Evaluating chat platforms: Sendbird vs. Twilio
A head-to-head comparison between Sendbird and Twilio for chat use cases. Learn about their features, pros and cons, similarities, and differences.
What is Sendbird?
Sendbird is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that provides APIs and SDKs to enable messaging, chat, and voice and video calling in web and mobile apps.
The Sendbird Chat product is the primary Sendbird offering for building chat experiences. It’s an API-based service that gives developers tools to add realtime, 1-on-1, and group chat functionality to their apps.
Pros and cons of Sendbird Chat
What are the key pros and cons of using Sendbird Chat?
Sendbird Chat advantages
Feature-rich chat API, with diverse capabilities, including voice and video support, message and user moderation, push notifications, reactions, mentions, typing indicators, user presence, and read receipts.
Ready-made UI components for iOS, Android, React, and React Native, which helps save time versus building your own UI chat components.
Managed infrastructure layer that’s supposedly able to scale to 1 million+ concurrent connections per client app.
Compliance with security standards such as SOC 2, ISO 27001, HIPAA/HITECH, and GDPR.
Sendbird Chat limitations
Chat often goes hand-in-hand with other realtime use cases, such as multiplayer collaboration (think of Figma-like products, where you can edit your design collaboratively, and chat with other users, all in realtime). However, Sendbird is very much a chat-centric solution; if you’re looking to build other realtime experiences alongside chat, Sendbird can’t help; you will have to use different technologies, which brings additional complexity and increased costs to your project.
Sendbird Chat allows you to have a fixed number of monthly active chat users (MAUs) and concurrent (peak) connections. If you exceed the number of allowed MAUs & peak connections, you will be charged overages. However, there’s no transparency about exactly how much you will be charged. This is perhaps not the “friendliest” pricing model, especially if you’re dealing with a high number of users and traffic spikes.
While Sendbird infrastructure is deployed across 8 datacenters, you are required to choose a single region (datacenter) for an app to reside in. All chat traffic must therefore be routed through a single datacenter, regardless of a user’s location. This has negative implications on performance (increased latency), reliability, and availability. It’s probably one of the reasons why Sendbird provides a 99.9% uptime SLA by default. This SLA may not be reliable enough for critical use cases, such as healthcare chat.
Sendbird Chat offers a limited number of client SDKs (7 in total), with no support for languages like Java, Go, PHP, Python, or Ruby. It’s also worth mentioning that Sendbird has very limited options when it comes to integrations. It essentially only allows you to configure webhooks, but it offers no pre-built integrations with other components, like databases, event streaming platforms (e.g., Kafka), or serverless platforms.
What is Twilio?
Twilio describes itself as a “customer engagement platform”. It primarily offers APIs that enable businesses to interact with their customers over voice, SMS, video, chat, and email. In addition, Twilio provides various other products, such as Twilio Segment (a customer data platform), or Twilio Trusted Activation (useful for user activation, authentication, verification, and secure online transactions).
The Programmable Chat API used to be the main Twilio product for delivering chat experiences. However, Programmable Chat was retired in 2022. Its successor is the Twilio Conversations API - a solution that makes it possible to add group chat, 1-to-1 conversations, and SMS capabilities to applications and websites.
Pros and cons of Twilio Conversations
What are the key pros and cons of using Twilio Conversations?
Twilio Conversations advantages
Provides managed infrastructure, so customers don’t have to deal with scaling and maintaining it themselves.
Compliance with several different security standards: ISO 27001, HIPAA, GDPR, SOC 2.
Twilio Conversations is an omni-channel messaging platform; it allows you to build chat experiences across different channels, such as SMS, MMS, WhatsApp messaging, Facebook Messenger, and in app chat.
Twilio Conversations makes it quick and easy to get started with multi-party chat.
Twilio Conversations limitations
Compared to some alternative solutions, Twilio Conversations offers a limited feature set for building chat apps. For example, you can’t use it to implement public group chat, and it doesn’t support mentions and reactions.
Chat application data (messages, channels, users) is stored by Twilio Conversations in its backend systems. This may be problematic for certain chat use cases, as it could lead to data governance-related concerns and issues.
Oftentimes, chat is not a standalone product, but, rather, a part of a wider realtime experience. For example, there are plenty of multiplayer games with embedded chat. Or, think of Uber-like ridesharing apps that offer live location tracking, while also allowing you to chat in realtime with the driver. If you’re building these kinds of experiences, you can only use Twilio for chat, while for your other realtime requirements, you will have to use another solution. Of course, this leads to additional operational overhead and increased expenses for your project.
