How to сreate a messaging app in 2023: features, cost & timeline

Could you name one thing that unites all of us? Take a second to think. Our answer is the fact that we all have at least one messenger installed on our phones. We use messaging apps not only for daily communications, but also for keeping up with news, setting appointments through bots, and chatting with customer support.

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How to make a messenger app
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    The number of active users is expected only to grow, and the messaging app market is blossoming and thriving. At Purrweb we have received a lot of questions about how to create a messaging app, therefore we decided to collect our experience and create a comprehensive guide on how to nail chat app development. You’ll learn what messaging apps are popular, which features are necessary to make a messaging app. Enjoy this article and get your free app estimation at the bottom of the page! 

    If you’re hesitant about how to make a messaging app – these recent numbers will help you to make your decision. The Facebook Messenger app is used by 1.3 billion people globally, while WhatsApp grew to have 2 billion active users worldwide. Popular in Asian countries, WeChat is slightly behind, having 1.2 billion users. Slack helps 12 million people maintain business communication within companies. The great news is that the majority of users have multiple chat apps installed on their smartphones, so all listed companies are complementors, rather than competitors.

    What is a messenger?

    In 2012, Facebook, a relatively young social media platform, replaced ICQ messenger. But 10 years later, we can’t imagine our life without messengers: in 2021 WhatsApp left Facebook behind and it won’t stop gaining popularity. Even our grandmothers use WhatsApp. But if we mention the general term ‘messenger’, they may ask  ‘who?’. Let’s figure out what a messenger is and why it’s so popular today.

    A messenger is a program that allows users to exchange messages quickly and easily. The messenger can send not only text messages but also photos, videos, and audio files. It is working via the Internet and can be installed on PCs, smartphones, or tablets. The main opponents of chat apps are social networks. Even though messengers are more narrowly focused than social media, their competition is active. 

    Messengers vs. social networks: what’s the difference

    A social network is combining several functions in itself. Users can:

    • start a blog
    • make public notes and add photos, links, and other files
    • read news
    • find friends
    • chat
    • join communities
    • engage in public discussions

    While with a chat apps, people can only text each other. It seems like social media has more benefits — but wait, it’s not so easy.

    Social networks can allure users with such a variety of functions. But do people need it? According to studies, some people don’t like social media because there are “too many people”. Any user can see the general information about you or see your photos and even use this information against you. If we are talking about messengers, there you can choose what information you want to share with other people.

    The first specific thing about messengers is that they provide safe communication. For example, WhatsApp and Telegram use end-to-end encryption which is a modern way of data protection. 

    Messengers are not overloaded with functions and as practice shows, users like it. This pithiness of functions attracts some users because they can use messenger during business hours and not be distracted by entertainment content.

    Some companies have already created a messaging app that is in high demand, let’s see why.

    Winning messengers: how to succeed

    Count all popular messengers that you can remember and then answer the question: “Why are they so popular?” The answer is: they offered something unique and took their niche. Let’s find out what exactly led them to success by looking at some of the popular messaging apps in detail.


    Incredible user growth, millions dollar value — this all can be said of a corporate messenger Slack. The secret of its success is that the market had an empty niche and Slack took this place successfully: it killed intracompany mail. It has seamless onboarding and if you don’t understand something, Slackbot will help you. You can use Slack for free but there will be some limits. Pro account costs $6 and an account for business — about $12.

    Several screenshots of Slack

    Slack has become the go-to workspace messenger


    Another successful chat app that took its niche is Snapchat. It initially focused on person-to-person photo and video sharing and also included chatting and sharing stories. So, the main point was sharing media in a private space. It’s a great safe platform for online communication: you can just drop a photo to your friends and when they open it, it’ll disappear forever. It’s hard not to see the value of this messenger because it’s quite unique and you can use it for free.

    Several screenshots of Snapchat

    Self-destructing videos and messages have become Snapchat’s signature features


    Telegram entered the market offering the safest communication channel. It granted that no one could interfere in your messages preventing potential eavesdropping. When people start questioning their personal data usage, the demand for such safe messengers rose quickly and Telegram took the spot. 

