20 Best team chat apps for business

The modern workplace, in all its variations, runs on quality communication. Large areas of the contemporary working landscape are unimaginable without effective interaction of diverging skill sets.

As the working experience continues to shift further away from the traditional office, communication technology assumes a crucial role in team infrastructure. While modern workplace communication takes place in a variety of forms —  from emails to conference calls, the central spot for most teams is occupied by chat apps.  

Over the following lines, we will try to determine the defining features of good and great team communication tools. Then we will take it from abstract to concrete with a close examination of 20 team communication apps that are popular choices for professional teams worldwide. But, before that, let’s start at the beginning. 

20 Best team chat apps for business

What is a team chat app?

Team chat apps represent an extension of instant messaging tools infused with a variety of additional features that enable professional communication and collaboration. They are online tools primarily intended for text-based real-time communication between two or more participants. They enable team members to exchange 1-on-1 and group messages in real-time regardless of physical distance — whether they are sitting on different floors of the same building or in different time zones

Over the past decade, instant messaging tools have evolved to incorporate a number of features designed for the realm of collaboration. These features may include file-sharing capabilities, audio and video calls, task management options, integrations with third-party apps that enable users to use said apps within the team chat tool, and beyond. 

Nowadays, most team chat apps are not mere communication tools. Instead, they often represent a central work hub that incorporates different aspects of work, including: 

  • communication
  • real-time collaboration
  • knowledge transfer
  • exchange of resources
  • task management 

And that’s without even taking into account a variety of team-specific requirements. Just like the work itself has become a hybrid of different combinations of on-premise and remote settings, team chat apps have grown to become a hybrid of different work tools streamlined into a unified package.  For many present-day workers, they are not just a part of the working ecosystem, but the ecosystem itself. 

Benefits of team chat apps

As the prime enablers of communication, the benefits of team chat apps may seem obvious and self-explanatory. However, the list of benefits of team chat apps can be surprisingly broad. Let’s take a closer look. 

Efficient communication

Team chat apps enable both synchronous and asynchronous communication, individual and group conversations, one-way information distribution, and two-way debate, all the way to audio and video conferencing — all without having to leave your desk. 

Enhanced collaboration

Modern team chats don’t just allow teams to communicate; they also enable team members to exchange files and collaborate on them in real-time. This is not just beneficial for remote teams, but also saves time and effort for on-premise teams.

File and information storing

Team chat apps not only serve to enable real-time communication, but to preserve records of easily searchable previous interactions and any relevant information and files shared in the past. 

Improved work organization

Team chat apps can improve team coordination and help team members stay on the same page. A well-structured team chat environment encourages transparency and clarity regarding everyone’s work, thus promoting accountability. Team chat apps can also serve to track progress on tasks and quickly resolve emerging and ongoing issues. 

Increased efficiency

While efficient team chat tools are absolutely necessary for remote teams, they also increase the efficiency of on-premise teams as well, saving time that would otherwise be used on long emails, scheduling and holding meetings, or even walking up to a colleague’s desk to ask a question.

Improved team relationships

Team chat apps enable team members to engage, both on a personal and professional level. This is particularly important for remote teams without any other means of interaction. However, it is also beneficial for office teams to have another medium for engaging with their teammates. 

What makes a team chat app great

Team chat apps come in many shapes and forms, in line with the diverse demands of different professional teams. A great team chat app is the one that answers the primary communication and collaboration needs of a team. One team’s great app could be entirely unsuited for a different team. 

However, while the choice of a team chat app should be entirely dictated by the team’s specific needs, there is a number of universal requirements that great apps should fulfill:

User-friendliness

This should always be the primary requirement. If team members struggle to adopt a communication tool, then it’s probably the wrong tool. Navigation and use should be simple and intuitive for users, while setup, role, and access permissions should be easy for administrators.

Solid structure

An app should enable a team to structure the communication in a logical and orderly manner. This includes separating one-on-one communication, segmented group conversations, and general, organization-wide communication, with simple and efficient moderation functionalities.

Cost-effectiveness

Allocation of team budget resources is always a delicate balancing act. Ideally, teams will want their communication tools to be highly affordable and/or provide added value that justifies the price. 

