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How to Make a Chat App Like WhatsApp: Our Vision

We've been spending the whole day with our smartphones at hand and with round-the-clock access to the Internet. So it's not surprising that we prefer to communicate with friends through all sorts of instant messengers. And the most popular among them is WhatsApp.

According to Statista, every month it is being used by 1 billion people all over the world. In addition, WhatsApp is the most sought-after application in 109 countries. But how to create a messaging app like WhatsApp? Is it even possible? Let's figure it out.


  1. What is WhatsApp?
  2. Strategy of success
  3. User Flow
  4. Competitors
  5. Ways to monetize
  6. Instant messaging app features
  7. How to build an app like WhatsApp? Tips and tricks.
  8. Chat app development cost
  9. Summary

What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a mobile application for exchanging short messages via the Internet. And it's not just the most successful project, it's a typical image of the American Dream come true. This is the legend of an immigrant from a poor family who managed to become a billionaire and blessed our mankind with a new useful service. No wonder that we want to learn how to create a chat app like WhatsApp.

The essence of the application is reflected in its name that is literally offering us to contact our families or friends to find out how they do. "What's Up, guys? Can I help you?"

WhatsApp is especially popular outside the US and successfully competes with Asian messengers. In addition, this application is in great demand in the emerging markets of Brazil, Mexico, and Turkey.

Since its launch in 2009, WhatsApp has evolved into the industry leader, available on almost all mobile OS.

how to make app like whatsapp

If you want to know how to create a chat application like WhatsApp, you need to consider this competitor in more detail. What is it that attracts users?

Its popularity in the world messenger market is provided by following key features:

  • Registration by phone number;
  • Realtime-events;
  • Sharing files and images;
  • Recording of voice messages;
  • Voice calls.

Also, WhatsApp allows you to download files from third-party cloud services, such as Google Drive, OneDrive and iCloud.

Of courses, this is a very brief overview, later in this article, we will give you much more information on the matter so that you’ll know in detail how to build an app like Whatsapp.

And right now we're going to analyze WhatsApp marketing strategy.

Strategy of success

WhatsApp Inc was established on February 24, 2009, in California. Its creators are Jan Koum and Brian Acton.

It may be said without exaggeration that this was a history of deafening success, and many consider it to be almost a miracle. And really, there are a lot of questions to be asked. How did the application manage to sweep the market and win about 450 million users around the world? What had been done in order to distance rivals and the strong ones? And how did Koum, a native of Ukraine, manage to create a messenger app that Facebook had bought for $ 19 billion?

how to build an app like whatsapp

It seems to be a marvel, but it’s not. In fact, it is due to the successful strategy that includes:

#1. The right idea at the right time

When Jan Koum came up with the idea of this service, the constant online Internet audience numbered billions of users. In such circumstances, the task to embrace the audience of several hundred million turned out to be an attainable goal. For example, when AOL was being launched, only 3% of users were constantly online.

So the growth of the number of phones connected to the Network greatly helped plans of WhatsApp's owners. Taking advantage of the existing infrastructure, the company was able to fully tap into its resources and build a chat app with the best user experience.

#2. Timely change of strategy

Not everyone knows that WhatsApp was not always an instant messenger. Initially, Jan Koum designed it as an iPhone application, whose task was to show the status of users in the contact list. The need for such a service became apparent to Jan Koum after one incident that occurred in his own life. He was doing fitness in the gym when his angry boss from the Yahoo company called to find out why he was not at the office. And this was a moment when Jan realized the usefulness of having a phone service with statuses showing the level of contact availability.

Soon, Apple launched a push notification system, and Koum took advantage of this innovation by integrating it into WhatsApp. In the new version of the application, the program began to notify users of any change in the status of their contacts.

Users liked this feature so much that they started sending notifications (that is, messages of sorts) to each other. Koum was amused to find out that he had managed to create a chat app though he didn’t mean to.

Reflecting the prevailing mood of users, Koum had released WhatsApp 2.0 which had a lot more messaging features. Thanks to this forethought, the number of users had reached 250 thousand people at a fast clip.

how to create a chat application like whatsapp

#3. The best alternative to SMS and MMS messages

There is no doubt that the WhatsApp growth was significantly affected by the fact that using the application was much cheaper than sending SMS and MMS messages. Since WhatsApp relied on 2G and 3G technologies, users were able to bypass the constant limitations of mobile operators and the high cost of services.

In addition, WhatsApp offered features that mobile operators did not have: group chats, the ability to send audio and video files or share your location… Undoubtedly, such an extended functionality made this instant messaging app even more tempting for users.

