This article is part of a larger series on Unified Communications.
The best team chat apps foster internal communication and provide vital collaboration tools like secure video conferencing, file sharing, user presence, and task management. Ideally, they will also be quick to set up, easy to use, and integrate seamlessly with the rest of your company’s tech stack. Below, we compare the best team chat apps to help you choose one with the features and functionality your business needs.
Based on our research, these team chat apps are the best options on the market for small business communication and collaboration:
- Slack: Best overall team chat app―an easy-to-use application with extensive integrations for organization-wide communications, video calls, and secure file sharing
- Microsoft Teams: Top choice for Microsoft 365 users needing robust video conferencing features as well as team chat
- Rocket.Chat: Great option for developers who want complete code customization and scalability
- Google Chat: Best for Google Workspace users who want an integrated team chat app that works seamlessly within other Google applications
- Skype: Best free team chat app for companies on a budget
- Mattermost: Top choice for businesses wanting an open-source, self-hosted team chat app with built-in project management capabilities
Best Team Chat App at a Glance
Best Team Chat Apps
$6.67 per user, per month
4.64 out of 5
$4 per user, per month
4.56 out of 5
$3 per user, per month
4.51 out of 5
$6 per user, per month
4.44 out of 5
4.39 out of 5
$10 per user, per month
4.13 out of 5
Slack: Best Overall Team Chat App
*Pricing is based on an annual contract. Monthly contracts are available at a higher price.
Slack is the leader in team chat platforms. The easy-to-use app has become the go-to collaboration solution for businesses of all sizes. New users can learn the ins and outs of the application in just a few minutes while power users can tap into Slack’s 2,400-plus integrations (unlimited with every paid plan) to streamline workflows and make the messaging platform even more powerful.
Beginning at the first paid tier, Slack users get video calls with screen sharing, but only up to 15 people can be on the call. However, it also integrates with Zoom, which allows 40-minute meetings for up to 100 participants in the free version. Businesses wanting larger capacity video conferencing limits should consider Microsoft 365, which allows up to 300 on its least expensive paid plan.
Slack’s Free plan includes many of the platform’s features, though you’ll only have access to the 10,000 most recent messages and individual storage caps at 5GB. In a business’ early days, that may be plenty of history and storage space. However, you’ll want to upgrade to a paid plan as your business scales to support full message storage, video conferencing users, and security protocols.
Slack is more expensive than some of its competitors, especially considering that it’s a standalone product. For example, for $5 per user, per month, you can get Microsoft Teams’ Business Basic package, which also includes web and mobile versions of eight popular Microsoft Office productivity apps, video conferencing for up to 300 participants, and 1TB of cloud storage.
- Advanced search and filtering: Find the exact conversation you’re looking for in no time with Slack’s intuitive search feature, whether it happened two days or two years ago.
- Slack Huddles: Turn your chat into a video call or group conference in a single click to collaborate quickly and come to decisions faster.
- Integrations: Connect all your business apps to Slack to streamline workflows and increase productivity without leaving the platform.
Microsoft Teams: Best Team Chat App for Video Conferencing Features
*Pricing based on annual subscription to Microsoft 365 Business plans.
**Cost of Business Basic increases to $6 per month, per user, and the cost of Business Premium increases from $20 to $22 per user, per month in March 2022.
Microsoft Teams is one of the most affordable unified communication platforms on the market, and its free plan satisfies most small business use cases. You won’t need to upgrade unless you need additional meeting participant caps, longer meetings, extra cloud storage, or need user licenses for Microsoft 365 apps like Outlook, Word, and Excel.
No other platform on this list can host up to 300 video participants, and Microsoft Teams is packed with video conferencing features not available on other platforms. For example, it provides a fun, one-of-a-kind collaborative experience called Together Mode, which lets you host a video call in a customized virtual space, such as a cafe or conference room.
Microsoft Teams is included with Microsoft 365 Business plans, delivering a lot more than just the chat app for your money. With that said, you can access the new Microsoft Teams standalone Essentials plan (released in December 2021) at $4 per user, per month. This gives you video conferencing limits up to 30 hours and 300 participants, double the amount of per-user storage as the free version, and support via phone and web.
Unfortunately, Microsoft Teams isn’t the most friendly solution for small businesses. It can be difficult to deploy because of the number of configurations you can adjust. You’ll have to decide how to organize teams and channels appropriately, which is a bit more cumbersome than Slack’s straightforward deployment.
You may even need help from a tech specialist to get everything up and running. But once you’re past the complex setup, the Teams’ chat app is easy to use, regardless of whether you use it on mobile, desktop, or browser. With that in mind, businesses looking for a more small business-friendly option will be better off with Slack or Skype.