Cross-platform availability

Teams should be able to communicate on their preferred devices. A great team chat app should work on all popular desktop and mobile platforms, allowing team members to stay connected regardless of their preferred devices and platforms. 

Data security

The question of data privacy and protection has grown in importance since the pandemic caused almost all businesses to adjust. Great team chat apps adhere to relevant data protection standards and best practices. Some even offer self-hosting to ensure the highest degree of data privacy and protection. 

Work-related features 

This is not a specific set of features, but a variety of options and approaches that different apps utilize to enable better collaboration. These features can include audio/video conferencing, screen sharing, third-party integrations, smart notifications, task management and tracking options, etc.

The choice of a perfect team chat app for any team lies in the balance between satisfying these fundamental expectations and fulfilling specific team requirements.

20 best team chat apps for 2021

Now that we have a general overview of what team chat apps are and what purposes they are meant to serve, it is time to get into the specifics. Out of a wide range of available options, we have selected 20 team chat apps that answer a diverse set of team requirements with diverging approaches to providing those answers. This list is not intended to rank the apps, but to help teams compare them and make the choice that fits their work best. 

Without further ado, let’s get specific!

Pumble

Pumble app

🔸 What is Pumble?
Pumble is a team chat app that enables organizations to structure and conduct their communication in a highly organized and efficient manner. Team members can have 1-on-1 conversations, group chats, private channels, as well as public channels open to all team members. Pumble also supports simple drag-and-drop file sharing with convenient file and link previews. Channel and DM conversations can further branch out into threads, keeping the communication structured and tidy. Administration and permission management are simple and efficient, and onboarding for the platform is a piece of cake. Pumble also provides a self-hosting option, allowing organizations to host the software on their own private servers to ensure maximum data protection. 

🔸 Why use Pumble?
Pumble is a great all-around team communication app that’s applicable in a broad range of professional settings. It is ideally suited for remote and distributed teams.

🔸 Pumble’s highlight feature: 

A comprehensive free plan that does not limit any fundamental features and a highly affordable Pro plan for teams that wish to maximize the advanced feature set.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Mattermost

Mattermost app

🔸 What is Mattermost?

Mattermost is a team chat app that focuses heavily on data security as an exclusively self-hosted solution. As a chat tool, it has all the standard features that help structure and organize team communication, but it also provides a number of enterprise-centric features such as compliance reporting or e-discovery resources. Furthermore, the platform can be customized and enhanced with a bit of DevOps expertise for features such as webhooks and custom slash commands. However, it does not offer a free plan which, coupled with relatively complex setup and maintenance, could put off smaller teams without a need for enhanced data protection.

🔸 Why use Mattermost?

Mattermost is best suited for large organizations dealing with sensitive and personal information (i.e. hospitals, government agencies, law firms, etc.) and any organizations in need of increased data security. 

🔸 Mattermost’s highlight feature:

Simple and efficient compliance reporting functionality.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams app

🔸 What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a comprehensive team chat app that boosts its basic chat functionalities with an abundance of collaboration features, third-party integrations, and enterprise-centric functionalities. It is available for free as a stand-alone app or as a part of variously priced Microsoft’s Office 365 packages. However, keep in mind that the free version significantly limits available features and functions as a fairly bare-bones team chat. Teams is fully integrated with other Office products, making it a great choice for existing Microsoft users. On the other hand, teams not familiar with the Office ecosystem might find Teams a bit too Microsoft-centric, while the wealth of options may be seen as confusing and complex to those looking for a basic chat tool. 

🔸 Why use Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is favored by many enterprise-level organizations and other teams that can benefit from its extensive collaboration, task management, and reporting options.

🔸 Microsoft Teams’ highlight feature:

Tight and harmonious integration with other Microsoft products.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Discord

Discord app

🔸 What is Discord?

Discord is a communication app that offers text messaging, voice and video calls, as well as file and media sharing. The free version provides all the basic chat functionalities (including video and audio), with no real need to upgrade to a paid plan. The app is primarily associated with the gaming community, but it has recently grown popular in the professional realm as well. As a business chat tool, it is effective in its basic functionalities, particularly for teams that prefer audio communication. However, text communication can get a bit cluttered quickly as the number of channels and participants grows. Furthermore, the app doesn’t have any work-specific features, although bots can help connect the app to other popular tools. 

