How to Build an Instant Messaging app Like WhatsApp?(August 2019 Update)

 

Can you imagine everyday life without messaging apps? I believe not, simply because messaging apps have become an integral part of everyday life. 

There are big players in this niche that have numerous users and vast revenue. 

Wondering how to create a messaging app like WhatsApp? 

Well, this article is right for you. 

Here, we have gathered the most important WhatsApp features, the development cost, and monetization strategies. 

Before we start, let's take a quick look at the messaging app market and your potential competitors.

Messaging App Market Share

Let's look at this issue in a  wider sense than just as a tool for exchanging short instant messages. 

Image source: landbot.io

  •   While Facebook Messenger is the leading app by the number of downloads, WhatsApp wins when it comes to the global number of active users.

While Facebook Messenger is the leading app by  number of downloads, WhatsApp wins when it comes to the global number of active users

WhatsApp wins when it comes to the global number of active users

Image source: landbot.io

  •   WhatsApp is now competing with such social media as YouTube and Facebook according to the number of active users as of April 2019.

WhatsApp is now competing with such social media as YouTube and Facebook according to the number of active users as of April 2019

Image source: landbot.io

  •   According to the App Annie study, WhatsApp beats any other app in terms of total session time. 
  •   Users make more than 2 billion minutes of voice calls and video calls on WhatsApp every day.
  •   WhatsApp users also send 65 billion messages daily.
  •   In 2019, WhatsApp US users base reached 23,4 million, which accounts for 20.8% of the current population.

In  2019, WhatsApp US users base reached 23,4 million, which accounts for 20.8% of the current population

Image source: Statista

To sum up, the number of mobile users is expected to increase, and  WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app by the number of active users. 

Still, there is a chance to launch your messaging app and get your market share.

How?

Read on to find out. 

Why is Whatsapp so successful?

With over 1.5 billion users, WhatsApp's holds a dominant position in the instant messaging apps market. At the same time, it is an example of doing something familiar in a distinct manner that has managed to engage a target audience enough to secure the platform's steady growth.

To understand how they managed to pull it off you need to understand the state of instant messaging before WhatsApp emerged in the late 2000s.

In 2009, Skype was The Instant Messaging App, the one with the most features, and widest compatibility. Every company in messaging app development was trying to make a "new skype." It was the undisputed ruler of the messaging market. 

Facebook messenger was barely a thing at this point, and the other modern market players were at the gestation stages at best.

The thing with absolute dominance is that, once you get there, you get lazy over time and your grip loosens. Skype was more than serviceable; it just 'wasn't that rapidly evolving anymore. It was boring. (Fun fact, the same thing happened with another Microsoft property - Internet Explorer). Then came WhatsApp and turned the idea on its head.

Let's look at what made WhatsApp, and apps similar to WhatsApp, so popular.

1 WhatsApp embraced mobile

The late 2000s saw rapid adoption of smartphones and the rise of iOS and Android mobile platforms as viable development options. However, the majority of the market leaders in their respective areas were slow to realize the potency of this emerging market segment.  And soon they found themselves late to the party.

Skype was a desktop application first, and it took some time to make the full transition to mobile. On the other hand, WhatsApp (and subsequently, apps like WhatsApp) was a mobile-first application, and it took full advantage of that.

Mobile phones tend to be the preferred tool for instant communication.  For this, users needed "Skype" for smartphones. Even though WhatsApp was still mostly a text messaging app - its availability on the mobile gave it a significant advantage over Skype. And when WhatsApp had implemented full VoIP - it was the dawn of the new day for an industry.

The success of WhatsApp inspired entrepreneurs to step into the instant messaging market and soon enough there were Viber, Kik, and Slack.

2 WhatsApp transformed User Onboarding

One of the most frustrating things about Skype was the long login.

Since WhatsApp was a mobile application - it could take a shortcut in that department. Here's how. They changed the way a user account was created.

Instead of identifying with a complicated system of logins and connected accounts - the user is defined by his telephone number. And all of the contacts on his phone became part of his WhatsApp contacts. That alone cut to half the arduous process of getting into the application's ins and outs.

The phone-bound ID provides another layer of trustworthiness.

