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How Much Does It Cost To Develop a Chat App like WhatsApp?

Smartphone won't be a must in our life if it has no chatting function. There is no one that doesn't have WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat or Snapchat installed on his device. Anyway, even though these applications are top-rated , a lot of application development companies get lots of lead requests to build a chat app daily.

The mobile application industry is getting more competitive and users want apps that are user-friendly, fast and cheap, because none of us wants to pay fees for short messages anymore.

Here at Artjoker we have relevant experience crafting different apps, including apps similar to WhatsApp as well. Using top-notch technology stacks is not the only reason why the price of the application development might be higher than the acquirer's expectations. So that we do not to scare you, we want to share some insights on what the essential functionalities the chat application should include and what the additional ones are so you may cheap out on them.

Mobile chat application development: statistics and visibility

WhatsApp is one of the most popular real-time chatting apps. The application allows users to upload their contact book and message anyone who has the app installed. It is a cross-platform application, so users can easily exchange messages between Android, iPhone, Windows Phone and BlackBerry without paying for SMS – you need to be connected to a WiFi or have a cellular network. To prove my point, check the graphic stats below. The number of monthly active WhatsApp users worldwide doubled in the last 3 years – isn't it the reason for building a mobile chat app like this one?

whatsapp statistics

Once you decide to create a WhatsApp app, you need to understand that it is more than a mobile client – it is a service that should be constantly maintained. To open the vail on how much does WhatsApp-like application cost, we can tell that the development process can take up to 544-660 hours (+ 2 weeks for deployment). So the approximate cost of the WhatsApp like messenger can be calculated as 660 hours x $35, which equals $23,1K for one platform. Double this sum if you want to develop an app both for iOS and Android. To calculate its cost in more details you need to make the list of features you want the app to include. Find them below.

Read alsoHow to Port iOS App to Android App?

Architecture of a real-time chat app

To start taking into pieces the app's background, lets talk a bit about application architecture. Find below the essential stuff without which the WhatApp's processes will not run.

What is used Program language What for
Ejabberd XMPP application server (FunXMPP) Erlang To handle message traffic
High-performance web server YAWS Erlang To store multimedia files
FreeBSD operating system   To power servers
Mnesia   Default database for Erlang
Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) technology   To provide one-to-one and multi-user chat communications
RC4 (Rivest Cipher 2)   Cipher method

Chat app developers utilize a customized version of the open standard Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). It creates a client account using his/her phone number as username. Then the app's software automatically compares all the phone numbers from the user's address book with its database and adds to the app's contact list automatically the ones that already exist. There is no need for a password, but a random one is created on the server side just for safety.

Talking about the client-side design, the choice of programming language depends on the device the application will run. For instance, Objective-C or Swift for iOS app platform, Java for Android one, and C# for Windows Phone. If you don't have programming skills, you can begin with the Android and iOS platform for the development of the chat app. Anyway, if you can't decide which platform to start with, you can build a cross-platform version of the chat app with the help of React Native technologies without compromising quality.

whatsapp app cost

The must-have features for a chat app like WhatsApp

  1. Message exchange

No doubt, applications like WhatsApp, Viber, and WeChat won't be so popular without the opportunity to start a dialogue. Keep in mind that data security is the new trend, and it will definitely influence the chat app development cost. So don't be mean and provide chats with the next security features:

  • Encrypted messages will protect users' information while the data is being transmitted to the desired target;
  • Self-deleted messages that disappear after a period of time.

One thing you should know about how to develop a mobile chat app is that Internet connection is a must. For example, if you've been without Internet connection for a long time, there is a chance that you won't receive a message. That's how the message storage on WhatsApp works. The messages are saved on the corporation's server for 30 days. Then it will be removed permanently afterwards. So, be careful and be online.

Also, there should be an option to create a group chat where users can provide the subject of the conversation and add pictures to their messages. Recently, another handy feature has been released – the option to send similar message to several people at once. The Broadcast List has already become popular with users. As you can see, you are free to use different ideas and make your WhatsApp-like app even more customized.

Development time needed: 60-120 hours for both iOS app and Android app versions, and 80 hours for the development of backend.

  1. Address book formation

While wondering how to create a chat application like WhatsApp, a question concerning how users will be registered might come up. There is no need to create an account because a user is connected to the app's database with his/her phone number, which is unique by default. The same thing with phone contacts. The app's software automatically checks if the numbers in the user's address book already exist in WhatsApp user's database. And if so, the numbers are added automatically in the app.