🔸 Why use Discord?

Discord is great for informal, low importance conversations, as well as for teams who prefer occasional or constant audio chatting over text

🔸 Discord’s highlight feature:

Excellent audio features for almost lag-free voice communication.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Slack

Slack app

🔸 What is Slack?

Slack is the first team chat app that managed to introduce instant messaging as an efficient business alternative to email. It offers structured real-time text communication, as well as file sharing, audio/video and screen sharing options. It is highly customizable and offers countless integrations for most other popular collaboration, task management, and other work tools. On the downside, its free plan is quite limited, while the paid plan is rather pricey compared to many other Slack alternatives.

🔸 Why use Slack?

Slack is an all-purpose team chat app that can be applied in a broad range of professional settings.

🔸 Slack’s highlight feature: 

A large number of third-party integrations allow teams to use other important work tools within the Slack framework. 

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Flock

Flock app

🔸 What is Flock?

Flock is a team communication tool that aims to bridge the gap between the ease of use of Slack and the jam-packed feature set of Microsoft Teams. Aside from the common messaging options, the app provides collaboration-focused features such as task lists, reminders, and notes. However, the attempt to bring “the best of both worlds” results in a fairly confusing and busy interface. It also pales in comparison to the robustness of Teams and their extensive features.

🔸 Why use Flock?

Flock aims to be a budget-friendly alternative to the more popular Slack and Microsoft teams, offering more work-focused features than Slack without the complexity of Teams. 

🔸 Flock’s highlight feature: 

An extensive list of third-party integrations.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Twist

Twist app

🔸 What is Twist?

Twist is a team chat app that aims to replace the hectic pace of Slack’s quickfire communication with a more considered and less urgent approach. It was developed by a distributed team across different time zones for its internal communication needs. It comes across as a halfway point between email and instant messaging. The user interface, complete with email-like subject lines for each conversation and lofty typing areas, discourages short and fast pace of communication. Its strengths are its weaknesses, as it is not best-suited for teams that prefer fast-paced messaging. Furthermore, it has limited integrations, no audio/video calls, or screen sharing options.  

🔸 Why use Twist?

Twist is a great choice for distributed teams that primarily engage in asynchronous communication, as well as teams that favor focused work without the distraction of ubiquitous notifications of Slack and similar apps. 

🔸 Twist’s highlight feature: 

Excellent out-of-office settings. 

🔸  Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac

Mobile — Android and iOS

Google Chat

Google chat app

🔸 What is Google Chat?

Google Chat is a simple and efficient team chat app available both as a stand-alone app or as a part of Google’s Workspace package. In itself, it is a bare-bones instant messenger with relatively few features outside of the basic functionalities for 1-on-1 and group messaging. On its own, it is efficient, if a bit basic. However, as a part of Workspace, it makes the most of Google’s ecosystem, as it is tightly integrated with apps such as Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Calendar, etc.

🔸 Why use Google Chat?

Google Chat will be the default choice of teams already familiar with and dependant on other products featured in Google Workspace.

🔸 Google Chat’s highlight feature: 

Smooth integration with other Google products.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Ryver

Ryver app

🔸 What is Ryver?

Ryver aims to be a team chat app and a task management tool in one efficient package. As a chat tool, it has all the standard functionalities: conversations are divided into People (direct messages), Teams (private group channels), and Forums (public channels), with a further delineation of chats (ongoing conversations) and topics (more structured conversations around specific topics). As a task management tool, it is rather basic, resembling more a detailed to-do list than a comprehensive task management tool. The app offers no free plan (outside of a free trial), and its paid plan is similar to its more established competitors.

🔸 Why use Ryver?

Ryver could be the app of choice for teams that wish to be able to track and manage their tasks from within a chat app. 

🔸 Ryver’s highlight feature:

 The team chat-task management combo.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac

Mobile — Android and iOS

SpiderOak Semaphor

SpiderOak Semaphor app

🔸 What is SpiderOak Semaphor?