Twilio does not support multi-region chat architectures. All chat traffic is processed and stored in a single datacenter / region. This can have negative implications on performance (increased latency), reliability, and availability (single point of congestion and failure).
Sendbird Chat vs Twilio Conversations: feature comparison
The purpose of this comparison is to help you make a more informed decision when it comes to choosing a solution to implement in-app and web chat. We’ll cover a set of topics we think are essential to ask of any technology that helps you deliver chat experiences.
Note: This comparison was created based on documentation and resources freely available online from Sendbird and Twilio. The content was last updated on 9 Feb 2023 for Sendbird Chat, and on 10 Feb 2023 for Twilio Conversations. Be sure to double-check everything before you make any decisions. If you do find anything incorrect or out of date, then please let us know.
Performance, reliability, scalability, and messaging guarantees
Before considering anything else, you need to trust your chat provider can deliver a dependable service at scale. Performance, reliability, scalability, and superior messaging guarantees are critical factors for any solution that enables the building of chat applications. These characteristics directly impact the user experience and can make or break the success of any chat experience.
This amounts to roughly 8h 40m of service downtime/unavailability per year.
This amounts to roughly 4h 20m of service downtime/unavailability per year.
Claims it can scale to 1 million+ concurrent connections per client app.
A public chat channel can sustain up to 100K users.
Private chat channels are limited to 20k users.
It’s unclear to what extent Twilio’s chat offering is able to scale.
A chat room (conversation in Twilio lingo) can sustain up to 1.000 users.
Infrastructure / datacenters
The Sendbird infrastructure consists of 8 datacenters distributed in different regions (US West & East, Europe, Asia Pacific, Australia).
Twilio has datacenters in 3 regions (United States, Ireland, Australia).
However, Twilio Conversations is only available in 2 of the 3 regions (the United States and Ireland, with some features like messaging services and delivery receipts being unavailable for the latter).
The Twilio network also consists of several edge locations, allowing customers to control the geographic location where their application network traffic enters and exits Twilio’s platform.
You are required to choose a single AWS data center for an app to reside in. This can lead to increased latency, and negatively impacts reliability and availability - if the region goes down, then all apps hosted there are affected.
You are required to choose a single region (datacenter) for an app to reside in. This can lead to increased latency, and negatively impacts reliability and availability - if the region goes down, then all apps hosted there are affected.
Guaranteed message ordering
We have not identified any documentation that indicates whether or not Sendbird Chat guarantees message ordering.
We have not identified any documentation that indicates whether or not Twilio Conversations guarantees messages are always delivered in order.
Guaranteed message delivery (exactly-once)
We have not identified any documentation that indicates what kind of messaging semantics are supported by Sendbird Chat.
We have not identified any documentation that indicates what type of messaging semantics Twilio Conversations supports (exactly-once, at-most-once, or at-least-once delivery).
Automatic reconnections with continuity
Every Sendbird Chat SDK supports automatic reconnections (for scenarios where clients briefly disconnect).
However, it is unclear if upon reconnection no message will be lost, sent multiple times, or delivered out of order.
We have not identified any documentation that indicates if Twilio Conversations supports automatic connection recovery with stream continuity (guaranteed message ordering and delivery).
Ship chat experiences you can trust to deliver at scale
Ably is a solid foundation for any chat app. Our platform offers <65 ms round trip latency for 99th percentile, guaranteed message ordering and (exactly-once) delivery, global fault tolerance, and a 99.999% uptime SLA. In addition, our multi-region infrastructure can scale to handle millions of concurrently-connected devices.
Learn more about Ably’s guarantees and our globally-distributed infrastructure.
It’s natural you’ll want to make sure the platform you choose for chat has a robust feature set, provides the functionality you need right now, and has the functionality to support you as you grow and your needs change.
Private and public group chat
Twilio only supports private group chat. You can't use it for public group chat.
Chat UI components
Yes (React, iOS, Android, and React Native).
Message history (persisted data)
Rewind / load previous messages
Advanced chat features
Diverse feature set:
- Typing indicators
- Message delivery receipts & read receipts
- User and channel mentions
- Unread message count
- Scheduled and offline messages
- Channel list
- Message and user moderation (e.g. profanity filter, mute user)
- Multimedia support (audio, video, photos)
Limited feature set:
- Typing indicators
- Message delivery receipts & read receipts
- Media support (photos, videos)
Deliver feature-rich chat experiences with Ably
1:1 and group messaging over pub/sub channels, presence, reactions, typing indicators, authentication, and many more. Get started in minutes with our chat apps reference guide.
