What’s New With Snapchat?

SnapchatThere’s been a lot of buzz today about the new features coming out for Snapchat. For those of you who don’t know, Snapchat is an app that allows you to send videos and images to your contact list.

So what makes this different from regular text messaging? The image or video self destructs after a set amount of time. And whenever the receiver of your image chooses to take a screenshot, Snapchat lets you know.

So What’s New?

Snapchat is targeting a larger audience in an attempt to reach more people, as well as appeal to the current audience for more than just simple image and video sharing.

The update to the app is designed to be a way to communicate with your friends in a more natural way. It is designed to feel less like the traditional mail sent through the postal office, and more as though they were actually in the same room. This update allows for instant messaging and video chatting. But how is this different from text messaging and FaceTime?

Instant Messaging

Your instant messages will, of course, disappear when you leave the conversation, but select messages can be saved when tapped. This means if your friend sends you an address, or an important to-do you won’t lose it, and you don’t have to take a screenshot.

The instant messaging will allow you to hold more written conversations than previously, since the images limit the amount of characters you can use.  It is also simple to add text onto an image by typing the text, then taking the picture with the yellow button in the text box.

The idea for the instant messaging is that your engaged in the conversation actively, and responding as though you were in a conversation actually in the room with the person.

Video Chat

The video chat is a part of the instant messaging, and the idea is that there is a seamless transition between the two. When you and your friend are both in the instant messaging screen, a blue bubble will appear in the chat window, which gives you the opportunity to talk to the person face to face. The idea is that you should be able to seamlessly transition from instant messaging to actually holding a face to face conversation with the person.

The interesting thing about this video chat is that there are no “Accept” or “Decline” call buttons. If your friend wants to video chat with you, they can initiate a conversation, but you don’t necessarily have to return the favor. You are able to listen to your friend talk, without going to the trouble of turning on your own video chat. And how do you control these video chats? Simply with your finger. Its the same idea as when you hold down an image or video that has been sent to you: you touch the screen, and the minute you remove your finger, the image, or in this case, the video chat, closes.

What is also an interesting concept is that you MUST keep your finger on the screen during the conversation. There is no putting your phone down for a few minutes, leaving the other person hanging. Either you are engaged in the conversation with your finger on the screen, or your not. Snapchat’s key focus seems to be having engaged, responsive conversations.

Snapchat is not trying to be a traditional social media network. It is not trying to be your phone. It is trying to be a way that you and your friends can communicate when you don’t happen to be in the same room. While this is an intriguing and unique idea, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out for users of Snapchat. It could be incredibly awkward to always be the one video chatting and never receiving any acknowledgement back. “Read receipts” on text messaging can be bad enough when the reader never responds.