Selecting the best chat APIs & messaging SDKs for your app
The mobile app development game is ever-evolving, and product teams need to stay at the top of their game to deliver products that meet consumer expectations. Software development kits (SDKs) reduce experiential redundancy, enabling developers to deliver new app features like messaging in a fraction of the time it would take to build from scratch.
Almost every app today needs chat capabilities to connect brands to users as well as users to their peers. But chat features don’t differ too much from app to app, so there’s no reason for you to build it from scratch when there are ready-to-use solutions available for purchase..
So what are the benefits of using a chat API or SDK, and what are the best options on the market today? Keep reading to find out!
Why use a chat API or SDK for messaging features?
Also known as devkits, SDKs contain everything third-party developers need to build a particular feature for a specific platform or programming language into an app.
This toolbox typically includes at least one application programming interface (API) used to communicate and exchange data between two programs. Simply put, APIs are the gateway, while SDKs are the vehicle.
Users demand convenience and reliability, making real-time messaging and chat features essential for all applications. These capabilities aren’t unique and often aren’t the core product. Many product teams prefer to conserve their resources and focus on primary features, which is why they choose to power their community with chat APIs or SDKs.
The benefits of in-app chat features
Chat service advantages for users go on and on, but they usually boil down to:
- Faster responses to questions and concerns
- A stronger sense of community between users
- Human connection that goes beyond a digital product
Messaging SDKs power community features for users, but they have their advantages for developers and product teams too. Here are a few:
- Faster speed-to-market
- Technical simplicity
- Improved conversion, engagement, and retention rates
With advantages for both users and product teams, launching chat sooner is better than later. A messaging API can help you take advantage of these benefits without breaking the bank or spending months to get them off of the ground.
What to look for in a messaging SDK
Allocating a portion of your app development budget to SDKs means reading the fine print and deciding what’s worth the investment. There is no shortage of options on the market, but it’s crucial to select something that complements what you need today and well into your app’s future. Here are a few things to look for:
What‘s in with users today may be obsolete tomorrow, so your mobile application should remain flexible to changes big and small. That said, the APIs or SDKs you choose should be scalable.
Scalable chat SDKs allow you to focus on more critical tasks without having to worry about reliability or pricing when your user base grows. The service provider you choose should pass your risk assessment with flying colors—a scalable tool should never put you at risk of downtime.
What are the main selling point of SDKs? They are easy, efficient, and reliable—built to be easily integrated into your existing systems. But the best way to guarantee seamless integration is with detailed documentation.
Having a manual to lean on is especially important for SDKs because developers are working with features they didn’t build from scratch. Well-written technical documentation ensures SWEs can pick up and solve problems without always having to wait for support.
Users expect you to protect their privacy while using your chat and messaging features. They will likely be exchanging confidential information, so choose APIs that adhere to the best security practices.
Reputable SDK providers will give you control over your user data and source code. This offers users another level of assurance while still taking the responsibility of continuously fixing security bugs and vulnerabilities off your developers’ hands.
Additional features to consider
- Group chat: If community building is a goal for your app, group chat should be an offered feature that allows you to create a stronger sense of community among your users.
- Real-time notifications: Push notifications can increase app retention rates by 3 to 10 times because they keep users updated with what is relevant to them. Proper timing and messaging can help you stay top of mind!
- Chat moderation: Setting up community guidelines can keep your mobile app safe and secure—not just in terms of data protection but also user well-being. Including chat moderation can help you scan through possibly harmful content and take appropriate action against violators.
These features are common, touching on the basic parts of building an app. But in app development, nothing should be treated as easy. By ensuring that your devkit offers these already polished features, you can move on and focus on more innovative ventures.
6 SDKs to power your app messaging features
Now that you know what to look for in a good chat SDK, let’s take a look at some of the biggest contenders on the market today. Here are our picks and how they match up:
1 - Amity
Amity believes that the future is social. The people behind these powerful SDKs and APIs follow a mission to make social experiences more accessible, and they make it happen through the Amity Social Cloud.
The platform allows developers to plug-and-play features into existing apps and channels, with the end goal of helping your brand build and sustain communities.
Key Features of Amity
Amity Social Cloud has various products in its arsenal to meet different user and developer needs. Here’s what it has to offer:
- Amity Chat: This SDK allows users to access numerous features like reactions, unread message count, mentions, push notifications, and channels.
- Amity Chat enables access to private and public chat channels and broadcast channels for admins to relay important announcements.
- Supported formats are diverse, including image, audio, video, stickers, GIFs and text.
