Andy Heriaud Written by Andy Heriaud 4 min read

Collaboration alternatives: how PubNub stacks up to the competition

There’s no shortage of in-app chat APIs on the market, which means product managers looking to quickly add chat features to their platform have a lot of decisions to make. Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect solution, which is why we at Weavy want to share what we’ve learned researching the competitive landscape to help you make the right decision for your product.

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PubNub at a glance

One of the biggest names in chat APIs today is PubNub. PubNub gives developers a quick way to add simplified Chat and Messaging features to their app using a simple Rest API that connects to PubNub's servers. Through PubNub’s implementation, an API call is made to PubNub every time a user interacts with that chat function in an app - PubNub responds by sending the relevant data back, creating a chat experience. In order to reduce latency for end users, it is important that your app server and PubNub’s servers are located geographically close to each other, which is why PubNub allows developers to choose the AWS region closest to their deployment.

PubNub operates similarly to many of its primary competitors, including Sendbird and Stream, where they provide subscribers with access and documentation for their APIs, while charging for hosting and support fees. Where these alternatives differ is that PubNub offers more robust GeoTracking functionality, making them a good fit for any apps that rely on location data. Unlike Weavy, PubNub does not allow subscribers to use and host their own Chat SDK, meaning that there’s very little opportunity for skilled developers to expand the functionality of in-app chat.

PubNub’s Features

Though Chat is their primary feature, PubNub could more accurately be described as a data streaming network service, allowing developers to access their backend for complex real time data operations. These operations are largely in the service of the following features:

PubNub Features:

  • In-app Chat
  • App alerts and notifications
  • Location tracking
  • Virtual collaboration
  • IoT (Internet of Things) device management
  • Data streaming and dashboards

How PubNub’s features compare

First, a quick breakdown of the features of PubNub’s competitors.

Sendbird Features:

  • Chat
  • Calls
  • Virtual customer support

Stream Features:

  • Chat
  • Activity feeds

Weavy Features:

  • In-app chat
  • Activity feeds
  • Document collaboration

On paper, PubNub easily outstrips the alternatives in sheer volume of features. But that isn’t the complete story. Of their six features, In-app chat is their most comprehensive solution, requiring the least amount of front-end work as they provide mobile UI kits for both iOS and Android. 

Their other features merely provide the back end functionality with the assumption that your product team will develop the proper UI to display the data. What that means is that to take full advantage of PubNub’s offerings you will need a large product team with extensive experience in several aspects of front-end and UX development. 

Reading between the lines, the bulk of PubNub’s offering is built to be attractive to large companies with large teams. Their diversified portfolio of functionality allows them to advertise to a wide range of use cases and industries, with less emphasis on making the features play well together. 

By comparison Pubnub competitors like, Sendbird, Stream, and Weavy have put more work into making all of their features more out of the box solutions, making them potentially a better fit for leaner or more specialized product teams. Each of these competitors have also clearly tailored their offerings to a defined segment of the market. For example, Weavy is heavily focused on collaboration as it relates to user engagement and productivity, whereas Sendbird aims to be an all-in-one communication platform within your app.

PubNub pricing

Like most players in the chat API space, PubNub operates on a multi-tiered pricing structure covering a wide swath of price points. At the low end is the “Free” plan, which is essentially a glorified free trial with much more limited functionality. On the other end of the spectrum is Pro, which brings to mind the old pricing adage “if you have to ask you can’t afford it.” But smack in the middle is their starter package, which allows access to all of their features at different prices based on the number of Monthly Active Users (MAUs).

PubNub Starter Prices:

$49/month for up to 1,500 users

$249/month for up to 5,000 users

$499/month for up to 10,000 users


Once you exceed 10,000 MAU, you have no choice but to use PubNub’s Pro plan.

How PubNub’s pricing compares

First, a quick breakdown of the price structure of PubNub’s competitors.

Sendbird Prices:

Developer Chat

Free for up to 100 users


Starter Chat

$399/month for up to 5,000 users

$499/month for up to 10,000 users

$1199/month for up to 25,000 users


Pro Chat

$599/month for up to 5,000 users

$749/month for up to 10,000 users

$1799/month for up to 25,000 users

 

Video Calls

Pay Per Call

 

Help Desk

Enterprise Pricing



 

Stream Prices:

Chat

$499/month for up to 10,000 users

$1299/month for up to 25,000 users

$2299/month for up to 50,000 users


Activity Feeds

$59/month for 400k API Calls

$269/month for 2M API Calls

$899/month for 10M API Calls


Weavy Prices:

Chat

Free for unlimited  monthly active users and API calls


Starter (Chat + Activity Feeds + Document Collaboration)

$1299/month for unlimited monthly active users and API calls, up to 250 directories


Pro (Chat + Activity Feeds + Document Collaboration)

$2299/month for unlimited monthly active users and API calls, up to 1000 directories


Compared to alternatives Sendbird and Stream, PubNub’s prices are pretty well aligned. The clear standout of Pubnub competitors by a wide margin is Weavy. In addition to offering in-app chat completely free, Weavy offers two paid tiers that don't impose limits on volume of API calls or MAUs, just the number of directories you app can use.

Is PubNub the best fit for your product?

If all you need is chat, PubNub is a compelling offering as it offers some of the lowest monthly price tiers, and gives you the tools to quickly integrate using their mobile UI kits. Looking beyond that to other features, PubNub is clearly designed and structured to be an appealing option for very large operations. These are companies that need access to a wide range of data streaming services and have the budget and person power to do the front-end development necessary to integrate those features into their platform. 

If, for example, your product team is interested in adding document collaboration to your platform, using PubNub’s solution will require significantly more front-end work than Weavy’s document collaboration feature, and at a much higher cost as the number of MAUs scales.

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