tech · 14 Jul 2022 · Updated: 14 Jul 2022

Best Chat APIs and Messaging SDKs of 2022: Detailed Comparison

Oleg Kotov

Oleg Kotov

Android Developer

chat api for mobile
Illustration by Amir Kerr

A wise man named Aristotle once said that we, humans, are social creatures meant to mingle with each other. Years have passed, and now it’s our smartphones that satisfy our innate communication needs via real-time chatting.

Beyond our daily lives, real-time chats have become a staple channel for companies to connect with customers. According to the stats, 73% of customers find live chat to be the most satisfying way of communicating with a business. 

Luckily, it has never been easier for companies to include instant messaging than it is today. Instead of forking out for a solution from scratch, companies can leverage ready-made chat APIs to add chatting to existing applications. 

Based on our experience, we’ve compared the most popular chat API services and messaging SDKs on the market. But first, let’s come to grips with the basics.

Live Chatting is No Longer Optional

In the world of business, the customer-driven approach is paramount in engaging the client at the right time and with the right offering. However, as customer behavior is rapidly shifting, businesses may struggle to keep pace with customer trends and concerns. 

The need to get first-hand customer insights has made the live chat software market skyrocket over the past few years. According to a report, the global market size for live chat software is projected to hit over $987 million by 2023. Customer convenience is placed at the heart of this upward dynamic. And the main way for companies to achieve a lightning-fast response is to add chat APIs (application programming interfaces) and SDKs (software development kits).

Along with direct and timely communication, chat APIs allow companies to reap a raft of other benefits, including:

  • Reduced wait times for clients – the average wait time for a live chat request is around 46 seconds.
  • Increased revenues for companies – 40% of organizations report revenue growth as a direct result of leveraging APIs.
  • Competitive market presence – over 85% of businesses will offer live chat support by the end of 2022.
  • Boosted brand loyalty – over 50% of consumers are more likely to remain loyal to a company that offers live chat support.
  • Higher conversion rates – adding live chat software to your website could increase your conversions by 12%.

Who Benefits the Most from Instant Messaging?

As for the verticals, real-time chats have permeated the majority of industries. From gaming to healthcare, this functionality gives businesses an unprecedented opportunity to be closer to the customer than ever before. However, some industries tend to get more benefits from chat API services than others do. 

Service-oriented businesses 

Any type of business that provides B2C services can gain from live chatting to improve customer satisfaction. Whether it’s a financial business or a travel agency, the company can establish a direct 24/7 rapport with the client through instant messaging. Live chatting also provides a single communication channel, thus making each customer feel seen and heard.

Education 

When all schools were ordered into lockdowns, online learning made inroads. Although we’re now back to normal, virtual learning remains a core phenomenon of education. Live chatting makes virtual learning more effective by enabling easier enrollment and further collaboration. Students can also get detailed explanations, submit study materials, and ask additional questions via chat APIs.

Healthcare 

Now that we’re moving towards remote patient monitoring and telemedicine, healthcare requires more effective tech solutions to eliminate communication gaps between providers and patients. Real-time chats help clinics, insurance companies, and other healthcare providers reduce wait times, improve appointment booking, and enhance patient-doctor communication. Compliant chat functionality solidifies the security posture and eliminates the risk of a data breach when using third-party messengers for medical data sharing.

E-commerce businesses 

Retail has always been the king of innovation that is driven by customers’ needs. Since live chat is the favored customer service channel for shoppers aged 18 to 49, it’s no surprise that retail was fast to jump on the trend. Besides being a mere interaction tool, instant chats also boost conversions and sales and provide comprehensive product information for purchasers.

Livestreaming and social media applications 

The very nature of these solutions relies on real-time communication. Therefore, application owners need to facilitate multiple interaction options that enable users to send reactions, comment on posts and videos, and exchange instant messages.

What are Chat and Messaging APIs and SDKs?

Both chat APIs and SDKs allow a company to embed pre-made real-time chat solutions into the existing websites and applications. Pre-built chatting features help companies reduce development overheads and save the costs of building a solution from scratch.

The difference between APIs and SDKs

First of all, APIs and SDKs aren’t mutually exclusive. Instead, these two overlap in your ready-made communication functionality. An SDK is a programming package of software-building tools made for a particular platform, be it iOS or Android. An SDK can include a full suite of dev tools, including runtimes, compilers, and other components that fuel the real-time chatting experience.

An API is simply an interface that enables one application to interact with other software. The interface provides access to a back-end chat service and infrastructure and helps you easily embed real-time chat into the app. Usually, APIs are a part of the SDK pack since an interface is what allows the applications to relay information and work together.

