Android Text Message App: Guide

8 min read Markus Kohler on Mar 21, 2023

Mobile applications, from social networking to productivity tools, have become essential to modern life. One of the most common and widely used mobile app features is messaging. Messaging apps allow users to communicate with each other in real-time and keep track of all their messages on their Android phones. Users depend on social applications such as Snapchat, Discord, Zoom, and Slack to interact over Wi-Fi messages, SMS messages, and video calls. However, with many messaging apps available today, standing out from the crowd can take time and effort. 

Continue reading to learn more about the Android platform, why developers should create chat applications for these mobile devices, and the steps necessary to create chat apps on Android devices.

What is an Android text message app?

The world’s most popular operating system powering text message applications is Android, an open-source mobile platform where developers can create various applications for phones, watches, televisions, and cars. Google originally developed the Android platform in 2008 and currently powers over 2.5 billion devices worldwide.

Android’s messaging apps provide a powerful communication tool for everyone from casual texters to business professionals. A text message app in Android allows users to use their devices to send and receive messages, customize notifications, prioritize contacts, block unwanted numbers, or even set up automated replies.  Many of these applications also have features like secure messaging, which implements end-to-end encryption, so your conversations are kept private and secure no matter where you go! Some popular Android text message apps include Google Messages, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Signal.

Android text message app technologies

When it comes to developing Android messaging apps, the choice of programming language is a crucial decision that can significantly impact the quality and functionality of your app. While Java has been the primary language for Android app development, new options like Kotlin have emerged as viable alternatives. In this context, it is essential to consider the pros and cons of each language and how they affect the development process.

Using Java for Android Messaging Apps

Java has been the primary and official language for Android app development, and it remains the most widely used language today. Many text messaging applications in the Play Store are built with Java. Google highly supports Java, and its extensive online community makes it a reliable option for developers seeking assistance with any issues.

Despite its popularity, Java can be challenging for beginners as it involves complex concepts like null pointer exceptions, concurrency, and checked exceptions. However, as the first official Android language, many resources and documentation assume prior knowledge of Java, which can be helpful for developers working with Kotlin or a Cross-Platform Framework. In essence, Java may be more difficult to learn initially, but it provides a solid foundation for new developers to create Android messaging applications.

Using Kotlin for Android Messaging Apps

Although Java has long been the go-to language for Android app development, Kotlin has emerged as a viable alternative since Google declared it an official Android language in 2017 and it has since gained popularity among developers due to its advantages over Java.

As a cross-platform programming language, Kotlin can be used as a substitute for Java. It's an expressive and concise language that minimizes common code errors and can easily integrate into existing Android applications. Kotlin interoperates with Java and runs on the Java Virtual Machine. One notable difference is that Kotlin eliminates redundant features of Java, such as null pointer exceptions and the requirement to end each line with a semicolon.

In short, Kotlin is a more straightforward language for implementing the UI and functionality of a text messaging-based application on the client side compared to Java, making it a viable option for developers.

Using Cross-Platform Frameworks for Android messaging apps

When considering which programming language to use for developing Android messaging applications, it's worth considering cross-platform frameworks like React Native, Flutter, and Ionic. These frameworks can be utilized to create native Android and iOS (iPhone, Mac, iPad) applications and have a lower entry barrier, making them easier to learn and use. They provide a pre-existing setup for the low-level native Java/Kotlin code, enabling developers to focus on creating visually appealing UI and functionality right away.

Another significant advantage of cross-platform frameworks is the flexibility to access lower-level native code in Java and Kotlin. This allows for implementing desired functionality even if the cross-platform framework doesn't offer a solution. This is important for implementing new Android-specific features such as Chat Head Notifications. 

Nevertheless, the tech community is still divided over native and cross-platform development. Some experts prefer native mobile development over multi-platform solutions, citing better performance and a superior user experience as the key benefits of native apps.

Common Android text message app features

Many different types of chat applications are on the market, but they all have very similar features. Below we will explore some standard features used by popular Android chat applications.

  • Direct Messaging: Direct messaging is a feature in chat applications that allows users to send private messages directly between two individuals.

  • Group Chats: Group chats allow for group messaging where multiple people can participate at once and exchange text, media, or other content with each other.

  • Message Replies: Message replies allow users to reply directly underneath someone else's message for context instead of scrolling up or down through an entire conversation thread every time they need something clarified.

  • Message Reactions: Message reactions give you a way of expressing your thoughts about what was said by allowing you to quickly reply without having to type out words. For example, giving a message a thumbs-up if you agree or sending a heart emoji if it made you happy!

  • File Uploads: File uploads let participants share documents such as PDF files and photos so everyone can easily access them throughout their discussion via one link shared across all devices.