Microsoft Teams Features
- Video conferencing: Host video meetings with up to 300 participants up to 24 hours in length starting from the lowest plan tier and build collaborative team experiences using Together Mode, Team’s virtual call space.
- Ample cloud storage: Enjoy 1TB per organization (plus 10GB per license) of cloud storage. If you need extra storage for other files, you can store up to 1TB of data per user on OneDrive.
- Microsoft Office: Access web and mobile versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint with Microsoft Teams’ Business Basic plan, or upgrade to the Microsoft 365 Business Standard plan to unlock desktop versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, Publisher, Access, PowerPoint, and more.
Rocket.Chat: Best Team Chat App for Customization & Scalability
*Pricing is based on annual subscriptions.
Rocket.Chat is an open-source team messaging app businesses can self-manage or host on Rocket.Chat’s cloud servers. It’s built primarily for developers who want a custom-made solution for scalability, affordability, and personalization. Rocket.Chat provides full access to the code so you can make whatever customizations or security assurance changes you need to scale the solution.
One thing Rocket.Chat does better than some other team messaging applications is provide omnichannel functionality. You can use the platform to message teammates internally or customers externally. Plus, Rocket.Chat also works with your chatboxes, short message service (SMS) text messages, emails, and even social media posts to consolidate all your customer communications into a single app.
However, Rocket.Chat’s team messaging functionality doesn’t offer built-in video conferencing like Slack. Instead, it requires an integration. Nor does it provide cloud storage like Microsoft Teams—but it does offer a basic, affordable team chat app that costs as little as $2 per user, per month on the cloud-hosted Bronze plan.
- Omnichannel communication: Use a single platform to communicate with teammates and customers, regardless of whether they use email, chat, social media, or SMS texting.
- Optional hosting: Host your team messaging application on Rocket.Chat’s servers, or take complete stewardship over your data and host it through your own cloud solution.
- Custom code: Make changes to the code to tailor Rocket.Chat’s app for your unique use cases.
Google Chat: Best Team Chat App for Google Workspace Users
*Google Chat is included (among many other Google applications) with Google Workspace business packages.
Google Chat (formerly known as Google Hangouts Chat) is a less popular team messaging tool for the simple reason that many don’t know it exists. Google Chat shines for one-on-one or small group messages, but loses its proficiency and becomes difficult to use when scaled to entire organizations. It can be difficult to keep track of conversations because of poor chat nesting and little control over notification types.
Google Chat is free to use for anyone with a Gmail address. Access it from within your Gmail account or download a standalone app. If you’re planning on using the team chat app frequently, the standalone app is a much more manageable option as the Gmail integration is difficult to navigate multiple conversations.
Google Chat integrates smoothly with the rest of the Google Workspace apps. When you copy and paste a link to a document in a chat, it automatically imports the details of the document and changes the sharing permissions to make it accessible. You can also jump into video conferencing meetings through Google Meet, add events to Google Calendar, or even manage your Google to-do lists―all from Google Chat.
Despite Google Chat’s accessibility, it’s not as user-friendly or feature-rich as Slack. If you’re a Google power user and want to consolidate your conversations, Google Chat is a great option. However, if you need more robust channel control and a better messaging user interface (UI), we recommend Slack.
Google Chat Features
- Google Workspace integration: Share documents, collaborate in Google Docs, join Google Meet meetings, or edit your calendar—all from Google Chat.
- Chat within Gmail: Keep all your conversations in a single place by using Google Chat inside your Gmail application.
- Smart bots: Build automated bots to help you connect with the right participants, launch meetings, and ultimately get work done faster.
Skype: Best Free Team Chat App
Skype is often thought of as a free tool for video conferencing, but it’s also an instant messaging platform, which makes it one of the best team chat apps. You can send direct messages or start group conversations within the application. The UI is intuitive and easy to use, making it a go-to option for less tech-savvy individuals.
The best part about Skype is that it’s free to use. You don’t pay to send messages, maintain your conversation history, or host video conferencing calls and you only pay for credits if you need to call international numbers or non-Skype phone numbers. However, while Skype is one of the best free team chat apps, it’s not a scalable option for growing businesses.
Meeting participants are capped at just 100 users, and you can’t protect your meetings with passwords. While meetings are secured with end-to-end encryption, you still risk having meeting bombers drop into your conference calls unexpectedly. If security is a top priority, we recommend Rocket.Chat, which gives you the most control over your data with self-hosting.