    We saw some examples of popular messengers that offer something unique to their users. There’s also one more thing they share in common — they are all free.

    Several screenshots of Telegram

    Secure and full of quality-of-life improvements, Telegram is the key rival of WhatsApp

    Do messenger apps make money?

    The question about chat app monetization strategies inevitably arises among those who want to make a messaging app. The short answer is yes, they do. You are probably wondering how, because regular users enjoy free of charge texting and calling. Here are a few options on how to create a messaging app that will be profitable.

    • In-app ads;
    • Call termination technology that allows users to get ordinary calls and texts from abroad on messengers;
    • Promo stickers in collaboration with brands;
    • Donations (yes, it’s also an option and that’s how Telegram exists);
    READ MORE  How to monetize an iOS app and go crazy (rich)

    Now, when you know that you future messenger app can make money, let’s see how to create your own messaging app.

    Key features

    Let’s go straight to the point — there is a set of functions you need to consider in order to create an instant messaging app. At Purrweb, we believe an app should be user-friendly in the first place and consider customer pain points. Therefore we always advise you to start with brainstorming and defining your niche, unique characteristics, and the target audience. Then, you can move on to execution and pick what functionality you need for your app. Based on our experience, we created lists of must-have and nice-to-have features for the best messaging app.

    READ MORE  Two techniques that will help you pick MVP features



    The registration process should be as quick as a new Tesla goes to 100 km/h. Okay, maybe it will take users more than 2 seconds, but you got the point. In order to make authorization fast, we recommend adding social media, phone number, or e-mail integration. After this, the user will be able to choose a photo and a username. Some apps like Telegram allow users to hide their phone numbers and create multiple profiles. It might be really useful, for example, if you live between two countries and have multiple SIM-cards.

    Access to contacts

    This feature makes the onboarding process in an app like WhatsApp much easier, because a user can sign up, sync its contacts, and instantly start messaging.

    How to make a messenger app like Telegram


    The instant messaging feature is the core of your chat app. For successful chatting your apps will need elements like private and group chats, send and unsend messages, delivery status, text history, and editing functionality. If you want to create a messaging app like a pro, consider adding video and audio messages to your app later on. We know, it sounds like a lot of elements to integrate – that’s why you will need an experienced UX-designer, who will create an easy-to-navigate interface. Make a messaging process pleasant, and your app will find its audience.

    how to make a messenger app

    File exchange

    Ability to exchange media files can not only spice things up but also extend the variety of reasons why people will use your instant messaging app. Let users send photos, videos, gifs, and documents to each other and use chats as cloud storage (yes, we all look for an ID photo in our messengers).

    Push notifications

    It’s not enough to build a chat. Users should instantly be notified that they have received a new message. If you have ever used a messenger in your life, you probably know how important notifications are 😉

    Data protection

    When it comes to any kind of communication — personal or work — privacy is important. Users’ data is usually stored on app-owned servers, messages are encrypted and they are transferred between devices using different communication protocols. Consult us directly to know more about data security technologies and create a safety messaging app.


    It can be integrated into your messenger with the help of third-party services. Geolocation allows users to share their position with others. The messenger also uses geolocation to set the language of users’ abiding place.

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    These features are not required from the start as they can ramp up the cost to build a chat app. But they definitely enhance the instant messaging app experience, so note them for the future.


    Modern chat apps are much more than just message exchange. If you want to go to infinity and beyond, you should consider adding voice and video calls to the app. Maybe it’s not that necessary on the first app development stage, but as soon as you have resources, it’s good to think about expanding the functionality to the call exchange.

    When you implement voice and/or video calls, make sure that they are properly protected. With end-to-end encryption (E2EE) in place, no third party will be able to intercept information traveling between the devices of call participants — and even if they do gain unauthorized access to the data flow, it will be impossible to decrypt without the appropriate key. This has become a standard practice in the market, with all major messengers (i.e. Telegram, WhatsApp, Viber, and many others) offering a high degree of user protection.  