But while development kits always include at least one API, APIs don't have to be a part of an SDK. Chat API for mobile can be used as a simple stand-alone solution to enhance an existing application with a ready-made real-time chatting feature. SDKs, on the other hand, help developers build fully formed chat applications from scratch.

Why Use Chat APIs and SDKs for Your Application?

Both application programming interfaces and development kits are de facto approaches to building a feature-rich application faster and within budget. Thus, instead of splurging on custom functionality, companies can leverage a third-party instant messaging SDK for mobile and an instant messaging API to include a pre-cooked feature. Here is a set of other benefits that those two deliver:

Shorter time-to-market

Both SDKs and APIs yield the speed-enabling advantage. Since your development team doesn’t have to build anything from scratch, they can ship your solution in less time. An Android SDK, for example, is complemented by multiple libraries and development tools, which help mobile developers create and test applications at a faster pace.

This benefit also means that the team can allocate more time to core features and UX/UI, thus increasing the success rate of your application.

Enhanced flexibility

A pre-made functionality set allows you to stay adaptable to evolving customer preferences and market trends. At the same time, companies have full control over the components that SDKs and APIs have, which also reduces the risks. As your business grows, the API assets can be redesigned for the changes. However, API integration can still present challenges on the way, thus requiring an experienced developer team.

Managed maintenance

A licensed chat API service also takes over a variety of maintenance tasks, including hosting infrastructure, support, and upgrades. Thus, your development team won’t have to worry about regular updates while you reduce your maintenance expenses. Yet, managed maintenance is usually accessible for a monthly subscription fee.

Competitive features

Popular pre-built chat kits come with cutting-edge functionality enabled by artificial intelligence. This may include chatbots, message broadcasting through social networks, speech-to-text, and other features. Combined, these features enhance the user experience and add to the unique value proposition of your mobile application.

More customization

Ready-made interfaces and kits elevate the personalization potential of your application. Popular SDKs and APIs include customized profile options, animated GIFs, scheduled messages, and other features that make the communication flow more granular and allow for more user enablement during instant messaging.

Reduced development costs

Finally, off-the-shelf technology is cost-effective since you purchase a ready-made batch of features for a single fee. Also, most APIs charge an affordable monthly subscription based on the number of calls or requests your application receives. When on a budget, you can also resort to a free API plan to access live-chatting components. Typically, this has limited functionality yet allows you to experiment with the API before purchasing it. 

Top Features of Chat APIs

Application programming interfaces are a must in the rapidly changing world of technology. Not only do they accelerate your application development, but they also deliver a whole range of available features. These can be seamlessly integrated into your application to facilitate an instant communication flow between users. Below, you will find the top features of chat APIs.

ChatbotsChat interfaces can come in different forms. A chatbot API gets the best of AI capabilities and allows you to integrate natural language processing (NLP) into the application. This helps your solution leverage an intelligent chatbot that takes in a request, discerns the intent behind the message, and provides an instant response to simple queries. If a query needs a human agent, the chatbot forwards the request to your support center.
Disappearing messagesBeing a relative newcomer, this feature has already made inroads into popular apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram. Disappearing messages are optional and can be enabled by the user to get more privacy and security. Users can also set the timer for disappearing messages. 
Message broadcastingUnlike group chats, this feature enables users to share a message with a larger group of users at once as a standard instant message. In this case, the message is sent individually to each user without creating a group chat. 
FeedsFeeds are a one-stop hub that displays a list of all current updates, stories, and interactions between users. This feature also allows the user to open the app and browse through new messages. In this case, a user gets a preview and can leave the message unread.
Public channelsJust like groups, public channels display content to a particular user group. Public channels allow users to communicate with each other and are usually divided by interest. 
Voice, video rooms, and callsThese features extend the communication arsenal of your app beyond text messages. A purely audio communication enables users to have an audio conversation in the app, just like Clubhouse and Telegram do. Video rooms enable a multi-participant video chat option where users can use link sharing to connect to more people.
Customized profileThis add-on enables the user to personalize the app’s interface. Thus, users can customize background colors, add or change the default fonts, as well as tweak their chat interface to match their personality or corporate style.
Tabbed messagesTabbed messaging displays all active conversations in a single window with clickable tabs. Thus, users can quickly switch between conversations without leaving a single window. Users can also customize the number of tab lines.
Status visibilityThe feature enables users to show or hide their activity on the application through an online/offline status. The status can also show the last time the user was active on the platform.
Location sharingReal-time location sharing allows the user to share their live location on a one-to-one or group chat to let others know about their current region.
Real-time language translationThe feature provides quick in-chat translations in real-time so that the user can get a gist of the conversation, communicate with a person from another country, or make quick fact checks.
Smart replyThe feature simplifies the conversation by offering automated responses so the user can send a quick reply. Users can adjust the text or just simply hit the “Send” button. The functionality learns from the user’s writing style over time. 
Quick responseYou can add a custom text box, links to the product, and a call-to-action within the chat screen, allowing buyers and customers to take immediate action.
Voice call recordingThe company can capture audio activity associated with customer calls. The calls can then be retrieved to analyze or overcome potential disputes. 
Speech-to-textBacked up by artificial intelligence, speech-to-text automatically processes and converts audio data (such as voice calls) into text through computational linguistics.
SecurityThe majority of APIs also come with integrated security settings. Usually, a chat API covers the main security regulations, including HIPAA, GDPR, ISO 27001, and others, so that it can easily be integrated into healthcare, finance, and other enterprise applications.