#4. Confidentiality

Working with users' personal messages is always a huge responsibility, and this is what the company had taken very seriously in the chat app development process. WhatsApp does not collect your personal information, such as name, gender, address or age. Registration is carried out using a phone number which eliminates the need to remember logins and passwords. And there is one more benefit: messages, after being delivered, are always deleted from WhatsApp servers. All this, undoubtedly, also contributed to the WhatsApp success.

#5. No ads

Nobody likes advertising, but we all resign ourselves to its inevitability. That's why it's especially pleasant to get at one's disposal an instant messenger that not only satisfies the need for communication but also does not irritate us with ads.

In fact, WhatsApp creators expected this very reaction when laying a scheme of the app development. While being interviewed by Fast Companies, Koum explains that he considers smartphones to be a personal device that is unacceptable for advertising purposes. He says that when you receive a message from a beloved one, you want to answer immediately, not being distracted by advertising.

#6. Reliable Functionality

As we have already explained, WhatsApp is not only managing without placing ads, the company itself does not spend money either on advertising or on attracting users. Instead, the service founders focused on creating a useful product.

Being intent on the improvement of their application, the creators have figured out how to make an instant messaging app of the highest quality. Of course, we, users, appreciate these efforts by joining the ranks of its admirers.

#7. Cross-platform scripting

Kum and Acton understood: the more users, the better. Therefore, they decided to create messenger apps not just for smartphone users. This meant that they needed to make their application cross-platform, accessible to a wide range of mobile devices including the oldest ones.

Cross-platform scripting along with the support of mobile phones of outdated models allowed the service to reach a multi-million audience of users (even those who’re living in less-developed countries and therefore having only old smartphones).

WhatsApp supports such devices as iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia, as well as Android and Windows Phone. This, among other things, attracts new users to this instant messenger.

how to make app like whatsapp

#8. Convenience and ease of use

There is no doubt that WhatsApp application has an intuitive and user-friendly interface. And the obviousness of this factor does not reduce its worth. Therefore, a well-thought-out and consistent interface should be taken into account by everyone who wants to know how to develop an app like Whatsapp.

#9. Word of mouth

All of these factors have made WhatsApp a powerful and useful service. That's why the word-of-mouth effect did the trick: every user, who appreciated the advantages of this instant messaging app, wanted to share his impressions with friends. This caused a viral effect which is still the main growth engine of WhatsApp.

#10. Network effect

Gradually, the WhatsApp user base reached the limits when the network effect triggers, which led to an increase in the WhatsApp value. This is usually the case for large social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram.

Agree, if a person downloads WhatsApp and finds out that 30 or 40 people from the list of his contacts have already been using this instant messenger, he is unlikely to delete it. Moreover, there is a chance of him sending invitations to his friends as potential new users. So keep a network effect in mind if you'd like to create your own WhatsApp.

WhatsApp audience has quickly expanded to two and a half hundred thousand users. Subsequently, such a rapid growth made this instant messaging app one of the most popular on the planet.

A bigtime deal

how to build an app like whatsapp

Speaking about the success of WhatsApp, we cannot fail to mention the one-time-only deal, the deal of the century.

No wonder that WhatsApp’s success attracted the interest of the high and mighty ones: every big app market player wanted to own this wonderful service. For example, Google offered a billion dollars for buying WhatsApp. But the winner was Facebook that was willing to part with gobs of money: 19 (!) billion dollars.

So, February 19, 2014, was the day when Whatsapp became a part of the Facebook company. The bigtime deal had been concluded.

how to create a chat application like whatsapp

WhatsApp has a success story, and it's not finished yet. And if you want to learn how to create a messaging app like WhatsApp, try to take up its lead, namely:

  • Minimize annoying factors. You can hardly afford the luxury of giving up advertising, as WhatsApp did. However, try to avoid excessive importunity of ads.
  • Investigate the application market. What other features have instant messengers left without attention? You can use that omission to satisfy users' requests to the fullest.
  • Analyze user behavior. Keep an eye on the behavior of users in your application. Only because WhatsApp creators had paid attention to the fact that users considered the notifications system as an instant messenger, they were able to build a chat app and achieve such a success.
  • Remember about security. Give close attention to this matter. Hire the most reliable developers who can build WhatsApp clone - that is, create a chat app that really protects users' interests.
  • Use Network effect. If a user has only two or three people on the contact list who use your service, this app of yours will not be of great value to him. So, you need to attract as many users as possible. At the initial stages of promotion, you can, for example, offer certain bonuses to those users who are ready to send out invitations to friends in order to ask them to join your instant messaging app.
  • Initiate the effect of "word of mouth". Make people talk about your service, let them discuss it. To achieve such a viral effect, you have to know how to develop an app like WhatsApp, the app that not only fulfills the user's needs but also impresses people with its design, approach to the security problem, unusual functionality, etc.