    This feature will bring a lot of business to your messenger. Chatbot is an automatic software that maintains online communications with customers, sends automatic replies, and answers frequently asked questions. They can also call a human if a user’s question is too difficult for the machine.

    how to make a messenger app


    First launched by Telegram back in 2015, channels are a form of one-way communication platforms similar to communities in social media. They allow users to directly reach their subscribers with any type of content, be it text, video, or audio. The current staple in the industry are Telegram channels, which support an unlimited number of subscribers, feature multiple analytics tools for admins and offer content protection measures — for example, the channel owner can block screenshots or disable message forwarding. In one of the many updates, Telegram also enabled subscribers to leave comments under posts. 

    Channels are becoming the new standard for messengers, and we encourage you to come up with your signature spin on this feature. 

    Self-destructing messages

    Self-destructing or ephemeral messages are a simple and effective privacy protection tool. The logic behind them is really straightforward: once the recipient reads the message, the app permanently erases it from every server and device it has passed through to provide an even higher level of privacy, many apps supplement ephemeral messaging with screenshot protection and end-to-end encryption. Perfect for discussing legal matters, receiving medical consultations or sharing sensitive corporate info. 

    Looks massive? Here’s a compact list of key features for you to have a look.

    Must-have messenger featuresNice-to-have messenger features
    Access to contactsChatbots
    File exchangeDisappearing messages
    Push notification
    Data protection 

    Technology stack for a messaging app

    There are several aspects of building a messaging app like WhatsApp. First, you need to consider which communication protocol to use. It regulates how devices exchange information with servers.

    Three protocols can be used in instant messaging app development:

    • Extensible Messaging Presence Protocol (XMPP) — an old protocol made for real-time messaging, easily adaptable to different needs.
    • Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) — popular in IoT (internet of things) devices, comes with minimal features only.
    • WebSockets — a newer protocol that allows the user-server exchange even without requests from the user’s side.

    To create a messaging application you’ll need to choose between native and cross-platform app development. Native app development essentially means building different apps for each operating system. To build a chat app for iOS natively you’ll need developers experienced in Objective-C or Swift. For Android, the tech stack will be Java and Kotlin. 

    And if you wonder how to make a messaging app suitable for both systems, cross-platform development is the answer. That way the tech stack for both iOS and Android app development will be the same.

    Before we move on to the app development costs, here’s a bonus tip from us.


    Save your time and money choosing React Native

    When entering the market with your first ever messenger, choose to develop it with React Native. It is a framework created by Facebook 5 years ago. It works with JavaScript — one of the most popular programming languages across the world. There are 3 major pros of working with a team that develops on React Native.

    Cross-platform development

    With cross-platform development, you can write code once and deploy it across both iOS and Android at once. It reduces costs and enables developers to deliver a unified user experience across multiple platforms using just a single codebase. Our go-to frontend framework for mobile apps is React Native — a flexible, reliable, and easy-to-use tool with ample community resources and an extensive ecosystem. This framework also comes with a component-based architecture that opens up huge possibilities for creating complex features and UI patterns. 

    Backend development

    For the backend, we use JavaScript — a highly versatile programming language with a scalable architecture. Thanks to server-side frameworks like Node.js, JavaScript can also be used for server-side scripting, making it an all-in-one tool. This allows our developers to use the same language for both client-side and server-side development, simplifying the workflow.

    Third-party services

    Using third-party services is an effective way to significantly reduce the costs of a chat app development, so if you find yourself on a tight budget, we can implement certain features with ready-made solutions. Examples include payment gateways, chatbots, ads managers, social media embeds, analytics tools, and many other features. For managing data, you can use Firebase Realtime Database or Amazon S3. For chats and video calls, Twillio or And so on. Contact us to find the perfect solution for your app.  

    Why React Native?

    There are 3 reasons:


    The language is very common among developers, so it’s not difficult and time consuming to find a contractor for your app development.