Semaphor from SpiderOak is a basic team chat app with an admirable dedication to user privacy and data security. The app uses end-to-end encryption and blockchain technology in order to protect the data of its users. The app itself has no access to any files and messages in the user’s conversations. It has also been made completely free for the duration of the pandemic. On the downside, the app is perhaps too simplistic, with no integrations, no rich text formatting or emojis, no audio/video, and hardly any customization options. Perhaps most surprisingly, unlike most other apps on this list, Semaphor cannot be accessed via a browser, but only as a desktop or mobile app. 

🔸 Why use SpiderOak Semaphor?

Semaphor is a good solution for teams looking for simple team communication with a high degree of data protection on a minimal budget.

🔸 SpiderOak Semaphor’s highlight feature: 

End-to-end encryption and blockchain technology for increased data protection.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac

Mobile — Android and iOS

Chanty

Chanty app

🔸 What is Chanty?

Chanty is a messaging app that aims to separate itself from the competition by focusing the conversations on specific tasks. The concept is simple: team members are assigned tasks, and all conversations take place under the roof of said tasks. It is not exactly a task management tool, but it is a strong task management supplement for teams focused on tasks and objectives. The app also incorporates some AI functionalities for improved search options and better navigation through the app. The free plan is severely limited but, on the upside, the paid plan is very affordable. 

🔸 Why use Chanty?

Chanty is a good choice for teams with a more structured workflow and clearly defined individual tasks (e.g.. software development).

🔸 Chanty’s highlight feature: 

It offers focused, task-oriented communication.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Brosix

Brosix app

🔸 What is Brosix?

Brosix is a team chat app whose looks will take you back to the earlier days of online instant messengers. What it lacks in style and feel, it aims to make up for with extensive features. Aside from the basic chat functionalities, it offers collaboration features such as screen-sharing and virtual whiteboard, to name a few. It also boasts impressive data security, with advanced encryption standards and peer-to-peer file exchange. The way in which communication is structured, however, is a bit lacking compared to some of its competitors. As another downside, the mobile user experience is subpar to the desktop version.

🔸 Why use Brosix?

Brosix could be a good choice for teams concerned about data security.

🔸 Brosix’s highlight feature: 

A high degree of data security compliant with major privacy regulations.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Zoho Cliq

Zoho Cliq app

🔸 What is Zoho Cliq?

Zoho Cliq is a team communication tool with a standard approach to team talk and just enough stylistic innovation to help it stand out. Its most obvious calling card is the multi-column design that allows users to view multiple conversations simultaneously. In the feature department, the app includes all standard text communication features, as well as audio/video calls and screen sharing. The app works well with other Zoho-developed products, such as their project management and CRM solutions. It is also one of the most affordable team chats out there, with a sliding pricing scale that charges less as more users join a workspace. 

🔸 Why use Zoho Cliq?

Zoho is a budget-friendly team chat app that’s efficient, well-structured, and cleverly designed.

🔸 Soho Cliq’s highlight feature:

A unique paneled design that allows a strong overview of multiple ongoing conversations.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Rocket.Chat

Rocket Chat app

🔸 What is Rocket.Chat?

Rocket.Chat is another open-source team communication app with the option of self-hosting. It also utilizes end-to-end encryption and complies with all relevant data privacy standards and regulations. In terms of its team chat features and user interface, it closely resembles Slack and similar products. It also boasts a number of advanced features for more technologically adept teams. However, the universal practical value of many of these features can be brought into question, and it makes it a bit more difficult to navigate the basic chat functionalities. The pricing depends on the choice of Self-hosting or SaaS, with multiple tiers for each option.

🔸 Why use Rocket.Chat?

Rocket.Chat could be a good choice for technologically advanced teams with a strong concern for data privacy. 

🔸 Rocket.Chat’s highlight feature:

It has a strong focus on data protection.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Workplace (from Meta)

Workplace app

🔸 What is Workplace?

Workplace represents Meta’s (formerly Facebook) foray into business communication. Its interface strongly resembles Facebook, with an almost identical fundamental structure: you can message your teammates, create user groups, share posts, and make audio/video calls. The app also allows users to “go live” and broadcast video without previous scheduling and invitations, and other team members can get notified and tune in. The app also boasts Facebook’s AI-powered newsfeed that brings the latest information from relevant professional areas. In the negatives department, Workplace offers no free plan, although it is reasonably priced compared to its competitors like Slack. Furthermore, third-party integrations are fairly few and the social network’s principle of “always something happening” can be quite distracting in a work setting.