Six Best Chat APIs to Build a Vibrant Application

Although the market of canned live-chatting APIs is massive, we have curated a list of the six most popular solutions that knit live chatting into your mobile application. The products are listed in no particular order.

Sinch

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Since 2008, Sinch has been used as a leading platform-as-a-service product suitable for creating an application that hosts user-business communication. Its API spans 47 countries, with 8 out of 10 US tech giants choosing Sinch services. 

Sinch brings rich functionality to the table, including conversational AI (smart bot conversation), message broadcasting through social networks, and basic functions for communicating with users. 

Its ready-made chat stack is a common pick when a company needs a single API endpoint for reaching customers across multiple channels through a unified format. It supports a suite of popular communication channels such as SMS, WhatsApp, Viber Business, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and others. Beyond simple messaging, Sinch provides smart conversations, bot and human chats, and other built-in intelligence. 

MirrorFly

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MirrorFly is a well-established company that offers pre-built chatting solutions. Launched in 2008, the company now provides a variety of canned products, including a customizable communication API and SDK. 

MirrorFly’s development kit comes with everything needed for engaging user-to-user communication and group chats. Real-time language translation, video/voice call recording, 100% UI customization and personalized profiles are just a sliver of everything MirrorFly has in store. The solution is highly scalable and covers 16 regions.

As for common use, this service works well for custom e-learning platforms that enable content sharing. It’s also a great option whenever you need to facilitate user communication inside the application or integrate live broadcasts with unlimited users.

Sendbird

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Founded in 2013, Sendbird has gained a solid foothold in the market and secured collaboration with famous brands such as Reddit, Hinge, Paytm, and Virgin Mobile. Among its flagship products, the company offers a full-featured chat SDK and API that handle 250M+ monthly active users. 

The messaging solution is a perfect fit for setting up user-business communication with built-in analytics, chat moderation, and bots. However, the API limits group video and audio calls and lacks UI customization options.

We recommend using this API for chats with heavy moderation, such as game lobbies, chat with a taxi service, or product reviews. Sendbird also bodes well for healthcare appointment apps where users need to specify some data such as symptoms and temperature to schedule an appointment with the right doctor. 

CometChat

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With a geographical reach of 70 countries, CometChat delivers pre-built text chat, voice, and video functionality for websites and apps across all industries. The platform supports 10 million monthly active users and caters to tech titans, including IBM, Salesforce, Zuora, and Gartner. 

CometChat's SDKs and APIs are similar to those by Sendbird, yet level it up with unique features such as voice transcription and smart replies. Trusted by over 50K developers, the SDK is a popular pick for creating voice and video conferences, sending bot messages, and adding 100% UI customization.

The application area is almost the same as in Sendbird. CometChat can be used to create a platform for learning or livestreaming with chat.

Twilio

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Established in 2008, Twilio delivers a feature-packed platform-as-a-service chat solution for building user-business communication using SMS, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. Twilio’s products are popular with 190K+ companies and are available in 17 countries.

Its SDK offers well-extensible functionality due to a large number of integrations with third-party libraries and APIs. However, companies need to put additional effort into implementing clients on iOS and Android since there is no UIKit. Also, the SDK documentation isn’t comprehensive. 

Twilio provides an opportunity to implement almost any chat functionality (with SMS and WhatsApp messaging). Unlike other SDKs, there are no ready-made solutions in Twilio. All the functionality needs to be created and customized to suit your needs.

Stream

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A counterpart of Sendbird, Stream is a software-as-a-service solution that offers comprehensive chat APIs, SDKs, and UI/UX kits. The main differentiator of Stream is its unbeatable news-feed functionality that has multiple add-ons, including likes, comments, reactions, custom ranking, and others. 