    One shared codebase

    When developing different versions of the app for Android and iOS, they will share around 65-70% of the code. What does it mean for your business? First of all, it significantly cuts the developing time. Secondly, there is no need to hire and pay (!) two separate teams — just find one who works with the framework.

    Native-like UI/UX design

    Facebook has massive libraries of native UI-elements for an interface. How is it beneficial to your idea? Well, it simply means that your future app will scroll, swipe, and tap like native-build ones. The performance of the messenger will be native, but you will save tons of time and money choosing React Native over the native development.

    We have been working with React Native for the past 4 years, and we can’t say we are disappointed. The framework allows us to create MVPs for our clients in 3 months — it means that after 3 months you come to us with an idea, you will have a working product version that you can test to collect feedback and show to potential investors.

    An image depicting the simplified principle of cross platform development with React Native

    With React Native, you can develop an app simultaneously for both Android and iOS

    READ MORE  How we developed an application for smart fridges in 6 weeks. Vendify case study

    What are the challenges of building a messaging app

    Even if you have the best team and a lot of time instant messenger app development has its difficulties. However, any problem is solvable if you know what to expect.

    So here are 3 challenges to keep in mind while building an app like WhatsApp:

    Data security 

    An ​​instant messaging app operates with sensitive personal information. That’s why it’s important to use proper encryption.

    Server operation 

    The server for the app needs to work perfectly: without long delays and lost information. It should also be able to deal with multiple people making requests all at once (overload).

    Real-time chat 

    When it comes to instant messaging, there should be no synchronization issues. Meaning you can receive a message from someone even when you sent them one at the exact same time.   

    If you want to create a chat app MVP and avoid any difficulties, consider working with an experienced agency like Purrweb.

    How to create a messaging app from scratch

    If you want to create a messaging app, this requires experience, knowledge, and time. There are some steps to follow:

    Project estimation and functionality prioritization

    In the first stage, you need to estimate the functionality of your project. When you approve all the necessary chat app features, a business analyst and the team estimate the scope of work. As we are followers of the MVP approach, we recommend you focus only on the most crucial features.

    UI/UX design

    Designers begin to work: they collect negative references, which helps to grasp the client’s taste. Then goes the instant messaging app architecture — we create a mindmap that shows all the logic of the app and wireframes that show the position of buttons or content. Then designers create a concept — it’s a ready-made part of the app that shows a particular flow. When the client approves the screens, designers make ready-made mockups and UI-kit. The app is ready for development.


    Specialists put in motion the app development process — it’s a task for backend and frontend developers who will build a fully working product. We develop apps using two-week sprints and at the end of every sprint, we are ready to show one or two finished features


    QA specialists test your instant messaging app and check its efficiency, safety, and functionality. If you develop a cross-platform app, they will test it on both iOS and Android. At the end of each sprint, we plan 2 days for bug fixing. Every two sprints we make regression testing because we need to be sure that all features work together correctly.

    Release and support

    You can add ready-made and tested messenger to the App Store and Google Play. But if the app has been released, it doesn’t mean that the task is fully completed. Often the released app needs bug fixing and in most cases, the app development agency supports the app after release.

    Let’s discuss the messenger development price. 

    An image of a map depicting the key stages of mobile MVP development

    The map we use here at Purrweb

    What factors affect the messaging app development price

    If you want to create a messaging app, we define 2 factors for you that influence the development cost.

    • Project complexity. Of course, you’ve already defined all the functions before creating a messaging app on the first step of development preparation. The price depends on how big and complex your future messenger would be. You have to increase your budget in accordance with your needs. On the other hand, if you want to develop an MVP, then you can focus on high-priority features and improve your messenger later. 
    • Hiring option. There are 3 main groups of app developers: freelancers, in-house teams, and outsourcing teams. The development costs with each group are different. Most freelancers have lower rates. If you want to hire an in-house team, then you have to set up an office with all the facilities. We recommend you better hire an outsource team. There are some benefits of it.

