Disclaimer: The article is based on information on websites with SDK solutions. I compared the raw data to check the advantages and disadvantages of the offered tools with no deep dive into libraries and code.
Google Firebase Sidenote
Free libraries are using Firebase modules for their chat engine. They use mostly Cloud Firestore, which is free. If you stick with the Firebase free plan (10GB / month) for the module - it’s about 500k logins and 5 million messages. If you exceed the limits, Google will require a paid subscription in order to extend your capacity for the chat. Here you can learn more about the details: https://firebase.google.com/pricing
• Library is open source and free Integrated push notifications
• One to one and group messaging
• Messages history are available in offline mode
• An indication that the user has read your message
• Poor UI, there would be much to do to customize it
• Not updated too often, high risk of having deprecated stuff in the project
• No reply action supported out of the box
• Most of the functionalities you can write with the help of tutorials and manage them on your own
My impression: A free SDK that helps developers set up and integrate a chat within an app quickly. It is worth mentioning the features such as receipts of reading, or typing indicators. The solution is based on Firebase, so Google account is required. Unfortunately, the documentation is quite poor and outdated.
• The Chat SDK is open source and free for commercial apps Push notifications
• There are things you need to pay, to have in enabled in the SDK (read receipts, typing indicator)
• No standard support for replies
My impression: I have mixed feelings about this chat, because most of the features that are paid here, you can get in different SDKs for free, and it’s also based on Google Firebase. It is worth a try if you want to have encryption enabled, and video messaging. Unfortunately, both modules are in the paid plan. Only standard things like one-to-one and group messaging are for free.
• You can edit and remove messages
• Push notifications
• Typing indicator
• Good documentation
• Wide UI options
• Integration ecosystem with the app
• No standard support for replies, BUT in the documentation, there is a description, where to start adding that feature on your own.
My impression: Twilio has very understandable documentation, a lot of features, a library to modify the UI of the chat, and promises quick customer support. It seems to be the right choice for crafting the community, mainly because the price depends on the number of active users.
• Integrated reply in their SDK
• Giphy, emoticons and file attachments
• Threads links
• Search in messages and conversations
• Video playback
• Online statuses
• High price (499 USD/month)
My impression: A beefy SDK with many custom features and vast UI options to modify the chat, e.g., the reply/thread options for messaging. The price follows a broad spectrum of features, so the cost of using this tool is quite high from the very beginning. Despite that, this is still my winner.
• Push notifications
• Share encrypted file
• No standard support for replies
• High prices, starting at 399$/month
My impression: A robust SDK, similar to getstream.io. Interesting features are sharing encrypted files and autotranslations within the chat. It could be an option for companies that want to have user support for the products worldwide. Unfortunately, prices may be challenging for fresh startups.
Chat SDKs Recap
In this comparison, we have various libraries, with a free, freemium, and paid model.
Depending on the needs, the client can choose between the use of basic or complex solutions with a lot of "out of the box" options. Compared tools require different implementation costs and maintenance costs.
If you need to implement an advanced chat with a wide range of features in a limited time, Sendbird or Getstream should meet your expectations. However, you need to be prepared for high costs.
Twilio may be a reasonable option. This solution has many useful features with quick implementation and the possibility of further development of functions. Well-organized documentation and libraries based on Google Firebase make work easy and smooth. Options such as push notifications and message counter are free. Other, more advanced, such as data encryption, are paid. Twilio provides a convenient payment model based on the number of active users, with no subscription fees.
On the other hand, in most cases, a small company or a startup does not have to use advanced features at an early stage. For testing the usage, stability, or needs, Chat21 and ChatSDK should be enough. These tools offer functions that meet the basic requirements. However, I must note that a small team of experienced software developers can develop and maintain such SDK solutions within a reasonable time.
The presented solutions will probably meet most of the requirements of companies from small startups to large companies that want constant communication with clients. Solutions vary in their level of complexity and price.
If you need a hand with developing chat within your app, help in implementing Chat SDK based on Google Firebase, or consult other challenges related to technology, feel free to contact us for a professional consultation. We're here to help businesses make a positive impact on our lives.