- Moderation tools include profanity filters, blocklisting, flagging and banning, and muting.
- Amity Social Cloud is GDPR-compliant and ISO27001-certified, with servers in the USA, Germany, and Singapore.
- Additional SDKs/APIs: Amity also offers a social SDK with personal profiles, community-based feeds, and real-time updates. Amity Video, on the other hand, powers video stories, live streaming, and live commerce. AI-powered chatbots can also help with customer support and analytics.
Amity SDKs are built for:
- React Native
Amity’s pricing is scalable, charged per MAU, and depends on the SDKs needed:
- $0.06 per MAU
- Includes Amity Chat only
- $0.09 per MAU
- Includes Amity Chat, Social, Video, and Bots
- $0.14 per MAU
- Includes Amity Chat, Social, Video, and Bots with priority support and HD video
Amity is a great option for businesses of all sizes, as the pricing scales with the number of MAUs. Its chatbots and many messaging features allow for excellent, reliable, and personalized support.
Amity Social Cloud is also secure, as it complies with various regulatory standards like GDPR and ISO27001. With its support for web chat features, it’s a well-rounded and flexible option worth considering.
2 - Stream
Stream users have ballooned into billions over the last couple of years, raising over $58.25M to make their chat messaging features one of the best in the market. This is because its app comes with excellent customer service, which signals one thing in a user’s mind: valuable experiences.
Its APIs and SDKs promise pro performance, wrapped in intuitive UX design that takes years to build from scratch. With Stream’s in-app messaging features, your developers can focus less on perfecting chat and more on the primary products that make your brand stand out.
Key Features of Stream
Stream offers Chat Messaging and Activity Feed APIs, among others. Some of the key features include:
- Chat Messaging: Brands can use this SDK to enable users to send direct, group, and channel messages. It covers essential features that might be expected, such as read receipts, threads, reactions, and typing indicators.
- Products include Chat APIs, SDKs and UI/UX Kits to ensure customizability and ease of integration.
- Messaging features can operate on a Global EDGE network and CDNs to reduce latency and promote fast delivery.
- Additional SDKs/APIs: Stream also offers personalizable activity feed APIs and live video (currently in early access mode) to allow audio and video calls, broadcasting, and live streaming.
Stream SDKs are available for the following platforms:
- React Native
Stream offers a free plan for companies with five or fewer members that earn less than $10k monthly and have taken below $100k in funding.
Customers with more needs can contact Stream’s sales team for a custom quote.
Stream is flexible because it offers both SDK and API-only solutions and UI/UX kits. Their chat features are also feature-rich and include read receipts, reactions, threads, and URL enrichment. Moreover, they adhere to multiple regulatory standards like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), SOC 2, and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Stream also has helpful tutorials and documentation that can help developers integrate the SDKs into their apps.
3 - Sendbird
Sendbird is another well-known social platform. It’s fully managed, easy to use, and scalable. It is also certified by compliance standards like HIPAA and ISO27001, allowing product teams to offer their customers another level of assurance.
With Sendbird, you can add features like offline messaging and translation without the need for complex code.
Key Features of Sendbird
Sendbird has these vital features:
- Sendbird Chat API: This is a complete, easy-to-use chat API that provides users with various in-app messaging experiences.
- Users can send direct messages, participate in private group chats with up to 20,000 members, or engage in public group chats with millions of other people (such as in live streams).
- Chat features include typing indicators, read receipts, user presence (status) indicators, mentions, and channel lists.
- The supported formats are diverse, including audio, video, image, and GIF.
- Other features include polls, translation, and message moderation.
- Additional SDKs/APIs: Sendbird also has other SDKs like Sendbird Calls for in-app voice and video calls, Sendbird Desk for in-app chat support, Unified Inbox (beta) to host all in-app conversations, and Sendbird Live (beta) for live video streams.
Sendbird SDKs and APIs are available for:
Sendbird offers a free trial for apps that have up to 100 monthly active users (MAU). Apps with 5,000 to 25,000 monthly active users (MAU) can choose from Starter and Pro packages:
- Starter: $399–$1,199
- Includes basic moderation, messaging essentials, and ticketed support
- Pro: $599–$1,799
- Includes advanced moderation, message translation, and ticketed support
Enterprise plans are also available for customers with larger user bases or in need of more features.
Sendbird Chat SDK is unique due to its translation features (such as on-demand and push translation). The support agent platform (Sendbird Desk) also goes well with the feature-rich chat SDK.
4 - PubNub
PubNub focuses on providing secure connections for companies worldwide. It ensures that their respective clients enjoy events in real time, like data streaming, IoT, virtual events, and even geolocation.
