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4 Simple Steps for Building a Video Chat Application

You do it for fun. You do it for work.

Video chatting has been around for what seems like ages. Though, Skype (v.) was added to the Oxford dictionary just in 2011. FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Viber, Tango are among the other video chatting apps everyone knows.

Wondering if you are already late to the video app development party? Probably not. Google released another mobile-only video chatting app this summer (and heck this company really knows what users want and sets the trends).

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In today’s guide, we’ll break down what it takes to develop a video chat application – insights on design, features, and tech stack included.

Step 1: Who’s Your Target Audience?

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Do you want to build a video chat app for teens and millennials? In that case, you’ll need to add some cool filters and sticker options like Viber has for instance.

Or maybe you want to create a business application for secure video conferencing? In that case, you’ll have to invest in additional data encryption and make sure the video quality is excellent.

Your project requirements and product features should be based on the target audience needs, not your personal assumptions only. Here’s some data from Pew Research Center and Statista that may interest you:

  • Video calling appeals more to upscale users. Over 34% of those living in households with an annual income of $75,000 or above have tried video calling vs 18% of those earning less than $75,000 per year.
  • 61% of video chat users are aged between 18 and 29 and 42% are aged between 30 and 49.

Now, do your homework and get to know your target audience first. Next, you may want to create a simple product prototype and validate your app idea even further before hiring the developers to do the job.

Step 2: Refine Your Product Features and Requirements List

You want to develop a video chat app that stands out from the crowd and offers superior and more engaging experience compared to the popular choices like Facetime and Skype?

Here are some video chat app features to consider:

  • Group calling – certain apps support up to 50 users per call, though you can perfectly settle for a more modest number of 5-15 group callers. Video conferencing apps should also include different permission roles e.g. speaker, listener-only.
  • End-to-end encryption or advanced security protection, especially if you plan to build a video conferencing app.
  • Smart PDF annotations/presentation sharing – again, handy for business video app users.
  • Video call preview – that’s what Google introduced in their new product Google Duo. Users can now preview the incoming video calls to get a better idea of the context of calling.
  • Screen/desktop sharing – another feature for those hosting online conferences and presentations.
  • The popular video chat apps are often paired with text messaging as well – think Skype, Google Hangouts, and Viber. So you may also want to incorporate that functionality.
  • Custom filters, edits, and animations can add additional engagement to your video app. Rounds app, for instance, allows adding custom doodles and effects to the video stream:

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  • Allow users to watch and comment on videos together. When organizing a night out doesn’t seem possible, you can still enjoy the same fun experience through an app. Couples in long distance relationships will definitely appreciate this feature.
  • Video stories. Instagram successfully borrowed this idea from Snapchat, so why can’t you borrow it for your app as well? You can allow users to create and curate short video stories, which will disappear in 24/48 hours (or stay for good). Those could be either shared publicly on their profile or to a selected feed of friends.
  • Live-streaming functionality. We’ve previously spoken about what it takes to build an app like Periscope.
  • Instant video messaging – when you can’t express your thoughts in a mere text.
  • Advanced privacy – the common user complaints about video chat apps include the lack of privacy, unauthorized data sharing and gathering, annoying ads and required contact sharing. Wire app decided to take user privacy to the next level and make advanced data protection and nondisclosure as their key selling point.

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Step 3: Get To Know The Tech Stack

Now let’s have a closer look at the nitty-gritty of video chat app development aka the tech stack that allows transmitting video in real time.

The vast majority of video chatting apps are built with the help of WebRTC – an open-source project that powers up mobile (and desktop) apps with real-time communication capabilities through numerous APIs. The project is supported by the likes of Google, Mozilla, and Opera, which says a lot about the APIs quality.

In most cases you need just three APIs to build a video chat app:

  • MediaStream, which allows the client (e.g., the mobile app) to access the stream. The one from the microphone and/or camera.
  • RTCPeerConnection enables audio or video data transfer, with additional support for encryption and bandwidth management.
  • RTCDataChannel enables peer-to-peer communication for any generic data.

For additional security, you may want to use Parse Core to provide authenticated access to users and ensure additional stream security.

If you plan to develop your own video chat app on iOS or create a video chat on Android, WebRTC is one of the best stack providers to use in this case.

Additional solutions worth considering:

  • PubNub is another massive data stream network, offering infrastructure for real-time apps with some 70+ SDKs available.
  • Twilio also offers decent video SDKs for iOS and Android apps.
  • Sinch is one of the newer video calling SDK providers. They support cross-platform integrations and built and adaptive opus codec, which enhances the video quality.
  • OpenTok – another popular platform and API based on WebRTC stack.

Step 4: Think of Your App Design

Video chatting apps look certainly alike and there’s not much room (or sense) for being too creative.

  • Keep the UI simple and uncluttered.
  • Create a contact book/frequent callers list.
  • Include a minimal number of controllers onto the screen and store the rest hidden in the menus.
  • There are multiple ways to pair the video. You can separate the screen into two equal sections like Rounds does or keep it Skype-like standard:

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So How Much Does it Cost To Build a Video Chat App?

As always it depends Do you want an iPhone app only or the iPad version as well? If we are talking Android – how many devices and OS versions do you plan to support?

Now, different features will be priced separately. For instance, incorporating video/audio chatting only and creating a simple attractive design for your app can cost you under $25,000. A more “serious” project with say live streaming included or advanced video conferencing functionality will round up at $80,000+

  • Adding text message exchanges may require another $5-$7K to the project total.
  • Do you want to add custom media content like stickers? That can cost an extra $5,000-$8,000 for two platforms.
  • Custom filters, effects, and lenses (like the one on Snapchat) can cost you between $5,000-$10,000 to implement.

You can learn more about the app development costs from this guide and get to know the difference between hourly and fixed-price projects here. Or you can always speak with one of our project managers directly using the contact form below (P.S. no strings attached).

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