Last Updated: January 24, 2024
Cost to build a Chat Apps
Published On: June 16, 2023

The birth of WhatsApp in 2009 set the road for a lot of scope for the future for similar apps to develop – think Telegram and Slack. Today, the market for messaging apps is at its all-time expansive and evolving stage.

However, the biggest question in front of CEOs and tech leaders is the estimation of factors and technologies affecting the cost of developing a chat app. It continues to be an uphill battle. Why? Because the pandemic that gave rise to remote work swept the world with a newfound flexible work culture.

Connecting with employees and customers has become more essential than ever when they are working both in and out of the workplace. Connection is important; in today’s tech-driven world, apps have taken that importance to another level.

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A Little History of Instant Messaging

When instant messaging apps took Internet communication by storm in the 1990s and early 2000s with AOL and MSN, who knew one day that the importance of an app development company would be off the charts?

As the popularity of WhatsApp, Slack, WeChat, and Telegram grew, creating mobile apps for startups became the buzzword. As product creators hop on their hunt to close that deal, Moon Technolabs comes as the savior where they can end their search by hiring our developers, who understand the importance of building a competitive app.

Fast forward to the current market of messaging apps, WhatsApp leads with the highest number of users. In 2023, these numbers projected growth of up to 3.1 billion. What’s the catch here? Five years earlier, in 2019, it was 2.1 billion. The five-year increase of almost 1 billion users says a lot about the potential it holds in the app development market.

Here’s an overview of the apps with the highest number of users:

highest number of users

Market Analysis of the top leaders in Chat and messaging apps

Market Analysis messaging apps

The growth of feature-rich applications allows real-time conversations with employees and customers. Hence, investing in chat apps is always going to be a lucrative option. Why?

Customers always look for mobile applications that offer security and convenience even though the market already provides great alternatives. However, entrepreneurs and owners need to consider several factors defining the cost of developing a chat app.

Let’s look at some key current market statistics of the leading chat apps. No prizes for guessing which messaging app retained its top spot from 2022 – WhatsApp still tops the charts at numero uno amongst 63 out of 100 countries.

On the second and third positions sit Facebook Messenger and Telegram – both retaining their previous year’s spots. Compared to the messaging app users at 3.09 billion in 2021, the year 2025 projects it to reach 5.7 billion.

The five-year growth sets a great road ahead to help a startup develop a monetization strategy and achieve the highest level of performance through mobile apps. While Whatsapp’s API helps the business generate a revenue of $906 billion,

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How Much Exactly is the Cost to Develop a Chat App?

Building an app needs a lot of factors to consider. But before that, you need to ask some questions:

  1. Do you need a simple or complex app with advanced features?
  2. Which location do you want to target?
  3. And even more importantly, which platform will you use – Android, iOS, or both?

However, if you need an overall cost to let that confusion right out of your mind, it would cost you $1,34,250. For a clearer picture, here’s a tentative breakdown of the costs: 

Cost to Develop a Chat App

Let’s spill all the secrets and technicalities that you need to know before you decide to consider building a chat app. This is going to be a long read, but you’ll get all your answers by the end.

Let’s start with the most important factor:

1. Location

A chat app’s market viability depends greatly on the location you want to focus on. For example, WhatsApp works wonders in 63 countries out of 100, including countries like Austria, Portugal, South Africa, Spain etc. Similarly, Telegram will be more famous in only 10 countries in 2023, including Kazakhstan, Jordan, Ukraine, etc.

Compared to these top apps, less popular apps like Viber, Line, and WeChat are more prominent in Europe, Asia, and China. Hence, if you choose an app development partner in any of these locations, the cost of development would differ accordingly. For example, if you choose Eastern Europe, it could cost you $50 – $55; in Asia, it would cost $25 – $40.

2. Design and Technical Complexity

The user interface of an app is the first impression for the users and is one of the essential factors in estimating the mobile application development cost. Hence, the developers also dedicate hundreds of hours to building a strong architecture for mobile apps to ensure an efficient result.

While they can also use templates, they are neither ideal nor enough to decide the future of the app. The screens, logo, and custom branding elements are specific to your app requirements. Similarly, adding new features would increase or decrease the technical complexity.

The biggest question you need to ask yourself here is, “Do I want to develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with just the minimum features or some advanced features too?” The answer to this question will set the future course and help you decide the cost of app development.

How? Because the complexity of the backend is directly proportional to the UI features, you would add and affect a mobile app’s performance.

3. Maintenance and Tech Stack

The tech stack required to develop a chat app depends on the features you decide to integrate. It highly impacts scalability, security, compatibility, and integration with other systems.

Further, it would help if you focused on choosing technologies for building a robust database for mobile apps that can develop efficient real-time communication features. Some alternatives include frameworks like WebSockets or MQTT.

