Last week, Snapchat released its first major update in about a year, and it did not disappoint. Besides adding over 200 new stickers, the app introduced new audio and video calling capabilities. It’s a direct challenge to other popular messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger and Slack, both of which have also recently focused efforts into expanding capabilities far beyond text communication. According to Forrester Research, 84 percent of time spent on smartphones by consumers is in just five non-native apps so these companies are all in a fierce battle for user attention. Whatever messenger app comes out on top will have ample opportunity to become the hub of a limitless amount of other businesses who have been shut out of that “top five” like food-delivery or ride-hailing. Snapchat’s latest update puts them one step closer to coming out on top.
Snapchat is late to the game on stickers, but after using them for a week, I can’t imagine going back. The options include adorable animals with millennial-friendly phrases like “no chill” and “basic.” Pro-tip: type in a word like “love” in the text box before hitting the sticker button and you’ll be shown all the stickers related to it.
Snapchat’s previous version of video chat was a little awkward and felt more like an Easter egg than a core feature because of the required finger hold. This version is a lot easier to use. Press one button to make a call and your friend can either ignore it, join you or watch your stream. If you opt to join, you are both presented with fullscreen video streams of each other. However, you can swipe down to confine the stream to a small circle to send text or sticker messages in the compose field while still streaming.
If you’re not satisfied with your normal phone for making audio calls, Snapchat can now handle that for you as well. This feature will be mostly useful for people already communicating in the app who just need to communicate with each other briefly.
Simply holding down on the video or audio button will start recording that type note that you can send to friends. Video notes automatically loop infinitely like GIFs but with optional sound.
Caitlin Tran is a sophomore majoring in arts, technology and the business of innovation. Her blog tech column, Captcha, runs every Tuesday.