    Why outsourcing is more effective than an in-house team

    It’s cost-effective 

    The cost depends on the location of the developers. For example, the most expensive outsource developers are in America and the cheapest are in India.  

    Short-term commitments 

    Most often customers hire developers on an hourly model of payment. It helps to avoid long-term commitments and allows customers to pay only for work done. 

    Core competency

    Delegate the development to professionals and focus on your business tasks. So you accelerate the growth of your business and get the ready-made product fast and easy.

    How much does it cost to make a messaging app?

    We reached the most important part of the article — estimated costs and timelines. If you want to know how to create a messaging app, then you should know — it is a complex process that involves a team of developers, UX designers, product managers, and QA specialists. And everyone needs to be paid 🙂

    Our philosophy is to be as open and transparent as possible, so we always discuss prices and timeframes beforehand. We offer a full-cycle development of a React Native app from scratch, including UI/UX, API, Frontend development services, and testing– everything you need for the mobile app release in App Store and Google Play. Moreover, to develop an on-demand messenger, we will take extra cases of data security, establish communication protocols and reliable connection with servers, while our UX-designers will research your potential users, plan the architecture of the app and create a design concept.

    Here’s the timeline with prices. But remember: this estimation is for an average messaging app

    StageWhat we are doingEstimation in hoursEstimation in weeksApproximate cost
    Project estimationWe discuss an idea of your messaging app and estimate the costs and time needed~4-16 hours1 weekno costs
    UI/UX designWe make an app architecture, come up with design concepts for each step, and present them to you150 hours5 weeks$6.000
    DevelopmentOur team develops an app 1646 hours18 weeks$48.880
    Admin panelOur team develops admin panel424 hoursin parallel with project$16.960
    QA TestingWe search for any possible bug and fix it before launch450 hoursIn parallel with development$8.100
    Project managementAssign tasks, controls deadlines and removes any bumps from the roadIn parallel with projectIn parallel with project$500 – design

    $4.500 – development

    Below you can find an estimation of how long it would take for our team to develop each feature for a messaging app

    FeaturesBackend (hours)Frontend (hours)
    Access to contacts80100
    File exchange60120
    Data protection (end-to-end encryption)8080
    Audio-, video calls180180
    Admin panel (Authorization, chat manager, user manager, servce manager)160264

     Overall, if you want to make a chat app, it will take you 5 months and $85.000.

    Let’s start working on your custom messenger app today!
    We look forward to hearing from you. Contact us for a free project estimate within 48 hours.
    Let's start

    Let’s finally do the math now!

    Overall, the team of 6 people will create your messaging app. According to similar projects we have made, the estimated cost of development is about $85.000 for a full cycle of development. This budget includes UI/UX design, building a prototype, QA testing, creating iOS and Android versions, connecting to servers and everything else needed. In 5 months you will get a fully-working messaging app with all crucial features.

    As a bonus — we will answer all your questions about how to create a messaging app and share with you tips and secrets about successful execution. You can always check our portfolio and reviews and reach out to us anytime in a contact form.

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    FAQ s

    • What is a messenger?

      It’s a service for instant messaging and sharing media files, which allows users to be in touch with other users of the messenger. It can send not only text messages but also photo, video, and audio files. The messengers are working via the Internet and can be installed on PC, smartphones, or tablets.

    • Basic features a messaging app should have

      1.Authorization 2.Access to contacts 3.Instant messaging 4. File exchange 5.Geolocation 6.Push-notification 7.Data protection

    • Additional features

      1.Video calls 2.Chatbots 3.Self-destructing messages

    • How to create a messaging app

      1.Research the market 2.Define the competitors of your future app 3.Select relevant features that you want to see in your messaging app 4.Think about your monetization strategy 5.Decide on the features of your MVP 6.Find and hire a relevant developer or development team 7.Communicate with a team to achieve better results 8.Think through your marketing strategy 9.Release the app 10.Continue gradually adding new features.