3 WhatsApp first adopted end-to-end encryption

These days, privacy and security are amongst the essential requirements for any application that deals with personal information. In the case of instant messaging apps - this is an undertaking, as there are many ways messages can be intercepted midway, due to the open-ended nature of the internet.

For users privacy, WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption.

Back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the world was yet to be shaken by the numerous data breaches and personal data exposure. Privacy was not of the utmost concern, and so data security standards among instant messaging apps were slightly loose.

Despite that, WhatsApp had implemented end-to-end encryption and marketed it as a differentiating feature before the competition jumped on board.

By using innovative features,  WhatsApp increased user engagement and attracted new audiences,  segmenting who were interested in the cutting edge features and higher quality of the service.

The following factors resulted in a landslide dominance of an app for over a decade.

Cross-platform compatibility, ease of use and privacy are key factors to consider upon deciding on how to create an app like WhatsApp.

You might also like: WHY DATA SECURITY AND PRIVACY MATTERS?

WhatsApp-type app feature list

When creating a messaging app you should consider the following killer features:

1. The QuickType feature is becoming even smarter. Using machine learning technology, it can prompt the right words to the user according to the context and user's style of speech.

READ ALSO:   How to Use Machine Learning in Mobile App?

2. Emoji are gaining even more power. The size of text screens is getting bigger, and emoji itself also gets predictive text input and suggests replacing some words with these cute symbols. Now the message itself can express emotions. This feature gives users a chance, not only to send messages but also to convey the shade of mood.

3. Invisible Ink. Extended capabilities of multimedia sharing, and SMS with "invisible ink" that can be shown only after the user's touch.

The other massive trend which can not be ignored is an augmented reality extension for messengers. 

We all have seen those Superman eyes and cute puppy noses in the news feed that appear thanks to Snapchat and MSQRD apps. The last one was also bought by Facebook recently, by the way.

How to earn money with an application like WhatsApp?

Now, let's discover the revenue generation models used by the messaging app market leaders. 

Subscription fees. Initially, a subscription fee was 'WhatsApp's single method of monetization. The app charged $0.99 per year after a one-year free trial period. Still, this option might be profitable only if your app has a large user base. While most messenger apps are free, a subscription fee might limit your target audience.

Advertising. Running ads in the app is a great monetization model. For instance, Snapchat shows 10 seconds full-screen vertical video ads that appear between 'friends' stories. You can charge other businesses a cost-per-click or cost-per-mile fee for running ads on your messaging app. 

In-app purchases. To make your application profitable, you can offer users some advanced paid features. As for messaging apps, paid strikers is one of the primary revenue sources.  Also, you can offer paid wallpapers, filters, and themes to your app users. 

Sponsorship. This includes paid partnering with other businesses.  Advertisers engage with your users and provide them with rewards for completing specific in-app actions. In this way, advertisers also receive the benefit from such sponsorship. There might be branded stickers to promote products such as upcoming movies or new foods.

You can apply app monetization models and find out which of them works the best for your messaging app.  

Now, let us move on and find out how to create a messaging app like WhatsApp. 

How much does it cost to create an app like WhatsApp?

As WhatsApp is the leader in the market, I will appeal to its features and functionality to describe the whole development process and help you determine how to make a messaging app.

Registration and address book information

The first time a user enters the app he needs to sign into it. The most convenient way to do it is to use his existing phone number. 

  • In WhatsApp, they also use the SMS confirmation code for security reasons.

In WhatsApp, they also use SMS confirmation code for security reasons

  • The next step is to add contacts from your address book. Make sure this step is rapid and convenient.
  • The more friends the user has in the messaging app, the more chances that he will use it. 
  • You should also consider adding a Facebook profile or other social networks, depending on the type and purpose of your app. 
  • The profile customization option helps users create their customized profiles and express their individuality. They can change names and nicknames, background colors or patterns and fonts. 

Message exchange

This function is a bit more complicated than it seems at first. Your messaging app is supposed to send messages to users. But, it's also expected to store conversation history and provide users with it in case they logged in on another device.  For instance, WhatsApp doesn't store messages on its server, which makes their life much more convenient.

