to need the help of something like wrapper platforms for embedded real-time communication solutions. For example, OpenTok or Temasys.

“Temasys is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) that provides full stack solutions for web real-time communications, an emerging standard for peer-to-peer connectivity, which enables web developers to provide high-quality, low-bandwidth audio, video chat and secure data transfer between users of any application via the web, mobile, desktop, or embedded within an app”.

The OpenTok Server SDKs are available for the following languages:
 
“The OpenTok Platform is a PaaS (Platform as a Service) that provides hosted infrastructure, APIs, and tools required to deliver enterprise-grade WebRTC capabilities. OpenTok makes it easy to embed high-quality video, voice, messaging, and screen sharing into web and mobile apps. The OpenTok iOS SDK lets you use OpenTok-powered video sessions in apps you build for iPad or iPhone. The OpenTok Android SDK lets you use OpenTok-powered video sessions in apps you build for Android devices.
The OpenTok Android SDK lets you use OpenTok-powered video sessions in apps you build for Android devices. The OpenTok Server SDKs let you create OpenTok sessions, generate tokens, and work with OpenTok archiving. The OpenTok Server SDKs wrap the OpenTok REST API. Developers also use the server SDKs to work with OpenTok archives. Use them in conjunction with the OpenTok WebRTC client SDKs.Java, .NET, Node.js, PHP, Python, Ruby.”
Source 

Home run. Calculate Your Budget

Now, let’s see, who’s already on top of the leaderboard, shall we?

  • WeChat
  • Skype
  • SnapChat
  • WhatsApp
  • Viber
  • LINE
  • Google Hangouts
  • Tango
  • IMO
  • Nimbuzz
  • GroupMe
  • KakaoTalk
  • Messenger by Facebook

It’s a list of the best messaging and video chat apps that are most popular among users. They are available for both Android and iOS. All these apps have similar functionality, popularity and user ratings. Right now one of the hottest app on the market, as you see in the list, is the WeChat mobile app. Aside from Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber, which are surely the giants no one had beaten up yet, WeChat is a really strong competitor loved by millions of users around the globe. It became one of the most popular apps for video & voice calls, texting, documents sharing and more in no time, but we acknowledge that you or your friends may not like the WeChat use a different app. It’s perfectly cool. But it’s more suitable to discuss the next issue based on the example of this app.

So, forgive us for our choice, if it doesn’t match your opinion.

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Video Chat app Like WeChat?

Just stating the fact here, such question is essential for any developer or startuper who’s planning to create some app. And... unfortunately, we can’t give you a straight and correct answer unless we have all the details of your business project. The cost structure of the video chat app will depend on many critical points, I guess, we can prepare you for this a little bit. Let’s start with the review for the WeChat app, yes? We need to know what it is exactly.

WeChat is one of the best voice and video chat apps, that is free and works almost on all types of devices. There is an option to chat with forty friends by using real walkie-talkie mode. You can also share, like and comment on one’s photos.

The registration in WeChat begins by entering your phone number. Then you get the SMS with the confirmation code. If you want you can connect through your Facebook or e-mail account. It’s a trustworthy and reliable app not because we say so, but because WeChat has established its credibility on the worldwide scale.

Features of the WeChat app:

  • Login & Registration
  • WeChat contacts
  • Your existing place
  • 20 different languages support
  • Find your friends option
  • Messaging
  • Voice & Video calls
  • Group chats with up to 500 people
  • Picture posting
  • Content sharing with friends via chats and their Moments feed
  • Attractive UI design
  • Regular updates
  • No yearly membership fee – the app is completely free
  • Enjoyable, animated emotion stickers
  • Social Attributes
  • WeChat is the only messaging app certified by TRUSTe
  • WeChat Payment – Quick Pay, QR Code Payment, In-App Payment, Cross-Border Settlement, WeChat Pay International.

Okay, impressive, right? And now you’re really wondering, how much will it cost to build the video communication app like WeChat that offers many incredible and entertaining features? Yeah, admit it. Well, time to see, what’s going to cost you most of all.

When it comes to creating chat apps, the amount of money to be spent highly depends on:

  • Features and the core functionality of the future app;
  • A mobile platform – iOS, Android or both;
  • A server backend, a third-party services integration;
  • Social media integration;
  • Design of the app – the more complex and sophisticated UX/UI you want, the higher will be the price;
  • Approach to app development (native or hybrid) – the price of the cross-platform app will be lower;
  • Specialists you hire to build your team and number of developers involved in the project;
  • Analytic solutions integration;
  • Post-production maintenance (read more in "How To Start Mobile App Marketing Campaign").

Of course, if you have a basic knowledge of programming you can build your app using WeChat clone that is available on the Internet. But... honestly, it's going to be a very challenging task for so many reasons: choosing the right target mobile platforms (iOS, Android, cross-platform), learning how to code to be able to handle video streams (you want fast and high-quality video, nobody likes slow and blurring video stream), figuring out how to connect peer-to-peer random endpoints etc.

So, we would strongly advise you to hire professional developers from a trustworthy mobile app development company if you want to do it faster, with high quality and potential to win the market niche. You can check the approximate price of simple, middle complexity and high complexity apps along with hourly development rates across the globe in our article “How to Build a Food Delivery App Like DoorDash?”.

To take a little closer look, the cost to make the best video chat app based on the next components:

  • Wireframes + UI design - up to 150-200 hours;
  • Platform development + backend (depends on a server scalability) – up to 1000-1500 hours, plus PM and QA services.

According to our experience, the total price of such fully functional video chat app developed from a scratch can be estimated roughly between $30,000 – $80,000. And plus, you should keep in mind some extra money for post-launch tech support (improvements and upgrades) and marketing campaign.

See you soon

Remember, to build such app you should, first of all, do your homework – research the market, study the subject, learn how to code just to know what you’re getting yourself into. It won’t be easy, let me tell you, but there is nothing that can stop you!

Hope, this post was helpful and if you’re looking for someone to make your dreams come true, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our company has a level of experience, qualified developers, and a huge desire to conquer any challenges you might throw at us. So feel free to ask your questions – we’ll always try to find the best solution for you!

Yours sincerely,
TecSynt Team

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