Similarly, for server-side mobile application development services, you can consider Node.js, Ruby on Rails, etc. And lastly, for the front end, technologies like Angular and React are good alternatives.

For example, Whatsapp’s API security helps generate a huge revenue stream, and the same goes for Telegram’s security. The latter is almost as competitive as its former counterpart when it comes to security. Telegram’s tech stack is the MTProto protocol, making it a highly secure application.

On the other hand, Slack tried to get over its tech debt by switching to Swift UI from Objective C, which helped improve its performance. Stabilizing the code by migrating all SQLite queries to SQDeight helped reduce interdependence and build time.

Other factors for deciding the tech stack also include data protection and privacy. Messaging apps need the utmost security against hackers. So, data protection forms a huge part of the app’s tech stack for encryption and implementing security certificates.

For example, if you’re developing an app in Middle Eastern areas, you can switch to Elixir for a stronger backend as it’s a better fit for higher-level applications and takes more server load.

4. Team Size

Number of team members required for a chat app depends on the expertise each team member will bring to the table. For a smooth completion of the mobile app development lifecycle, you need to build an effective team either by augmentation or outsourcing. While the members will always depend on your specific needs, here’s what a team for developing an app looks like:

  • Project Manager
  • Frontend and backend developers
  • Business analysts
  • Q/A Analysts Designers

One thing to note is that the Project Managers are not required to develop an MVP. Although they can be added later. If you hire developers from an app development company, Moon Technolabs has the best team of developers.

5. Supported Platforms

Developing a chat app can start from either Android or iOS. Once it proves successful for one platform, you can expand it to other platforms. You also need to decide if you want to develop a desktop version, a hybrid app, or a native app. Deciding beforehand allows you to estimate the cost to develop a chat app and prevents heavy investment.

6. Features

The features of a chat app can vary as you move ahead with its complexity. The cost will be less if you want to develop a simple app with text messaging and file-sharing features. However, if you want to include advanced features like voice and video calling, translation, encryption, and group integration – the cost would increase owing to more development complexity.

Basic and Advanced Features of a Chat App with Time Taken and Costs for Development

Two apps that involve complex mobile app architecture but a simple user interface: Signal and Viber. However, both involve higher development costs due to Signal’s focus on stringent security measures and Viber’s investment in advanced features.

Signal is a complex app focusing more on privacy and security, and its user interface is quite simple for users. The two technical integrations and algorithms used in Signal are SQLite and SQLCipher, providing secure data storage and encryption to protect sensitive data.

Similarly, Viber focuses more on providing a feature-rich and user-friendly architecture. Even though it incorporates proper mobile app security measures, it emphasizes delivering better features and functionalities. Let’s look at the impact of adding features on the development cost:

1. Registration

Registration of your app is the first and most important thing affecting the cost to develop a chat app. It can take an average of 30 to 40 hours and cost around $1,700 to $ 2,000. This is only an estimation and can vary depending on the tech stack you use to build.

As one of the minimum features of an MVP app, registering your email, phone number, and social media accounts is a top priority. To speed up the process, you can use a Software Development Kit (SDK) or APIs to integrate them.

2. Real-time Texts and Messaging

Another basic feature is real-time messaging, which needs to be a part of your MVP. The development time for this feature can take up to 400 hours. The development cost can range from anywhere up to $12,500. This feature can further be divided into private, group, and voice messaging.

3. Contact and Location Integration

Integrating contacts is one of the most convenient features users look forward to when they download and sign up. Users should not feel any hassle while importing their contacts. Syncing contacts from phone and social media accounts is also a necessary feature.

Likewise, the integration of geolocation features in your app lets the users share their current location with anyone in their contacts. Hence, it becomes a minimum requirement and one of the basic features. The development time of this feature can range up to 30 hours, and it can cost you up to $2000.

4. Push Notifications

Push notifications are the alerts sent to the device when a user receives a new message or a call. It’s an important feature to integrate as it keeps users in the loop and helps them track what’s happening on the app. A great user-engagement feature to be included and can take at least 50 hours to develop. The cost to develop this feature can come around $2,500.

5. Business Profile and Chat Labels

If you want to expand yourself as a business and connect with your customers as well, then adding a business profile as a feature is a great idea. As a basic feature, it also allows you to send automated replies when a customer contacts you for any query.

Add a “send away message” tool with personalized text to further its integration. The time you need to develop this feature depends on your business type. Similarly, chat labels are also essential if you are developing a business profile.

It allows you to categorize your chats by labeling them in different colors as new, pending, and completed orders. Hence, the tools and tech stack used are two of the defining factors affecting the time and cost to develop a chat app.