Supported languages, integrations, and protocols
The modern internet is a web of different programming languages, platforms, protocols, and services built on top of other services. This isn’t likely to change anytime soon, so a chat provider that offers SDKs in different languages, 3rd party integrations, and multi-protocol capabilities is what you should be aiming for.
Sendbird Chat client SDKs are available for the following languages and platforms:
- Android (Kotlin)
Twilio Conversations provides 3 client-side SDKs:
3rd party integrations
Limited number of integrations:
- Chatbot interface that allows you to add your own chatbot that can send and receive messages.
- Custom webhooks to send data to your servers/systems.
Sendbird Chat offers no integrations with components like databases, event streaming platforms (e.g., Kafka), or serverless platforms.
Twilio Conversations only supports pre-action and post-action webhooks for most events that happen in your chat application.
There are no other integrations provided.
WebSockets are used to maintain persistent connections between the Sendbird server and client SDKs. The documentation doesn’t indicate whether or not a fallback transport is supported (useful for environments where WebSocket connections are blocked).
The Sendbird Chat Platform API uses HTTP.
Sendbird Chat doesn’t support any other messaging protocols, such as MQTT, SSE, or AMQP.
WebSockets are used to power realtime communication for chat. The Twilio documentation doesn’t specify if a fallback transport (such as HTTP long polling) is supported.
There’s also an HTTP (REST) API to manage actions like creating conversations and adding users to a conversation.
Twilio Conversations doesn’t support any other messaging protocols, such as MQTT, SSE, or AMQP.
Build chat experiences using your preferred tech stack with Ably’s help
We offer 25+ client SDKs targeting all major languages, managed integrations with services like Kafka, Terraform, AWS Lambda, and multi-protocol capabilities (WebSockets, SSE, MQTT, and more).
Security and compliance
Security and compliance are front of mind for many live chat use cases. Encryption, authentication, roles and permissions, and compliance with standards like SOC 2 are essential requirements for any chat solution.
TLS/SSL and AES-256 encryption.
TLS and AES-256 encryption.
Access tokens and ephemeral session tokens.
Also supports JWTs (but you will have to reach out to Sendbird support first to enable this functionality).
Ephemeral JWT access tokens.
Configurable chat roles & permissions
ISO 27001, HIPAA, GDPR, SOC 2.
ISO 27001, GDPR, SOC 2, HIPAA (provided you buy a Twilio Security Edition package with HIPAA coverage).
Deliver highly secure & compliant chat experiences with Ably
Benefit from flexible authentication (including API keys and JWTs) with fine-grained access controls, SSL/TLS, 256-bit AES & end-to-end encryption, and compliance with SOC 2, HIPAA, and EU GDPR.
Learn more about Ably’s security and compliance.
Pricing & support
Is the pricing model flexible, scalable, and clear? What support options are available?
The free package allows a maximum of 100 monthly active chat users (MAUs) and 10 peak concurrent connections.
Twilio Conversations is free to use up to 200 monthly active chat users (MAUs).
There are 3 paid tiers: Starter (from $399/ month), Pro (from $599/ month), and Enterprise (custom pricing).
The Starter and Pro tiers start from 5k MAUs, while the Enterprise tier is advertised as being suitable for use cases with millions of MAUs.
There are some feature availability differences between the 3 tiers. For example, the Starter tier can’t implement delivery receipts, and can only use limited chat moderation features. Another example - the Enterprise tier comes with paid add-ons (e.g., private dedicated servers) that aren’t available for the other tiers.
Pricing increases as the number of MAUs increases. For example, the Starter package with 25K MAUs costs $1.199/ month. The Pro package with 25K MAUs is as expensive as $1.799/ month.
Note that there’s a cap on the number of peak concurrent connections: 5% of MAUs. If you exceed the number of MAUs or peak concurrent connections, you will have to pay for overages. It’s unclear how much you’ll be charged for overages, but it’s something to bear in mind if you have a growing number of MAUs, and you’re expecting bursts of chat clients connecting simultaneously.