Development time needed: 16-24 hours for both iOS app and Android app platforms, and 8 hours for the development of backend.

  1. Multimedia files transmission

Users are used to sending multimedia files via chat apps. Voice messages, pictures, and videos can be uploaded. This is a standard feature of any chat app. So it would be better to create a chat app for iOS and Android that has the same features too.

Development time needed: 20-40 hours for both iOS app and Android app platforms, and 40 hours for the development of backend.

  1. Location share

The geolocation feature is a must and should be integrated into the application because of its usefulness to users. It would be impossible for you to get lost – just send the coordinates of the place you are in at that moment.

Both platforms offer solutions for geolocation integration into an app. Developers use Google Play location services API for Android and Core Location framework for iOS app. These features are regularly updated because they constantly receive newer data. The maps are displayed with special offers – Google Map Android API for the Android platform and the Map Kit framework for the iOS platform.

Development time needed: 16 hours for both iOS app and Android app platforms, and 4 hours for the development of backend.

  1. Calls

To attract users, you can add a calling feature, just like WhatsApp and Viber already did. The application will use Internet traffic instead money or call minutes to make a call. A chat app with the calling feature usually allows VoIP phone calls, video chats and group calls, which can also be a video call as well. If you want to increase your app engagement and be successful with the app, include additional features like video editing or special effects, which will make the application stand out from the rest of similar applications.

Development time needed: 100-120 hours for both iOS app and Android app platforms, and 120 hours for the development of backend.

  1. Status and live streaming

Talking about how to create a messaging app like whatsapp, customers also wonder what additional functionalities can be considered. Status and live streaming are not the essential ones. Status feature is new to many chatting apps and even social media apps, and is considered a real boom in 2017. The feature allows you to share photos, videos, and GIFs, which disappear after 24 hours. Besides, both you and your contacts must have each other's phone numbers saved in your address books. WhatsApp application gives users the ability to personalize their status updates by adding text, emojis and even free-hand drawings. Such features wouldn't go amiss if you want your app to be downloaded by thousands of people.

Read also: How to Develop a Social Media Network App?

Development time needed: 40 + 20-24 hours for both iOS app and Android app platforms, and 16 +8 hours for the development of backend.

whatsapp cost

How to make an app like WhatsApp – the KPIs to measure success

    • Number of active users

To grow the number of active users you should explain to users what they can use the app for and encourage them to invite more friends to chat there. Slack has become a successful messenger because of the clear understanding of its value – “a chat app for team communication” where people look for teammates who need a secure place to chat. Before the iOS or Android chat app development begins, you need to decide who your target audience is and what their benefits will be for using your product.

You can also combine instant chatting with hashtags to give users the ability to share their content on the social media. This way, the chatting app will be promoted through multiple additional channels.

    • Retention rate

You might not know, but user retention rate is important for chat apps. Let them synchronize the app with their phone contacts and get notification every time a new person from their address book joins the app. Also, you can allow them get push notifications, which will draw their attention to the app as well.

    • Audience Engagement

Acquiring more users won't go well without constantly entertaining them. Make your application fun by adding different sets of emojis, stickers, gifs, etc. Also, add short video clips of popular movie moments, as this will help you promote the app, especially to the youth.

whatsapp development cost

How chat apps actually make you money:

  1. Subscriptions: users have to pay some fee to use the app or its premium features;
  1. In-application purchases: paying for stickers, themes and emoji;
  1. Advertising: displaying the ads in the special column or in-line.

Conclusion: the future of chat apps

No doubt, the future is in users' pockets – they send over seven trillion text messages via chat apps each year. They will definitely replace broadcasting and provide marketers with the opportunity to have interactive conversations. Such kind of conversational interfaces will definitely drive deeper relations between consumers and brands.

Read alsoDating App Development

Remember that a combination of handy design and smart functionalities will contribute a lot to your project, despite the big number of WhatsApp clones on the market.

I hope that the question of how much does it cost to build an app like WhatsApp in Artjoker has been answered now. Anyway, if you still have questions, do not hesitate to contact us. Bye bye!

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author Kate Sipkina Kate Sipkina
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Natalya Brinza project manager
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