  • Emojis Gifs: Emoji gifs or stickers provide visual expressions when typing isn’t enough. Animated images often replace phrases previously typed out manually, making communication more fun and efficient.

  • Mobile Push Notifications: Android Chat heads is a commonly used feature amongst many popular chat applications on Android and are powered by mobile push notifications. This lets users know when they have received a message on their device by displaying the sender’s avatar on the Android home screen as a pop-up.

Android text message app use cases

Android text messaging applications have grown in recent years due to their ease of use and wide range of valuable features. These applications are becoming particularly important for industries such as gaming and healthcare, where communication is essential for efficient operations. 

Android's intuitive user experience and powerful tool suite make it an ideal platform for these two sectors. By leveraging technologies like real-time communication, cloud storage, remote management capabilities and more, businesses can streamline processes while providing better services to customers and patients.

Android text message apps for healthcare

Android Text Messaging apps are becoming increasingly popular in the healthcare industry. These applications allow secure, convenient communication between patients and their healthcare providers. They also provide a platform to share important medical information with other professionals involved in patient care, such as family members or caregivers. However, healthcare organizations must use HIPAA-compliant chat apps to ensure that patient data is always protected.

Many popular chat apps need to be more appropriate for healthcare professionals. They’re often woefully inadequate when implementing the HIPAA pillars of data security and patient privacy. For example, while these apps may encrypt messages, they often hold a copy of the key that they use to analyze message data. This is a major red flag for HIPAA guidelines and can lead to a violation due to non-compliance.

Android text message apps for gaming

Mobile gaming apps are among the most popular applications on the Google Play Store. Using the Android Games Development Kit (AGDK), developers can code high-quality Android games with a full range of tools and libraries to help them develop, optimize, launch, and iterate.

Common functionality can be found in games such as Online Multiplayer and Lobby Rooms, where people can interact and message one another. A few standard features in mobile games include in-game chat, online presence, and message reactions. All these features allow users to feel more engaged within the environment, making the mobile game more immersive and interactive. This is especially important for mobile games that are free-to-play but rely on in-app purchases to generate revenue. These games often offer additional content or features for players to purchase. Incorporating these social features can help build a community around the game and improve its retention rate.

Other industries/use cases

Text message applications are not limited to the healthcare and gaming industries. Many businesses and organizations use messaging apps to communicate with employees or customers. For example, retail stores can use messaging apps to notify customers of sales and promotions, while banks can notify customers about their account activity. Educational institutions can also use messaging apps to communicate with students, parents, and faculty about important information, such as class schedules and events. 

Read below to find out more about how our customers have utilized chat features within different industries.

  • NurseGrid, an app that allows nursing departments to access, manage, and share their schedules with colleagues in real-time, uses PubNub to power real-time scheduling updates with mobile push notifications and in-app messaging, helping to reduce inefficiencies in nurse scheduling.

  • Josh Talks, an English learning platform in India, uses PubNub to power direct and group chat at scale, as well as mobile push notifications, increasing time spent in-app and customer retention. With over five million downloads in the Play Store, PubNub eliminates concurrency and latency issues the developers of Josh Talks were facing and helps optimize the platform to better serve users across different locations, languages, and devices in real-time.

  • vFairs is a virtual events platform that allows companies and organizations of any size to create engaging, seamless remote experiences that connect people globally, whether for an audience of 50 or 30,000. vFairs uses PubNub to provide reliable and scalable in-app chat in real time to these audience members and has saved 75% in developer time by moving from their in-house chat to PubNub.

Using PubNub to build Android messaging apps

PubNub is a developer API platform that enables applications to deliver chat at a massive, global scale. Android developers can depend on PubNub’s scalability and reliability to power chat features for their applications by using our SDKs.

PubNub can support all the features mentioned above, from common to less common features used in different industries. For example, if you wanted to upload files so the customers using your chat could share files from a reliable URL, you could use File Sharing to share files in real time across your chat. 

To begin using PubNub to power your Android real-time chat app, you must first create a PubNub account and download our Android SDK. The SDK integrates seamlessly into your application and allows you to connect to PubNub’s real-time communication platform.

  1. Sign in or register for a free account to create an app and get the keys to use in your application. Learn how to do so by following this how-to on creating keys.

  2. Download the Android SDK by following the instructions in the documentation to install any necessary PubNub dependencies for your messaging app.

  3. Follow the SDKs getting started documentation to configure your keys in the build.gradle file and begin implementing the features to drive your chat functionality.

If you would like more personal assistance, please reach out to us. We’ll walk you through the best way to add PubNub to your Android chat application.