The company also enhances chat performance through its Chat Edge Network, which reduces latencies and allows it to support 5M+ concurrent connections in a single channel. 

However, Stream has some downsides. To enable audio-video calls, you need to use a third-party library Dolby.io, which incurs additional costs. 

We recommend this chat API service for e-learning and virtual events since you’ll get live streaming without limits. Online marketplaces will also benefit from a diverse feature pack of Stream. Overall, its activity feeds with AI personalization are a powerful addition to any application.

Best Chat API Services Comparison

To give you a better idea of the right messaging option for your application, our mobile developers have performed extensive research on the six options we mentioned earlier. Our team has compared chat packs by the core functionality and security features they provide. The research is based on the official documentation and information the companies have on their websites.

General features

FeaturesSinchMirrorFlySendbirdCometChatTwilioStream
Implementation example or apk linkzonChatapkGkSendbird Calls
or 
Sendbird Messenger
CometChat chat demo
Chatbots

AI bot

partially

doesn't use AI helper or assistant bot

partially

ready-to-use bots from bots.co

AI bot

AI bot

Feeds
Public channels

partially

messages via social networks (WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.)

unlimited in-app channels

60,000 in-app channels

10,000 in-app channels

partially

messages via social networks (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger)

unlimited in-app channels

Voice, video rooms, and calls

partially

6 participants with video or 100 with audio

partially

50 participants

partially

only live streaming, for calls need to use Dolby.io

Voice call recording

partially

beta on JavaScript

partially

need to use Dolby.io

Video call recording

partially

beta on JavaScript

partially

need to use Dolby.io

Create folders and group chats

unlimited

20,000–60,000

up to 10,000

up to 1,000

unlimited

Tabbed messages
Customized notification sound
Custom mute duration
Picture-in-picture
Customized profile
UIKit

partially

limited customization

Messaging features

FeaturesSinchMirrorFlySendbirdCometChatTwilioStream
Disappearing messages
Message broadcasting

partially

used more for user-to-user and small groups communication

partially

SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger

Stickers
Animated GIFs

partially

sent as files

Spell check

partially

profanity filter, custom filter

partially

profanity filter, custom filter 

 ✔

AI moderation

Status visibility

partially

need to set up webhooks

Proactive chat

partially

need to set up webhooks

Location sharing

partially

need to create custom messages

Real-time language translation
Speech to text

text to speech only

✔  ✘✔  ✔ ✘
Smart reply✔ ✔ 

partially

need to set up triggers and bots

Quick response✔ ✔ ✔ 

partially

need to set up triggers and bots

Delete and edit messages
Scheduled messages

schedule posts in channels

partially

reminders

partially

reminders

Archive messages
File, photo and video sharing

partially

sent as files

partially

sent as files

Reactions

Security features

FeaturesSinchMirrorFlySendbirdCometChatTwilioStream
GDPR
ISO 27001✔ 
HIPAApartially

 partially

available as an add-on

partially

starts with Scale pricing plan 

 ✔

fully for chat and partially for feeds

AES 256
TLS/SSL
SOC2SOC2 Type2SOC2 Type2SOC2 Type1

partially

SOC2 Type2 for programmable voice, messaging, video, and auth services

SOC2 Type1
CCPA

Please note that functionality marked with "-" is not in the SDK, but we can make our own implementation or use third-party libraries for this (extra time needed).

As you can see from the table, there’s no clear winner. All six chat APIs and SDKs can be used to build a chat application. However, they seek different goals.

Twilio and Sinch work great as a single endpoint for communicating with users via social networks and SMS, using various bots, including AI bots.

MirrorFly, Sendbird, CometChat, and Stream are excellent solutions for creating in-app chat. Their ready-made UIKit allows you to quickly implement the functionality into a mobile client.

Stream can be used as a stand-alone solution to increase user engagement within the solution.

The pack boasts feature-rich activity feeds that host AI personalization, analytics, notification feeds, and real-time events.

On the Way to Real-Time Messaging

In the era of fast-paced lifestyles, customers choose real-time communication over sluggish responses. As a result, instant messaging has become the gold standard for user-business interactions and daily communication. Chat APIs and SDKs allow companies to implement real-time communication features into their applications without long development cycles or additional overhead. 

While there’s a wide array of pre-cooked messaging packs, your choice should be based on the type of mobile app you are building or already have. Each API also has a different set of features to bring into your solution.

Our team of iOS and Android developers is always ready to choose and implement the right chat API for your application. Hit us up, and we’ll unlock real-time capabilities for your app.

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