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How Much Does It Cost to Build a Messaging App? [2023 Cost Breakdown]

15 min read
Cost to Build a Messaging App Breakdown

What is the cost to build a messaging app?

If you are looking for an exact number, you’ve got to the wrong place.

Chat app development costs can range between as low as $20,000 and as high as $500,000 or even more.

This article overviews some key factors that influence the development cost. By the end, you’ll understand how to calculate the cost to build a messaging app and how to cut the cost by up to four times.

Here are a few points covered in the article:

  • Factors influencing the cost to build a messaging app
  • Basic & advanced features of a messaging application
  • Messaging app development cost calculation

Jump in if you’re interested to learn how to build a messaging app like Whatsapp, Telegram, or Signal.

By the way, the revenue of Whatsapp was 8.7 billion in 2021. Not a bad inspiration, right? 😉

Key Factors That Influence the Cost to Build a Messaging App

Growth of Messaging Apps Popularity

When development companies calculate the cost to build a messaging app, what is the deciding factor? In fact, there are a few influential factors to keep in mind.

Design Complexity

The user interface is something with the power to make users fall in love with your app at first glance. When poorly designed, an app can turn into a disaster. That’s why companies dedicate hundreds of hours working on their applications’ UX and UI design.

The design complexity is one of factors that influence the final cost to build a messaging app. The more custom elements you add, screens you need to design, unique your logo and branding elements, the more you’ll have to pay.

At the same time, you can’t afford to rely on some ready-to-use template and risk the whole destiny of your app. Hiring an app design company to work on the UX/UI design of your app is the first step in the right direction.

Technical Complexity

Are you going to develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with a minimum number of features? Or are you going for a full-fledged product with some complex functionality like disappearing messages and encrypted messages?

Your answer will directly influence chat app development costs. The more features you want to develop, the more complex you need the back-end of your app to be, the higher price you’ll need to pay.

Supported platforms

Are you going to develop an app for iOS or Android? Do you need to create a desktop version? Are you going to develop a hybrid or a native app?

Depending on the answers, the cost to build a messaging app can be a few hundred thousand higher or lower.

To mitigate the risks, companies often start with an app for one platform – iOS or Android. After the first version proves successful, they start thinking about expanding to other platforms and devices. This way, you wouldn’t need to invest heavily into an idea that might or might not succeed.

 

Development Vendor’s Location

Are you going to hire an app development company from the USA, or are you considering a European vendor? If you choose the first option, it may increase the price by up to five times. Developers in other locations, such as Europe, may charge a few times less. It doesn’t mean that they are bad. You just need to match your future project with the required skill set. Below you can see how the average hourly rate of development vendors ranges depending on their region.

Average Development Hourly Rate by Vendor's Location

If you want an estimate of your messaging app, get in touch with us for free preliminary project estimation and discussion.

Basic Features of Messaging Apps

Functionality is another cost-forming factor. The more features you add, the higher their complexity, the higher will be the development cost. It’s possible to release a messaging app with a basic set of features. Let’s review some of the must-have features for a messaging app.

Registration

Development time: 35 – 40 hours

Cost: $1,750 – $2,000

* Here and below, the cost is calculated based on an average hourly rate of $50. The estimations are very rough and may vary based on numerous factors.

Registration is the first step in the user journey. Underestimating its importance is the worst thing you can do for your future applications. User registration with a phone number, email address and social media are the most popular options today.

To speed up the process, you can use SDKs and APIs to connect your app with the above-mentioned social media.

Contacts integration

Development time: 40 hours

Cost: $2,000

As soon as users sign up with your application, they should be able to x import their contacts quickly. Often, apps automatically sync contacts with the phone book on the phone and social media accounts. Consider allowing users to choose the sources for synchronization. 

User profile

Development time: 20 hours

Cost: $1,000

A user profile contains information that is used to identify an individual. Messaging apps usually allow you to set up a phone number, username, photo, status, icon, etc. Users should also have the ability to change this information as required.

Messaging

Development time: 150 – 400+ hours

Cost: $7,500 – $12,500+

Messaging is the core feature of any chat application. This is a large feature that can be subdivided into smaller ones:

  • Private chats – one-to-one conversations are a must-have functionality for users.
  • Group chats – users will also expect to have the group chats functionality which will allow them to communicate with their contacts in a group discussion.
  • Message status – this feature shows when the message is delivered and when the recipient reads it.
  • Message search – users will be able to search their messaging history filtering the results with words and phrases.
  • Voice messaging – love it or hate it, voice messages have become an essential feature of messaging applications. Users can use them on the go and when they can’t type a message. 

Voice and video calls

Development time: 150 – 450 hours

Cost: $7,500 – $22,500

Voice calls are a popular functionality of messaging applications. They allow users to save money on international phone calls or even pass some local regulations and restrictions in some regions of the world. To step the feature up, you can also add the support of group voice and video calls. It will help you set the application aside from the competitors.

Check how we helped create a VoIP application that meets all regulations of the Gulf region. 