🔸 Why use Workplace?

Workplace is a good choice for teams familiar with the Facebook framework, as well as teams that wish to encourage employee engagement and interpersonal relationships.

🔸 Workplace’s highlight feature:

Simple and effective live video broadcasting.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Beekeeper

Beekeper app

🔸 What is Beekeeper?

Beekeeper is a team communication app that caters to a different professional crowd — those not working behind the desk. By adopting a mobile-first approach, Beekeeper enables frontline workers to receive all relevant information and stay in touch with their colleagues. Its two main areas of activity are streams and chats. Streams function like social media posts, where users share content (multimedia posts, polls, newsletters, etc.), and others can react and comment on them. Streams can be visible to all team members or limited to groups. Chats can be 1-on-1 and group messages, although they lack the structure and order of more comprehensive team chat apps. The app also provides engagement data, which can be helpful for communication and HR specialists.

🔸 Why use Beekeeper?

Beekeeper is great for out-of-office workers who need timely information and a means of communicating quickly while on the go. 

🔸 Beekeeper’s highlight feature: 

It offers an excellent quick-polling option.

🔸 Available for:

Mobile — Android and iOS

Wire

🔸 What is Wire?

Wire is a communication app that places great value on user privacy. Initially designed mainly for personal use, it shifted its focus in recent years towards enabling team-level communication and collaboration. It boasts end-to-end encryption and comes with other privacy-oriented options, such as disappearing messages. It also has all the standard communication features, from text messaging to video conferencing. Its pricing, however, resides on the more expensive side of things. 

🔸 Why use Wire?

Wire offers a high degree of data security packed into an efficient, easy-to-use communication tool. 

🔸 Wire’s highlight feature:  

Safe and secure access for guest users.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Flowdock

Flowdock app

🔸 What is Flowdock?

Flowdock is a group chat designed for professional teams. One of the longest-running team chat apps (launched in 2010), Flowdock has helped introduce instant messaging to the business world. Initially designed for developers, its legacy is still visible in a large number of development integrations. As a team chat, it functions on flows (channels). Flows are threaded by default, which in theory helps provide context, but in practice, it quickly makes the overall communication messy and difficult to navigate. On the upside, threads are color-coded. Aside from chat features, Flowdock also boasts a large number of integrations with some of the most popular office tools.

🔸 Why use Flowdock?

Flowdock is a tried and tested team messenger with a large number of third-party integrations.

🔸 Flowdock’s highlight feature: 

Integrations with software development tools.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Element

Element app

🔸 What is Element?

Element, previously known as Riot, and then Vector, functions as a standard-issue instant messenger that has gained popularity with professional teams due to its open-source nature, end-to-end encryption, decentralized storage, and the option of self-hosting. As a team messenger, it has minimal structuring options for text conversations, but it does include audio and video calls. Furthermore, it also provides interoperability with other communication tools via the Matrix platform.

🔸 Why use Element?

Element is primarily of interest to organizations wishing to protect their data as much as possible. 

🔸 Element’s highlight feature:

Bridging — ability to receive and send messages directly to and from other popular messaging platforms.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Teamwork Chat

Teamwork app

🔸 What is Teamwork Chat?

Teamwork Chat is a team messaging app belonging to the broader family of Teamwork productivity apps, which also include project management, CRM, and interactive document editing solutions, among others. The chat itself has all the usual bells and whistles: 1-on-1 and group chats, video calls, theme-oriented channels, file sharing, searchable history, etc. Its key strength, however, lies in its smooth integration with other Teamwork products for a comprehensive productivity package.

🔸 Why use Teamwork chat?

For teams that already use Teamwork project management and other apps, Teamwork is an obvious choice.

🔸 Teamwork Chat’s highlight feature:

Close integration with the Teamwork task management software.

🔸 Available for:

Desktop — Windows, Mac, and Linux

Mobile — Android and iOS

Final thoughts

We hope this selection has helped you grasp the wealth and diversity of team chat apps available in the contemporary market. Understanding the challenges and the questions these different solutions aim to answer can go a long way towards identifying our own team communication challenges, thus helping us understand our team needs. Realizing precisely what the team needs will make our choice of a team chat app much easier, and perhaps even obvious.

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