How much does it cost to make a real-time messaging app like WhatsApp?

Mobile messaging apps have become one of the most popular communication channels, especially among young people. The most common of them is WhatsApp. Therefore, it is not surprising that banks all over the world strive to work with popular messengers to reach their audience. Furthermore, WhatsApp is the most popular app around the world.

According to recent studies, WhatsApp has now crossed the mark of 2 billion in the terms of monthly active users (MAU) and is one of the most successful instant messaging apps ever.

Most popular global mobile messaging apps 2022

But, what is the cost of development for such a successful messaging app like WhatsApp? The cost of developing an instant messenger app depends on many different factors. Let’s have a look at the various factors that affect the cost of a real-time messaging app like WhatsApp but first, let’s check the basic features required for a real-time messenger app.

Basic features required for a real-time messenger app

  1. Registration, using the mobile phone number
  2. Audio & video calling
  3. Real-time messaging
  4. Multimedia sharing
  5. Notifications

First, we shall take a closer look at these basic functionalities which you will need to create a WhatsApp like real-time messenger app clone.


For registration on WhatsApp or similar messenger apps, they usually use a phone number to authenticate the user. To implement the registration via the phone number, the backend server will need to send SMS messages to the numbers of the users who are registered.

In the Android version of the app, WhatsApp reads and submits the verification code automatically. Once the registration is done and the user has accepted the explicit permission to access contacts, the app syncs all the phone book contacts automatically to display the ones available on WhatsApp messaging platform.

Audio & Video Calling

WhatsApp’s free calling features are added to attract more users to it. It uses internet traffic to call rather than your data plan. Audio and video calls, perhaps are the most complicated task when creating a real-time messaging app like WhatsApp. As for voice quality, device responsiveness depends on many reasons.

There are a few approaches to availing this feature, few of those are:

  1. Self-hosting a TURN server (coturn)
  2. Relying on a managed TURN server (Twilio)
  3. Implementing a SaaS product (Agora)

All the approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, but a SaaS solution like Agora will be the easiest and less-expensive approach.

Real-time Messaging – One-on-one, group chat and broadcast messages

Since you are willing to build a real-time messaging app like WhatsApp, messaging is the critical feature of all. For that purpose, we integrate WebSocket that keeps the clients active and transfers messages in real-time.

Also, WhatsApp chat enables Emojis, Stickers and GIF files. Based on your use-cases, we can add more custom objects – ex. Appointment cards, product cards and more.

Multimedia sharing

Apart from sharing messages and calling on WhatsApp, we can also share images, videos, and audio notes. To add a file to the chat of your application, it needs to implement both client & server-side logic, which will host the files and securely share them with the other user.


Notifications are used to notify both the users of new messages and the app to perform activities in the background. The user can choose to enable the option to show the notifications received on the notification tray when the phone is locked. This feature can be incorporated through Firebase Cloud Messaging and Apple Push Notifications.

Steps to develop an app like WhatsApp

Now that we know what all the features a basic messenger app requires, let’s talk about the development process. We will primarily talk about 3 key phases:

  1. App Design & prototyping
  2. Server-side development
  3. App Development

App Design & Prototyping

Design/visual understanding creation is of utmost importance, as they define the visual language of the brand. We believe that stunning and intelligent design is what separates a successful product from an average one.

Server-side Development

A messaging app like WhatsApp needs to be dynamic and perform multiple business logic, for which we need a backend server. The backend server manages all the business logic on the server-side and performs complex logic.

First, WhatsApp used the XMPP-server Ejabberd but then switched to the in-house solution. Erlang was used as the main language. Service stores the data using the SQLite database.

Based on your requirement and use cases, we can recommend a tech stack which is secure, flexible and scalable.

App Development

Once, we have the design, prototyping and backend APIs, it’s time to write the client-side logic and integrate the backend APIs into the application. App development and maintenance processes can differ based on the tech stack you select. There are primarily two ways – native App development and hybrid app development.

Now, let’s look into the development cost.

How much does it cost to develop a messaging app like WhatsApp?

To develop a real-time messaging app like WhatsApp, the cost would be in the range of $20,000 – $50,000. The breakdown is as follows:

  • App Design & prototyping – from $3000
  • Server-side development – from $7000
  • App Development (iOS & Android) – from $10000

The cost is completely dependent on the tech stack to be used, the resources to be deployed and the time duration.

If you need a simpler version, we can help you with that too. The basic MVP version of a real-time messaging app starts as low as $2500.

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Abhijit Das
CEO & Co-Founder

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We have successfully launched 50+ apps for businesses from all around the world. We take pride in our ability to deliver quality apps on time and within budget.

Let’s transform your business

We have successfully launched 50+ apps for businesses from all around the world. We take pride in our ability to deliver quality apps on time and within budget.