It also promises easy-to-use devkits that remain flexible and scalable, compatible with preexisting applications to eliminate downtime.
Key Features of PubNub
Here are some features of PubNub SDKs:
- Users can easily manage real-time and historical messages. They can also message directly, in groups, and in live events.
- Location-based and virtual events are also supported.
- Moderation features include profanity and spam filters. Admins can also ban and mute users.
- PubNub allows access to many functions like chatbots, translation, and various media, such as GIFs and reactions.
PubNub SDKs are available for:
- Swift C# PCL
- Swift Cocoa
PubNumb is free for up to 200 MAU, and more established apps can contact sales for Starter and Pro plan pricing.
Temporary support plans are also available for apps hosting events, as they might need quicker response times and higher priority for the duration of the program.
PubNub is feature-rich and adheres to HIPAA, GDPR, SOC2, and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Its time-specific features are excellent for webinars and live hosting. Moreover, the paid tiers for hourly support can help ensure the events go smoothly.
5 - CometChat
With a strong focus on driving meaningful engagements, CometChat offers a secure devkit solution built to help you design and integrate quickly. It comes with documentation, tutorials, and demos dedicated to each platform.
For those looking to round out their chat features even more, CometChat offers extensions like push notifications and in-flight message moderation.
Key Features of CometChat
- CometChat has readily available chat APIs, SDKs and UI kits for seamless integration.
- CometChat supports private, public, and password-protected messaging. It also allows voice and video calling.
- Extensions include GIF hubs, push notifications, stickers, end-to-end encryption, collaborative whiteboards, polls, voice transcription, and disappearing messages.
- Users can access media sharing, read receipts, typing indicators, email notifications, and more.
- Additional SDKs/APIs: CometChat also has SDKs for on-demand services, dating, marketing, and live streaming.
CometChat’s SDKs are available for:
- React Native
CometChat is free for apps with up to 25 MAU. More established apps can choose one of the following plans:
- Core features only
- $149/mo for 1k–9,999 MAU
- $283/mo for 10k–24,999 MAU
- Core features, email and SMS notifications, feature-rich messaging, and moderation tools:
- $399/mo for 1,000–9,999 MAU
- $578/mo for 10k–24,999 MAU
- Core features, email and SMS notifications, feature-rich messaging, moderation tools, voice transcription, polls, and analysis:
- $749/mo for 1,000–9,999 MAU
- $1,018/mo for 10k–24,999 MAU
Enterprise plans are also available for apps with larger user bases or those in need of more features.
CometChat is a viable option due to its wide range of extensions, which include end-to-end encryption, push notifications, collaborative whiteboards, and voice transcription. It’s also developer-friendly with its comprehensive tutorials and open-source codes available on GitHub.
6 - Twilio
Twilio offers a centralized messaging platform designed to engage users across multiple channels. With a good ecosystem, its devkits can also protect users from spam and other malicious content online.
It also comes with in-house customer care, commerce, and transactional messages that can be compatible with SMS, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp, among others.
Key Features of Twilio
- Twilio’s MessagingX platform includes Conversations API and SDKs.
- The platform allows omnichannel messaging for SMS, WhatsApp, and chat.
- It supports in-app and web chat, SMS, MMS, Google Business Messages, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.
- Additional SDKs/APIs: Twilio also has SDKs for voice calls, video conferencing, marketing campaigns, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
The SDKs are available for:
Twilio is free for up to 200 MAU. Larger apps fall under one of the following tiers:
- $0.05 per MAU for 201-5,000 MAU
- $0.0475 per MAU for 5.001-10,000 MAU
- $0.0450 per MAU for 10,001-20,000 MAU
Twilio is suitable for providing highly integrated messaging experiences to your business, particularly because it allows you to integrate SMS seamlessly into your app. However, it mainly focuses on customer support and concentrates less on user-to-user interactions, which limits its versatility.
Driving your app’s socials with devkits
Modern consumers reward only the innovative, but it’s important to remain grounded with the adage: work smarter, not harder. You may have the world’s best code language at your fingertips, but you can quickly lose to competitors who choose to work with tried-and-tested APIs and SDKs.
While these toolbox kits shouldn’t replace code systems, they make your life easier—and your app more powerful. They integrate secure and reliable systems that allow your users to enjoy better features without forcing you to endure downtime, bugs, and other vulnerabilities that can take a while to patch up.
The tech world moves at lightning speeds, so drive your app towards success by investing in bold, proven, and secure devkits. And believe us—your consumers will thank you for the hassle-free experience.