Long gone are the days when a team messaging app was nice to have. The modern team demands it, whether you’re a team of two or two-thousand — especially since the rise in remote and distributed work. But with new apps and tools popping up nearly every day, how do you cut through the noise and pick the right one?
We’re here to help. If you want to optimize your team’s communication (which will in turn, optimize every other aspect of your work), keep reading for the best team communication apps in 2021.
Some apps make it easy to work out of a single platform by combining team chat with video conferencing, project management, cloud storage, and more. These tools are ideal for people who prefer not to have their work scattered across multiple apps.
Other chat apps keep it simple by doing one thing and doing it really well — perfect for those who prefer to keep instant messaging separate from their other activities.
Think about what problems you’re looking to solve and how you and your team members like to work, keeping in mind that many companies offer free trials so you can always give it a spin before you commit.
Note: This article is only meant to narrow down your choices and point you in the right direction. For a more comprehensive breakdown of what each app has to offer (as well as the most up-to-date pricing), visit the appropriate websites — links are below!
Best free team chat apps
Google Chat, previously known as Hangouts Chat, is a standout choice if you want core communication features in a clean interface. While Google Chat used to be only available with Google Workspace accounts, it’s now available in your free personal accounts.
Communication takes place in three places: Chat, Rooms, and Meet. Chat covers your basic 1:1 and group instant messaging. Rooms behave similarly to channels in Slack in that they’re intended to provide a home for long-term collaboration around specific teams or projects — as opposed to one-off messages. Then of course, you have Meet, which is Google’s video conferencing tool.
Google Chat is free for personal plans and comes with limited features. Google Workspace starts at $6/user per month for the Business Starter plan.
For teams who are already using Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams is a natural choice for easing communication along. It includes 1:1 and group chats, video calls (which you can launch straight from your chat window), file sharing, and more.
Packed with features, Microsoft Teams makes it easy to connect and collaborate with your colleagues — even within a free personal plan.
Microsoft Teams is free! However, if you’d like Microsoft 365 (which includes Microsoft Teams), pricing starts at $5/user per month.
Best free team chat apps — with limited benefits!
As a team communication app, Slack strikes a balance between functionality and simplicity. Connect with your colleagues, in real time, in three ways: direct messages, voice and video calls, and channels. Channels are “dedicated spaces” for conversations to take place according to subject matter, team, etc.
Slack stays within the scope of team chat which makes for a clean, intuitive interface. But at the same time, it offers features that your hybrid or remote team will appreciate — like integrations, file sharing, searchable message history, conversation threading, and more.
Beyond the limited free plan, Slack offers Pro, Business+, and Enterprise Grid plans. Pro starts at $6.67 per user per month.
Flock is an app that merges communication and collaboration in one platform. It’s a great option if you’re looking for something that’s simple but also includes light project management capabilities. Communication features include 1:1 chat, group chat, channels, video calls with screen sharing, and search.
You can invite external users into your workspace with limited access. Plus, create tasks from your conversations.
The free version of Flock works for teams of 1-20 people and includes core features. Beyond that, the Pro plan costs $4.50/user per month and works great for teams of 20-100. For teams of 100 and more, contact Flock for a direct quote.
If we weren’t convinced of its value before 2020, these past two years have definitely cemented Zoom as a leader in virtual communication.
Zoom centralizes team communication by combining video conferencing and chat while maintaining a really simple interface. What we love about Zoom is that there aren’t too many lines for communication; communication either happens in chat or on calls (and in channels for desktop users).
Apps like Ryver and Slack, which subdivide communication into multiple branches, can either be really helpful — or chaotic. If you prefer to keep it simple, Zoom is a great choice.
Other features include HD video and audio, drag-and-drop file sharing, searchable history, the ability to record and transcribe meetings, screen sharing, and more.
Beyond Zoom’s free plan, pricing starts at $149.90/year/license.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one app for everything related to project management, collaboration, and communication — allow us to introduce you to Basecamp. Basecamp streamlines work by eliminating the need for back-and-forth communication, time-zapping status meetings, switching between different apps, and much more.
Basecamp is a comprehensive tool for team collaboration, but the non-customizable flat rate means you may end up paying for features you don’t need — especially true for small teams.
Basecamp Personal is free and includes limited features. Basecamp Business runs for a flat rate of $99/month.
Best paid team chat apps
Like Slack, Troop Messenger is a team chat app that doesn’t venture off into project management territory. It deserves a spot on this list for its extensive chat-based features and affordable price.
Troop Messenger lets your team communicate via 1:1 and group messaging with an option called “forkout,” which is the ability to send a message to multiple people without creating a group chat. There’s also “burnout,” which enables conversations to self-destruct after a certain period, thereby protecting confidential information.
Additional features include audio messaging, file sharing, screen sharing, read receipts, and more. However, integrations are very limited.
The Premium plan runs for $2.50/user per month; Enterprise runs for $5/user per month; Superior runs for $9/user per month.
Like Flock, Ryver combines team communication with task management. Communication happens in three places:
- Forums — across the entire company or organization
- Teams — groups of people
- People — 1:1
Within these spaces, conversation is further broken down into chat (great for quick one-off messages), topics (for focused conversations), and tasks (actionable items).
There’s also file sharing, video conferencing with screen sharing, and scalability.
Pricing starts at $49/month.
Hive is our top pick for those who are looking for a more comprehensive solution for team collaboration and project management. In one platform, you can track the progress of your team’s projects, automate workflows, send and receive emails via Gmail or Outlook, and much more. Hive’s chat feature allows for 1:1 or group messages, plus you can even share actions and files within a chat message. If you’re looking for a great all-around app to support your distributed team, check out Hive!
Pricing starts at $12/user per month and covers basic features, though you can also purchase add-ons for additional features, which run for $4-$6/user per month (in addition to the base price).
The modern person (a.k.a. you!) may be looking at apps galore when it comes to team communication. Before you fall down the rabbit hole of researching and test-driving the dozens of apps out there, our biggest suggestion is that you refine your search by thinking about the pain points you want to address.
Tired of switching between apps to send a message to your colleague? Is email just not cutting it? Take a spell to think your team’s needs through, then choose an app based on what you come up with.