  • We bet your users won't be satisfied with this single characteristic, especially considering the trends that I have described above. 
  • Think about other possibilities that add additional value and give a unique experience to your users. 
  • Today, custom stickers and smiles became an inevitable part of the digital dialog, and sometimes it can turn into an additional income entry. 

Notifications

This tiny, but quite important feature, informs your users about new messages arriving. Notifications should be implemented in your app while developing the MVP. To add this feature to the app, our developers use 

  • Google Cloud Messaging 
  • Apple Push Notifications. 

Multimedia file transmission

You can also consider enabling your users by swapping their photos, gifs, memes, and any other photo, video, and audio content. Detailed analysis and study of this option can give you a clue about the distinctive features of your app. 

It also makes sense to provide synchronization with cloud services like 

  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox 
  • Evernote

or others. 

Location sharing

The option to share your location can be very helpful for your users. And, if you make it even more advanced, don't be surprised if your users use it to locate each other, set up meetings and stuff like that.

To create a messenger for different operating systems, our team uses 

  • Apple MapKit 
  • Google Location SDK

You can empower your app with geolocation. iBeacon and Eddystone sensors can catch your users when they are passing by and send them messages. This technology is trendy among retailers now. Think about the possibility of brand chatting with the customer in your app!

READ ALSO: How to Build a Mobile App With Geolocation?

Let us take a look at the table with the main MVP features and the estimation in hours. 

Feature

Estimation in hours

Registration and address book information

 

Message exchange

  • iOS 25 hours
  • Android 32 hours
  • Backed 47 hours

Notifications

 

  • iOS 12 hours
  • Android 16 hours
  • Backend 16 hours

Multimedia file transmission

 

  • 25 hours for iOS
  • 32 hours for Android
  • About 40 hours for the backend.

 

Location sharing

 

  • iOS 12 hours
  • Android 16 hours
  • Backend 8 hours

Total

For iOS app 208+ hours

For Android app 231+ hours


You can estimate a more detailed app development cost using our calculator

The approximate cost to develop an app like WhatsApp depends on the enormous amount of different factors. Of course, there is the basic kit of features that makes possible to clone WhatsApp. An approximate cost starts from $20-30K and includes the scope of functions described above.

Other messaging app features

Of course, this was an incomplete list of possible features. I dare to assume that this can go on forever and the only limit is time and budget.

Group chat. Another important feature that you need to consider if you want to build a WhatsApp-like app is group chat. This option lets your users create their chat with friends, invite new people, and eventually transfer all communication into your app. 

Of course, this feature entails the messaging app development cost growth, so you can add it after your MVP is ready and launched. 

VoIP phone calls. This feature is new even for WhatsApp and was added to attract more users. And it succeeded. If you want to compete with such giants as WhatsApp or Viber, this option is essential. Of course, you can release your app without it and add it later. It involves a significant amount of resources, but the results are worth it. 

To reduce the development time, you can use open-source communication libraries (WhatsApp uses PJSIP library). Anyway, this feature is one of the most time-consuming and can take up to 160-200 hours to build.

As your chat messenger grows, you can add the following features: 

  •   Event planning and calendar synchronization
  •   Encrypted chats
  •   Self-destructing messages
  •   Confirmations and redelivery
  •   App analytics
  •   In-app purchases and subscriptions
  •   Multiplatform chatting
  •   Audio and video streaming
  •   Video Chats

Takeaway

The messaging market shows continuous evolution, and there is still a chance to create a messenger app for Android and iOS that will get a decent market share. After reading this article, you know how to make an app like WhatsApp. 

Development costs depend on four key factors that you need to decide on before building an instant messaging application:

  1.   Select a platform (Android, iOS or both)
  2.   Determine the features range
  3.   Set up a budget
  4.   Pick an outsourcing company that will satisfy your time, quality, and cost requirements.

Also, don't forget to set up benchmarks and KPI's - that's how to create a messaging app that will rock! For this sort of app, three essential metrics are the number of active users, retention rate, and audience engagement.

Check out our related articles:

HOW TO CREATE A SOCIAL MEDIA APP 

HOW TO MAKE A MUSIC APP LIKE SPOTIFY

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO DEVELOP AN APP LIKE SNAPCHAT

 

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Valerii Filipets

Developer