How to Create a Chat App Like WhatsApp, Viber, or Snapchat?

Could people from the 20th century imagine the world writing electronic letters? Humanity needed several decades to get rid of dealing with post services – now we get letters in several seconds. Could it be more? 21st century gave us speed Internet and messaging applications. Since their appearance, these apps are in competition with each other – they are fighting for new features, broader audiences, and comfy place in the sun.

The concept of a chat app is pretty straightforward: making usual text messaging way better and more convenient for people all over the world. Any person can appreciate the benefits of messaging applications – just think about free messaging (especially in communications across country borders).

Now you can keep all conversations private and share much more information than it was with a usual SMS. Besides, you also have a custom app design. And one more – development of chat technologies seems to be non-stop, and who knows, what we’ll get in two more years.

History and Modernity of Chat Apps

For a start, it is necessary to clarify that WhatsApp, Viber, and Snapchat are so-called instant chat applications. This type of software allows users to communicate in real-time. But the history of instant messengers begins before mobile phones’ appearance.

In the mid-1960s similar software was used as a notification system with various types of equipment: printers, security systems, etc. The next huge step in chat application history is the appearance of AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ in the mid-1990s.

As for the mobile world, the situation started to change when smartphones appeared on the market. This was the time to fight back SMS as the main textual messaging. At that time, basic principles of building a mobile chat application were worked out – and that is considered the instant messaging boom, which continues till now.

In the report published in September 2016 by BI Intelligence, there were discovered these key takeaways:

  • The complex of mobile messaging apps is massive – the most powerful market players have millions of monthly active users. And the development of the sector (falling data prices and improved features) contribute to the market’s growth.

Market's growth

  • Presently, using a messaging app means more than just messaging. The first stage of chat app boom was focused on growth. On the next stage, companies will build out new services and approaches in monetizing.
  • At the moment, marketers are investing more resources into social networks, but it’s not for long. It will change with the second stage of the messaging boom when chat app developers work on building out their services.

Moreover, chat app development boasts distinct characteristics that make their users appealing to businesses. At the same time, consumers themselves prefer businesses that use messengers.

A recent survey held by Facebook showed that 53% of customers will more likely shop with a business easily attainable via chat apps. BI Intelligence highlighted the main reasons for this tendency.

Consumers reasons

B2C messaging over applications is one of the fastest growing trends, as well as a constant improvement of messaging industry. These facts should be carefully considered by the owners of new startups and businesses with a rich experience.

Basic Features of an Instant Messaging Application

Building a mobile chat app, you should provide users with a maximum level of security and all top features the market requires/ Let’s figure out together how to be cool in messaging, so you could occupy your niche on the market.

#1 User login

In WhatsApp, for example, all a user should do is to type his phone number and then verify it (using a message from the app). It simplifies the process of registration and makes the beginning of the work much faster.

User login

Messaging apps of this kind usually use telecommunication providers to work with confirmation codes and to verify phone numbers. Twilio is one of such providers. It all looks great to some point.

Along with fastness as a benefit, this method has its drawbacks. Firstly, all users are restricted to one and only mobile gadget. Also, it is impossible to verify an account without a phone. And finally, it raises the issue of privacy – all users may see your contact phone number.

In this case, try to find out which solution will work better for your audience.

# 2 Messaging protocols and security

We’re in, what’s next? The main reason why we’re here is… messaging (who would doubt that?). Along with sending and delivering messages, chat applications also show their status (sent, received, etc.). We deal with instant apps, that’s why we need the-real time messaging implementation.

WhatsApp uses a customized version of Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). These are the steps a WhatsApp-like application should make to send multimedia content (apart from simple texting):

  • Encode the file (image, audio, or video) with Base64 schemes.
  • Send it to an HTTP server – the server will process the file, store it, and define its type.
  • Send the hyperlink to the file to the addressee.

There is also Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) – this is an extension of the original e-mail protocol. Using it, a developer lets consumers see the progress of the file’s uploading.