Pricing varies depending on the number of MAUs:
- $0.05/MAU (between 201-5.000 MAUs)
- $0.0475/MAU (between 5.001-10.000 MAUs)
- $0.0450/MAU (between 10.001-20.000 MAUs)
- Volume pricing provided for use cases with more than 20.000 MAUs
For example, if you have 20.000 MAUs, you will pay $900/month. On top of this, you are also charged for media storage (photos, videos, and other files users send over chat). The price for media storage is $0.25 per GB per month.
The base support plan (which is included in any paid package) offers best-effort response time, irrespective of the issue’s priority. The base plan is available for 9 hours per day.
There are also 4 paid support plans (L1-L4). For example, L4 costs 10% of your monthly expenditure (or a minimum of $10.000/month). It comes with a guaranteed response time of 1-6 hours (depending on issue priority). L4 support is available 24/7, and there are some extra benefits (e.g., customer success manager).
The free Developer plan (included with every Twilio account) offers best-effort response time, irrespective of the issue’s priority.
There are 3 paid support plans: Production, Business, and Personalized, which offer 24/7 live chat, Phone and web support, and additional features / benefits.
For example, the Personalized plan costs 8% of monthly spend (or $5.000 minimum). It guarantees a response time of 1-3 hours (depending on issue priority), and you have a dedicated Twilio technical account manager.
Transparent, usage-based pricing to deliver chat experiences at scale
With Ably, you pay for the messages, peak active channels, and peak connections you use for the month. No hidden costs. Learn more about Ably’s pricing.
Sendbird vs Twilio: which platform has the best chat API?
This isn’t a question we can answer outright. Both the Twilio API and Sendbird Chat have their pros and cons when it comes to delivering chat experiences. Here’s a recap of the major differences:
Sendbird Chat supports extra functionality compared to Twilio Conversations, including message and & user moderation, and reactions. Additionally, unlike Twilio, Sendbird offers pre-made chat UI components.
Neither do exceptionally well when it comes to uptime guarantees, but Twilio seems a bit more reliable, with a 99.95% uptime SLA, compared to Sendbird’s 99.9% uptime SLA.
The Twilio pricing model seems a bit more straightforward, and easier to understand. In comparison, with Sendbird Chat, there are more unknowns (there’s no transparency regarding how much you are charged for overages).
And here’s how they are similar:
The Sendbird and Twilio chat services are single-region solutions. This can lead to increased latency and negatively impacts reliability and availability - if the region goes down, then all apps hosted there are affected.
Sendbird Chat and Twilio Conversations use WebSockets to maintain persistent connections between the Sendbird / Twilio server and client devices. However, it’s unclear whether any of them supports a fallback transport.
Both Twilio and Sendbird are compliant with standards like SOC 2 and HIPAA.
It is unclear whether Sendbird Chat and Twilio Conversations guarantee message ordering and delivery, especially when unreliable networks and disconnections are involved.
It is ultimately up to you to decide if Sendbird Chat or Twilio Conversations is the best choice for your specific chat use case. There are, of course, alternative solutions you can use to deliver live chat experiences. Some of them, like Ably, offer a comparable feature set, and superior guarantees around reliability, availability, and performance at scale.
Discover Ably, your Twilio & Sendbird alternative for shipping chat experiences at scale
Ably is a realtime experience infrastructure provider. Our realtime APIs and SDKs help you build live chat experiences, without having to worry about managing and scaling messy realtime infrastructure.
We offer flexible building blocks like pub/sub messaging, presence, and message interactions, so you can build rich 1:1 and group chat experiences, with features like online/offline status indicators, reactions, typing indicators, and read receipts.See our chat apps guide
Our globally-distributed, multi-region infrastructure offers unrivaled guarantees around performance, data integrity, reliability, and scalability:
<65 ms median latency
Guaranteed message ordering and (exactly-once) delivery, even in unreliable network conditions
Redundancy at regional and global levels, with a 99.999% uptime SLA
Dynamic elasticity, with the ability to send billions of messages to millions of channels and chat users
Learn how Ably compares to Sendbird Chat:Ably vs Sendbird
Power not only chat, but all your realtime use cases with Ably
Unlike Twilio Conversations and Sendbird Chat, Ably goes far beyond live chat. We can help you with many other realtime use cases:
Broadcast realtime event data, such as live scores and traffic updates.
Facilitate multiplayer collaboration on shared projects and whiteboards.
Deliver cross-platform push notifications at scale.
Keep your backend and frontend in realtime sync.
Add realtime asset tracking capabilities to urban mobility and food delivery apps.