Key Challenges of Building a Messaging App

Building a messaging app in a market that looks saturated enough brings its set of challenges. However, creative and innovative ideas still have the potential to attract and convert customers your way. Although quite challenging, a chat app is a useful and profitable solution for your business to keep generating a revenue stream.

New chat apps come and go every day in the market; here are some key challenges that you might face on the road:

1. Users Want all Their Expectations to be Met on a Single Platform

The current market of chat and messaging apps compels the upcoming apps to become a one-stop platform for all the users’ expectations. Hence, adding additional features like the ability to launch ad campaigns, payment gateway integrations, and storing large volumes of data is critical.

2. Data Security Still Makes People Skeptical About Using a New Chat App.

Most chat apps in the market are popular because they have high end-to-end encryption of any data that is exchanged between parties. Mobile app security and privacy are a huge part of these apps, and they are quite far from hackers. Yet, data security remains the biggest factor in giving a new app a chance. Hence adding different layers of protection.

3. Scalability to Handle High Traffic Volume Without Frequent Crashes.

Scalable apps minimize the chances of crashing. Users don’t want to experience an interruption in their experience – one of the main reasons some apps are more popular than others. The reason why you need to have robust backend technology is to handle real-time messaging processes, even in the case of spikes.

Why Does Your Next Idea for Developing a Chat App Have Potential?

Don’t be disheartened by the fact that chat app development is a severely competitive industry. If you have an idea that has the potential to disrupt it, then success is not beyond your reach. In the current scenario, giants like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Snapchat rule the chat and messaging app world.

However, the potential to provide a unique proposition is still untapped. And it increases as new technologies enter the market. Snapchat gave tough competition to WhatsApp with its unique way of sharing photos through messages, offering users instant communication that auto-destructs messages.

Hence, if your idea can inspire another generation and offer an experience that will last long, you have nothing to lose by investing in this industry. There’s one more tough task before diving into this world – choosing an app development company that caters to your specific needs.

An app development partner is all you need to give your vision a set direction and perspective. Let us tell you more about how Moon Technolabs can become your guiding partner in bringing your idea to market.

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Moon Technolabs Your Next Chat App Development Partner!

Now that the app development cost is solved, let us tell you how to reduce that cost. MTPL offers varied solutions for building chat and messaging apps for iOS and Android platforms. But you might think that estimating the cost of many technologies in building an app is arduous.

On top of that, you also have to analyze it based on the location of the vendor’s organization and where your target audience is. Yes, there are still so many questions in your head. That’s why, instead of solving them alone, you can contact us and let our app development company do that for you.

We have created highly scalable and successful app solutions for a range of industries. Head over to our Portfolio, where we have showcased our prowess and professionalism.

Moon Technolabs makes it easier for you with its three business models:

Type of Model

What it Offers

How it Benefits

Dedicated Hiring Model
  • Ideal for long-term projects
  • Adapts according to the changes
  • Required when you need a specific skill
  • Efficiency in your projects
  • More domain-specific expertise
  • Highly flexible
Fixed Price Model
  • Perfect for smaller projects
  • Clear timelines in case of time constraints
  • Budget and time frame estimates
  • Analysis of your specific requirements
  • No extra money and no delay 
  • More reliability, lower risks.
Time and Material Mode
  • When you need multiple skill expertise
  • Bug fixing support and testing on daily basis
  • Negotiable requirements
  • Prices per hour/week/ month.
  • Pay only for resources used and tasks availed
  • Flexibility and transparency 

Your business thrives on a vision. All you need is an idea that your target audience would want to try out. For that, you need a partner to market it through next-generation technologies. Moon Technolabs has the best set of dedicated app developers who can make that happen.

FAQs

Building an app like Whatsapp can take 3 to 6 months for a simple app with minimal features. However, you require anywhere between 9 to 12 months for a complex app.

You can expect the costs to range from $35000 to $250000. The expenses can vary according to the UI/UX design, the size of the team, and the location of your vendor's organization.

You can start developing with the basic features and release the MVP in the market. It would help you gain an idea about the expectations of your audience. Accordingly, you can add more features and even back your finances with support from Venture Capital.

Chat apps involve a lot of sensitive business information that can potentially risk the security of your app. While they can do it for you cheaply, they are not the ideal solution because they don't give you ownership of the source code. Whereas an app development company allows you to customize your preferences.
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Jayanti Katariya

Jayanti Katariya is the CEO of Moon Technolabs, a fast-growing IT solutions provider, with 18+ years of experience in the industry. Passionate about developing creative apps from a young age, he pursued an engineering degree to further this interest. Under his leadership, Moon Technolabs has helped numerous brands establish their online presence and he has also launched an invoicing software that assists businesses to streamline their financial operations.

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