Creating a chat app for iOS or Android, don’t forget to take care of security both in private and group charts. Sharing their life on the Internet, people need to feel safe, and you can help them with it. If you want to create an app like SnapChat, consider the following features:

  • Encrypted messages protecting private information while it’s on the web.
  • Secret chats with self-destructing messages, which disappear automatically after a certain time.

# 3 Calling

You don’t have to worry about expensive mobile phone plans, especially roaming services, when you have phone functions in an app like Viber. Such an app relies on the Internet (either WiFi or mobile Internet) and allows users to keep in touch with their circle of friends and family.

Calling

Calling capabilities in a chat app include the following functionality:

  • VoIP phone calls
  • Video chats
  • Group calls

These are the basic features, but it’s up to you how you will entertain your users after a while. For instance, Snapchat provided a user-friendly solution having bought a Ukrainian startup Looksery.

Looksery

This application allows transforming a user’s face in real-time while using a front camera of a mobile device. People can modify themselves with a range of filters and become 3D avatars during video chatting.

# 4 Synchronization with cloud services

Cloud services in instant messengers allow users to store chat histories and files in one safe place apart from a smartphone. What exactly does it mean for a user?

It means now people with multiple devices and a single account can access any messaging information at any time. Or if the phone is lost, a chat app is deleted, it is great to have a safe storage. Cloud services give your users one of the most important security solutions of your application.

There are some cloud solutions for instant messaging apps on the market. For example, Pubnub integrates real-time chats, but if you want to work with various types of information, try Quickblox – it allows storing video calling, location, and other modules.

Cloud Services in Chat App

At the same time, WhatsApp doesn’t have cloud sync, but it offers to backup all important data using Google Drive for Android devices or iCloud for iPhones.

# 5 Geolocation

This is the feature of many messaging apps – users can show their location when changing a status or just send it with a message.

Geolocation

This is an opportunity for an app to become a complex product with different features. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity for shops, restaurants, and other similar places to be in sight of a customer. Thus, a user has the city in his hand and can share all the impressions with friends and family.

Cost to Build an App Like Snapchat, WhatsApp, or Viber

Now when we know how to develop a mobile chat app, know several lines from the history of instant messaging, we can learn more about the cost of such software.

At first, let’s figure out how much time is needed to develop basic features of a chat application on the average:

  1. Registration with address book formation – from 40 hours both for the front-end and back-end development.
  2. Message exchange – from 160 hours, where 100 hours are for front-end and 60 hours are needed for back-end development.
  3. Multimedia files sending – from 40 hours (24 hours – front-end, 16 hours – back-end).
  4. Location sharing – from 12 hours (8 hours – front-end, 4 hours – back-end).
  5. Calling – from 180 hours (120 hours – front-end, 60 hours – back-end).

These are average timeline measures for iOS and Android platforms:

  • iOS – 500-690 hours
  • iOS design – 140-200 hours
  • Android – 500-690 hours
  • Android design – 90-140 hours
  • Back-end development – 540-740 hours

The total varies from 1700 to 2500 working hours.

The hired team should consist of the following members:

  • Sales manager
  • Project manager
  • Business analyst
  • Software developers – depending on the features of the app, a team of developers may include 2-5 members for front-end development and the same is for back-end development. 2-3 developers may be needed on the post-release stage.
  • Quality assurance engineers (1-4 members)
  • UX/UI designers – 2-4 members
  • Marketing manager (in case if product promotion is needed).

Considering the average salary of the Eastern Europe specialist, chat app development costs $50 000-$75 000.

Stay in Touch with the World

Modern world gives us a great chance to be at several places at the same time and to cross borders with just one smartphone by your side. It might have sounded awkward just a few years ago, but people don’t mind accepting new technology changes.

First chat applications appeared at the beginning of the smartphone era, and since then its audience grows in size and complexity. Now, not only teenagers need constant messaging – this is also a brilliant solution for the business sector. Having messengers, marketers can communicate with customers solving problems in the process.

We know that sharing files of different formats, calling, and the high level of security are the features of high importance. But if you really want to know how to develop a chat app like WhatsApp or Snapchat, remember that messaging apps are far beyond simple texting, so don’t be afraid of unique offerings.

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