In addition, if you want to create your own WhatsApp, you should find out how this instant messenger interacts with the user, so you can copy the main idea.

User Flow

Suppose you want to start using WhatsApp. What is the sequence of your actions?

  • Download and install Whatsapp (it's available in both App Store and Google Play)
  • Give the program access to your contacts.

how to make app like whatsapp

  • Having accepted the terms of service (the inevitable step!), enter your phone number in the specified text field and wait for the SMS message with the verification code.
  • Enter the verification code that had been sent. After that, you will be redirected to the profile creation page for this instant messaging app.
  • Enter your name and upload the photo. It will help your contacts recognize you without any problem.
    • If you have already installed WhatsApp, you will be offered the option to restore the chat history.
    • It is also possible to integrate personal data from your Facebook profile.

As you can see, WhatsApp not only aims to simplify the registration process as much as possible, it makes the user's interaction with its system much safer. Bear this in mind while thinking of how to make an app like WhatsApp.

After the simplest registration, the user is ready to start communicating. This is quite easy:

  • Tap on the button to create a new message. On the iPhone, it is located in the upper right-hand corner and looks like a pencil and a notepad. On Android, you can find it in the lower right-hand corner, the button looks like a message icon. Then you can:
    • Tap on the "New group" option to use multiple contacts for group communication.
    • Tap on the person you need in your contacts to start communicating with him individually.
  • In addition, the program allows you to send attachments such as:
    • a picture just taken (via a smartphone camera)
    • a photo or video file from the smartphone Gallery.
    • a document (a specific file that is stored on your phone or on the cloud service you are using - for example, Google Drive).
    • a map with your location.
    • the contact information of the user from the list of your contacts.
  • Additional features (you should think about creating them if you want to build WhatsApp clone):
  • voice messages: you can create an audio recording and send it to a friend.
  • phone or video calls.

how to build an app like whatsapp

What can you use to build your own user flow?

  • The simplest registration system;
  • The most advanced functionality, especially with regard to messaging features;
  • Security of the highest level.

We will discuss all these problems in more detail when describing how to make an instant messaging app. But first, let's pay attention to WhatsApp's competitors because they are yours either.


If you are planning to create your own WhatsApp, you should be prepared for the fact that you're going to face a strong competition.

Let's consider the most significant players in the app market (besides WhatsApp, which we have already talked about in detail).

how to create a chat application like whatsapp

#1. Facebook messenger

Since launch in 2011, Facebook Messenger has gained popularity, comparable to the demand for WhatsApp. Its clean, light app interface is practical and user-friendly.

BTW! As you remember, in 2014 the media giant Facebook acquired the WhatsApp messenger for an incredible $ 19 billion and clearly did not regret it. Of course! The number of active WhatsApp users has long exceeded a billion (1.3 billion in July 2017).

Facebook and WhatsApp are similar, but both remain popular. So, you can build a chat app which will be in demand too. You just need to find the right approach.

#2. Slack

how to make app like whatsapp

Programs for corporate communication are becoming more popular. Since Slack was released in 2013, it has already become one of the most popular corporate messengers. In February 2017, the number of its active users reached 5 million.

#3. SnapChat

American teenagers call SnapChat one of the most important applications of their generation. Almost a third of SnapChat users are people from 18 to 24 years old. In a few words, Snapchat allows you to share a photo and video messages, moreover, the lifetime of such a message is set by the sender himself.

 Read our tips on how to make an app like SnapChat

Ways to monetize

So, you decided to find out how to create a chat app like WhatsApp. It means it should also be both effective and profitable.

First, we'll analyze the WhatsApp monetization strategy.

Jan Koum and Brian Acton ignored the usual stereotypes. Instead of tracking the right audience through advertising, they decided to take one dollar for a product that does not collect information about the user. And this approach proved to be incredibly effective. Despite the rejection of traditional marketing, the company experienced impressive viral growth. This is because the product has fully met the requirements of the market.

(So, the next rule of successful chat app development: offer what the market requires!)

