What Makes WhatsApp Stand Out? How Much Does a Custom Messaging App Cost?

Say good-bye to SMS and email, and greet messaging. Personally, I use around five different messaging applications daily and sent dozens of texts to my friends, relatives, colleagues and so on. And what about you? Would you like to know how many of us exchange texts every single day? – There are over 4.2 billion people worldwide, who use their cell phones for texting. While solely Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp process around 60 billion text messages per day compared to only 20 billion SMS, not to mention other chat applications.

WhatsApp popularity according to SimilarWeb

In 2016 WhatsApp has reached 1.2 billion active users and it keeps growing. Currently, it is used by around 55.6 percent of the world, being popular in 109 countries out of 187 examined.

WhatsApp popularity by country   

Quite impressive figures, aren't they? But what has made it so viral? Why do people think of it as the main instant messaging app? How to build a WhatsApp clone and repeat its success story? In this article, I'd like to discuss how to develop a mobile chat app and how much it actually costs. I'll also craft a go-to-market strategy with one of our experienced developers, so stay tuned.

How to make an app like WhatsApp? – Features to include:

  • Messaging – we're all here for it!

If I think of chat app development, then I definitely want my solution to send and receive text messages, right? WhatsApp is operated via the Internet and doesn't include any fees or hidden costs. If the user is offline, then messages are delivered as soon, as he gets online. Mainly there are two chat types: one on one and group. The last named allows up to 256 users per a discussion.

Apart from that custom messaging app cost can include statuses, location sharing, contact sharing, custom designs and color themes, stickers and emojis (smileys), custom fonts, self-destructing messages, and even much more. Though MVP can come with only basic functionality and some unique experience, while advanced features and perks can be kept in mind for future messaging app development.

WhatsApp group chats view

[Image source: WhatsApp]

  • Keep them hooked

Push messages and notifications are essential elements of modern social platforms. They help both startups and top companies to retain the audience and keep it constantly engaged. When a user gets new messages or group invitations, he sees pop-ups or push notifications, in those cases when the screen is locked. On the top of that, push notifications keep him informed on other alerts, discounts, special offers, new perks or instructions.

To implement this feature our developers mainly employ Apple Push Notifications and Google Cloud Messaging.

  • Multimedia sharing – one photo instead of million words

In addition to text messages and smileys, WhatsApp allows users to exchange photos, short voice messages, videos, gifs, and other media files. Sending spreadsheets, PDFs, slideshows and other documents (up to 100 MB) is also possible. Today media files swapping is an integral part of social activity, especially if we are talking about real-time chat apps.

Cosmunity app multimedia sharing[Cosmunity application developed by DA-14 team. Already available on Google Play and iTunes]

For added convenience, chat software comes with sync functionality (when the app is used on multiple devices) and integration with cloud services (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.).

  • “Here's my number, so call me maybe”

VoIP calls and video chats are useful and much appreciated features. In my case, calling via WhatsApp, Skype or Viber has completely replaced traditional cell calls. I am talking about both local and international calls.

WhatsApp video chats and VoIP calls

[Image source: WhatsApp]

Though telecom companies are constantly working on fresh offers and attractive plans, more and more people tend to opt for messaging apps. Solely using Internet connection I can keep in touch with my relatives, friends or colleagues 24/7. No complicated and restricting billing plans.  

  • Be able to keep secrets

These days online security is a hotly debated topic and market leaders make heavy use of consumers' concerns during their sales pitches. After the situation with Edward Snowden, privacy is considered to be a valuable commodity.

In April 2016 chat app developers rolled out a notable update, enabling end-to-end encryption across all the platforms. What does that mean? WhatsApp team says: “From now on when you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats. The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us.”

The platform even offers a security verification code to share with your contact and so make sure that your dialog is encrypted.

WhatsApp encrypted chats and messages

[Image source: WhatsApp]

These are the basic features to include in your MVP, but I've already mentioned “unique experience” and this is something that every startup needs to come up with.

To make your messaging app successful and attractive for consumers, you need to explore further possibilities as well. One of the latest trends is combining messengers with entertaining options, like special video and photo effects. Have you already tried Snapchat + Looksery video effects? – They have captured the headlines! Users can apply multiple filters and transform their faces right during the video chat. Impressive, isn't it?

Snapchat and Looksery video filters

[Image source: TechCrunch]

Recalling other examples, I need to mention “Stories” that disappear after 24 hours. Initially this feature was introduced by Snapchat, but currently, it is available on Instagram, Facebook, and even some other social networking platforms.

Instagram Stories trend

[Image source: Instagram]

Let's finalize our research in SWOT matrix and classify our findings according to four categories: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  

WhatsApp SWOT analysis

Building a messaging app: our go-to-market strategy

How much does a custom messaging app cost? First, it is essential to define the list of features to include in the MVP. Are you going to hire developers locally or rely on a dedicated offshore team? Will a mobile version be enough to enter the market? As customer database is constantly growing, web application or desktop version should be considered as a “nice to have” thing. And what technology stack should be used? With this question I've addressed to Dmitriy, Mid React.js/React Native developer at DA-14 Software Development:

“Usage of modern technologies such as React.js and React Native for social messaging app development helps us to avoid needless steps and thus boost the time-to-market cycle. Considering the basic functionality above, we can roughly estimate the time, needed for MVP. Such features as instant messages, push notifications, and multimedia file transmission can take up to 100 hours, including basic UX/UI tasks.

While video and audio calls include streaming protocols, scalable streaming servers and other factors that require deeper research and direct coordination with the client. Encryption is a complex feature that depends on the messaging model type (peer-2-peer or centralized) to provide consumers with full privacy. Such functionality can be scoped out during a detailed estimate after we clarify client's project requirements and business goals.

If our client decides on the desktop version for the chat app, we can cut the time reusing some of the UI blocks, employ the same communication protocols, and other features, offered by React and React Native. Beyond that, we should add time for testing, deployment, and project management.”

Advanced features like event planning, integration with social networks, read receipt, auto redelivery, subscriptions and other options add to the chat app development cost. Opting for outsourcing, review various pricing models and go with the one that is ideal for your business model.  
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