Media files sharing

Development time: 100 – 120 hours

Cost: $5,000 – $6,000

Files sharing is a must-have feature of almost any chat app in the world. It’s impossible to imagine a conversation online where you don’t share some pics with your friends or family.

Push notifications

Development time: 50 – 70 hours

Cost: $2,500 – $3,500

A push notification pops up on their screen as soon as a user receives a new message. Push notifications are a way for users to keep track of what’s happening on the app and to increase user engagement. Some users consider notifications too distracting and noisy, so make sure you grant them the ability to turn them on and off, and adjust them to their liking.

Advanced Messaging App Features

Some additional features will make your application stand out from the competition. You might not need to invest in their development with the first version of the app and opt to add them when you’ve successfully validated your app idea and got positive results from first users.

The table below shows a list of some advanced features and the time and cost their action would take.

Features Development time Cost
Group voice or video calls 250+ hours $12,500+
Scheduled messages & reminders 60+ hours $3,000+
Location sharing 100+ hours $5,000+
Self-destructing messages 60+ hours $3,000+
Built-in browser (e.g., Telegram Instant View) 40+ hours $2,000+
People nearby 170+ hours $8,500+

Key Challenges of Building a Messaging Application

Messaging app development is not a piece of cake, especially if you’re unaware of the challenges that might undermine all your efforts. So, let’s look at some of the curves you’ll need to navigate on the journey.

Challenges to Create a Messaging App

Security

Security is something users are very serious about. You break their trust, you might not have a second chance to regain it.

When it comes to messaging, you need to comply with various security standards and regulations, like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act). End-to-end data encryption and secure server infrastructure are where you start.

Competition

Do you want to build an app that will have success? You’ll

 need to go all the way out to fight for users’ attention and love. And you don’t do it by releasing a mediocre solution. You’ll need to give them a reason to switch from their favorite messaging app they trust to some new solution that has just appeared on the market.

How do you do that?

Get in touch with our team to discuss your project. We’re a team of professionals with experience releasing apps for communication with millions of users.

Real-time features

All the mobile chat apps have set a high bar for newbies. Users expect a certain set of features to be available for them as soon as they open a messaging app. If you fail to determine these features, your app is doomed. So, your basic features should better work seamlessly and check off all the expectations on the users’ list.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Messaging App?

So, now we’ve moved to the question that we’d all gathered here for – the cost to build a messaging app. 

The messaging app development cost will range between $30,000 to $70,000 for a single platform. Below is the table showing the work that should be done and their approximate estimation.

  Development time Cost
UX/UI design (single platform) 50 – 100+ hours $2,500 – $5,000+
iOS app development 600 – 1,000 hours $30,000 – $50,000
Android app development 800 – 1,300 hours $40,000 – $65,000
Back-end 500-800 hours $25,000 – $40,000

The final chat app development cost will vary depending on the outsourcing location, the number of platforms you’re targeting, the design and its complexity, the number and complexity of features, and even your timeline.

To build a messaging app, you’ll need a whole team of experts to work on your project. Usually, the team composition for building iOS and Android apps looks like the following:

  • 1 project manager
  • 1 UX/UI designer
  • 1-2 iOS developers
  • 1-2 Android developers
  • 1 back-end developer
  • 1 front-end developer

There will also be some additional expenses, like server infrastructure, app support, marketing, and so on.

Cost to Build a Messaging App: Wrap Up

As you can see, the subject of chat app development cost is complex as a lot of processes are involved. You can make the task much easier and cheaper if you hire experienced app developers with relevant experience. This way, you won’t need to wander in the woods by yourself. The vendor will show you the fastest way to achieve your goals and successfully deliver a solution that users will love to the market.

Need help with messaging mobile app development?

Get in touch with us to discuss your project. You’ll get a free project estimate prepared by a team of experts with experience in messaging app development.

What are the key steps to creating a messaging app?
  1. Research the market.
  2. Define the competition.
  3. Select features for your messaging app.
  4. Decide on the monetization strategy.
  5. Find and hire a reliable development vendor.
  6. Start the development process.
  7. Create a content marketing strategy and launch it before the app’s released.
  8. Launch the app.
  9. Gather feedback from first users.
  10. Take into account the feedback and plan further chat app development.
How much does it cost to develop a messaging app?

The starting cost to build a messaging app ranges from $30,000 to $70,000 for a single platform. The more features you add, the higher will be the cost. The addition of a second application will double the chat app development cost.

How much do the most popular messaging apps make?

While it’s close to impossible to tell how much messaging apps make, we can tell you how many users they have. WhatsApp has over 2.44 billion users. Facebook Messenger has over a billion users. Telegram has over 500 million users. WeChat has over 1.29 billion active users. Numbers talk for themselves.

What is the best way to cut the cost of building a messaging app?

It’s possible to reduce the mobile app development cost. The best way to do it is to hire an experienced software development company to handle the process for you. When you work with professionals, the chance that something will go wrong is lower. The app will be delivered to the market within the predetermined timeline and budget. As a result, you will avoid costly redoing and unexpected deadline shifts.

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