Until January 18, 2016, one should have paid $ 0.99 per year, starting from the second year, for using this app. As for Apple platforms, users had to make one payment when buying an application. Now the system is absolutely free for everyone.

Subscription seems to be quite a good way to make a profit, right? But to make use of it, you need to create a messenger app that will be in high demand, people should be willing to pay for your service.

By the way, the instant messaging app has changed the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy recently, it happens for the first time in four years. The company is clearly preparing to introduce new ways to monetize.

So far there have been two changes:

  • WhatsApp has allowed companies to send messages to users. For example, the airline can notify the passenger about the cancellation of the flight. The instant messenger wants to find out whether people can communicate with business representatives without spam and banner ads.
  • The messenger has transferred data about its users to Facebook while remaining a separate service. Facebook will use phone numbers to fine-tune the advertisement. Besides, phone numbers in WhatsApp have been combined with Facebook users profiles.

Insiders claim that WhatsApp plans to charge companies like Uber for the chance to send messages to users (with their consent, of course).

But you are unlikely to own a network like Facebook, so you need to consider more traditional ways of earning (if you want to build a chat app that would be profitable).

There are several ways to make money using the instant messenger:

  • Paid subscription. As we’ve told, WhatsApp began its journey, charging a symbolic fee for using its services. And if such a monstrous competitor had been taking advantage of this method of monetization, you can also choose it, at least, initially.
  • Paid stickers and games. Many Asian messengers (for example, Line) are focused on paid stickers and games. It’s the way they’re getting profit.
  • Extended functionality. Viber does not charge a fee for using the basic functionality but you have to pay if you want to get additional possibilities. For instance, you can make paid calls (Viber Out) and express emotions with paid stickers.

Instant messaging app features

If you want to succeed, you should satisfy the needs of the target audience, giving users a clear interface and advanced functionality. Let's saturate ourselves in this subject.  

So, what should you offer your users if you want to build a WhatsApp clone?

how to build an app like whatsapp

#1. Registration

First of all, you should provide users with the most convenient way to register. You can follow the example of other chat applications that take advantage of the phone number for this purpose.

If you want to improve the security of your instant messenger, send SMS with a confirmation code. After all, we want to know how to create an app like Whatsapp, and Whatsapp acts this very way. This security step can be implemented through a third-party service, so-called API (contact us, if you want to know all the details, we'd be happy to assist).

#2. Adding Contacts

An empty chat is a sorry sight. Therefore, in order to avoid your users’ disappointment, allow them to integrate their phone and (if desired) Social Media contacts. However, if you're provided with a limited budget for chat app development, don't go beyond the address book. It's quite enough for launching the MVP model. In the future, you’ll be able to add new features building a real WhatsApp clone.

#3. Messaging Service

This feature is definitely the key one, for it was the Messaging Service that made you create your own WhatsApp. You want to provide users with the opportunity to communicate in a better and easier way than they're doing it now, right?. But how to achieve this aim? This task is complicated but possible…

When considering how to make an instant messaging app, pay attention to the following significant factors:

  1. History of conversations. Of course, it's very important to store the chat history and provide access to it from different devices (and a user must have a possibility to delete it if he wants) - this is the very way that Viber has chosen. Think about making this process as effective as possible. For example, take a look at WhatsApp that prefers not to use its server for storing conversations.
  2. Chats formats. To create a messenger app of high competitive ability, you need to offer users different communication formats, namely private, group and public chats.
  3. Additional Chat Features. Gladden your users with extra opportunities aimed to enliven their virtual communication. There are heaps of ideas of such pleasant trifles: congratulatory stickers (or just new and bright ones), custom fonts, preliminary scheduling messages (for example, in honor of anniversaries) and so on. It all depends on your imagination and the approved budget.
  4. Data Security. Today, a lot of people are concerned about the security of personal data - more than 95% of Americans are afraid of online hacker attacks. So if you are considering how to create a messaging app like WhatsApp, think about the data security issue. For example, you can:
    • model yourself after SnapChat, which destroys the chat history at the end of 24 hours of storing the data;
    • develop self-destruct functions: for instance, Secret Chats of Telegram are designed to delete the entire history on all devices;
    • improve encryption technologies in order to secure users' communication.

how to create a chat application like whatsapp

#4. Multimedia files sharing

Modern people are used to sharing their impressions during chat sessions. And sometimes these impressions take the form of pictures, videos, animated GIF images, spectacular stickers and other things of the same kind. So, you need to offer a feature of multimedia file transmission. Well, there is an additional advantage, that is - synchronization with different cloud servers (Google Drive, for example).

#5. User location

Be sure to allow your users to share their location. Today it's really pointless to create a chat app without taking into account this useful feature, while your competitors, of course, have thought about it in advance. Your developers will find the best way to implement it: for example, using special tools provided by Apple MapKit and Google Location SDK.

#6. PUSH notifications

This is another important feature rising the chances to build a WhatsApp clone. Notifications help keep users up to date, informing them of the latest news, new messages they have received, and so on. You can take advantage of Google Cloud Messaging and Apple Push Notifications services for your development process.

#7. Extra features

We have listed the most important features, but there are more opportunities to improve the efficiency of your instant messenger. For instance, you can offer:

  • VoIP calls. This is quite a high-priced feature, but the instant messaging app that offers it will be perceived by users as a very advanced one. Its goal is to provide a possibility of making low cost (or even free) phone calls through the Internet. Thanks to VoIP calls, Viber and Skype have significantly expanded their target audience.
  • Video chats. Well, this is another "must-have" feature, and users will highly appreciate you for providing it.
  • Audio and Video streaming. This newfangled feature is very popular among users right now. Why not offer it to them?
  • Analytics of applications. This feature will help you analyze user behavior and build a more effective development strategy based on the data received.
  • In-app purchases;
  • Multiplatform chatting.

How to build an app like WhatsApp? Tips and tricks.

how to make app like whatsapp

#1. Choose the app development format

You can:

  • start from square one, that is, full coding;
  • take advantage of online services, APIs, libraries, protocols, etc.

#2. Determine who is going to build a chat app

Actually, there are only a few options: you either undertake this task yourself or hire professionals. We don't recommend you to economize on expert assistance. Ultimately, you'll have lost a lot of time and energy trying to implement this chat idea by your means. And in the end, your time and energy are equivalent to money. What is more, no one can guarantee that the instant messenger you've made is competitive. On the other hand, experienced developers know how to create a chat application like WhatsApp - and a successful one.

 Do you want to learn more useful tips for finding developers? Read our article!

#3. Select the platform

It would be judicious to create a chat app that works on all types of devices: iOS, Android, Windows, etc. This will allow you to expand the target audience and increase the future profits. So be sure to order the instant messaging app development with this factor in mind (remember WhatsApp experience?).

#4. Choose the functionality

Previously, we have described in detail what features chat applications should have. If you do not have a huge budget and are looking for ways to save money, we advise you to start with minimal functionality and learn the user's reaction. In the future, it will be possible to supplement your instant messaging app with new possibilities interesting to a user.

#5. Think of the instant messaging app interface

It’s a really crucial moment, for we perceive the world around visually and are responsive to everything that seems appealing to us. So if you really want to understand how to make an app like WhatsApp, be ready to study the latest trends in UX/UI design. To succeed, you should be modern.

The main rule of the effective interface is usability and ergonomics. Make sure that there is no need for extra clicks to get the desired result (for example, to write a message or make a video call). Therefore, the app design should be clean, laconic, aesthetic - and, of course, user-friendly.

If you are not sure about your abilities, find a professional UI/UX designer.

 Read in this article how to find a competent expert and not overpay while doing so.

#6. Find a Way of Messages Exchange

If you want to know how to develop an app like WhatsApp, you need to understand the technologies of data transfer. Essentially, there are two of them, and each one is related to the client-server interaction:

  • messages are passing through the server (by the means of HTTPS protocol) where they're stored then;
  • the server is needed just for the authentication. Messages are being encrypted and sent by using "client to client" method.

If you are in doubt which option is best to choose, check with your developers.

Chat app development cost

The exact cost cannot be called, it all depends on the time spent and the prices of services of specialists. So, let’s take a look…

how to build an app like whatsapp

Stages of app development:

  • Prototyping
  • Application development (iOS + Android)
  • Backend

The most expensive features:

  • The messaging system
  • Multimedia File transfer
  • VoIP calls

Specialists you will need:

The approximate period of work execution depends on the level of the project complexity and can reach even 2500 hours. And if you have a limited budget, we recommend that you hire developers with affordable rates.

how to create a chat application like whatsapp

Summarizing the information on how to make an instant messaging app, we can conclude:

  • conduct market research
  • make a list of requirements for your project
  • set your budget
  • find professionals who will do the job qualitatively and at an affordable price

We recommend our team! Agilie experts have huge experience in the app development process and offer reasonable rates. We will create a messenger app that meets the users' needs for effective communication and brings you a stable profit.

Let's work together!

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