You don’t become one of the reigning royalty of social media and image sharing without a plethora of innovative and useful updates every year. Here are some of the new updates and features that Snapchat has brought to the table so far, in 2016.
Snapchat’s ascent to massive popularity has been interesting to watch, and in retrospect, entirely easy to follow. It filled a niche that we didn’t even know existed and has capitalized on nearly every trend that’s become popular for anyone carrying a smartphone in their pocket. Selfies? Media feeds? Messaging? Triple-checked and built into the cornerstones of Snapchat’s deep foundation, which has become all but the golden standard for young users’ media-messaging. Every feature that’s been added to the app since its inception has built upon these functions, and every one of them has given people new tricks that they didn’t even realize they needed.
Filters. Lenses. Stories. Special events. Video calling. The list goes on and on, and it will continue to for as long as huge swaths of smartphone users are buying into the trend. It’s a good time to be alive, and as ever, it’s a good time to take a selfie. Every feature is user-friendly, and they all cumulatively give Snapchatters more ways to express their creativity and individuality.
Even though we’re only halfway through April 2016 has been an exciting year for Snapchat. We’ve seen updates galore, new features that open up huge potentials, and we still have 8 months to go! Whether you’re a casual user or a Snapchatter that shares a “story” for every day of the week, the 2016 updates have added plenty to keep you busy. Titled, “Chat 2.0” and released on March 29th, the most recent update to Snapchat is all but a treasure trove of useful, interesting changes and upgrades.
As we explore these updates, we’ll start from the top and work our way down to the minutia. Snapchat is already a complex program that new users sometimes struggle to adapt to and learn, so we’ll address the largest overall changes to the app first, and then look at some of the smaller, unique things that Snapchat has done to further set themselves apart from the competition.
Snapchat Updates in 2016
First, let’s square something important: many of the updates added in 2016 haven’t been entirely new features, but they have been significant enough to make longstanding features feel fresh and new. We’ll elaborate upon this as we move through the updates and showcase some of the elements that make them very cool, but if you’re expecting a list of brand new things that Snapchat has never done before, it might be useful to shift your perspective a bit. After all, Snapchat has become increasingly popular by continually doing the same things, but doing them better and giving users more ways to do them with each iteration.
While the overall look and feel of Snapchat have remained relatively the same, the interface is cleaner and faster than ever, promoting a fluid, unified experience. Users can swipe between functions in ways that feel similar to switching television station, rather than moving between different apps. Previously, Snapchat felt like something of an amalgamation of moving parts–part media-sharing, part messaging, part social media feed. It’s far more unified, now.
Let’s take a look at Stories as an example. The March 29th “Chat 2.0” update made slight changes to the ways that we experience the stories in our feed. Instead of having to swipe down and select the story that we want to see next (either after we finish a current one, or in the middle of it), you can now swipe left to “auto-advance” your feed to the next featured story. Having experimented with this a little bit since it went live, I can readily admit that it feels fantastic. As much as it makes me appreciate the current setup, it shows me how clunky it could be, previously.
Video Calling Improvements
Due to improvements and updates in the competition (namely WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger), it was starting to appear like ye olde Snapchat was beginning to fall behind. This is no longer the case.
Chat and video calling have received enough attention that they’re now on-par with other available messaging apps, if not slightly better due to how well they integrate with Snapchat’s already existing, media-rich features.
Previously, you had to already be engaged in a text-based conversation before you could begin a video call with them. While this was a trademark of the first forays that messaging apps made into the video calling arena (thanks, FaceTime, for setting the trend!), it didn’t remain a very relevant element of the feature for very long; instead, it felt like a limitation. In “Chat 2.0,” Snapchat now allows you to begin a video call with any of your contacts at any time, making it much more akin to the phone service that’s already present on your smartphones. To unacquainted Snapchatters, this may sound redundant. To the Snapchat-fluent, this is a godsend, and the amount of interactivity that you can maintain even through your video call makes it better.
In addition to this, you can now send images to users while you’re in the middle of a video call. Handy, and really, it wouldn’t be a Snapchat service if it wasn’t enriched with visual media in every possible way, would it?
Maybe you’re a multi-tasker that enjoys speaking with more than one person at a time. If that’s the sum of your messaging experience, then you’ll enjoy the ability to toggle between active recipients of both your video calls and messaging, allowing you to minimize users while bringing others to the forefront of your attention with a simple swipe.
Capping this plethora of massive improvements to the messaging system is the ability to send brief audio and video notes when you don’t have time for a call, but want to give a reaction that’s more the words. Simply tap and hold the video or audio call button in the chat window to record a thumbnail GIF image that your chat partner can view or listen to when they next see it.
You’ll find these friendly graphics right on the Snapchat home window, nestled next to your text and drawing buttons. At first glance, they probably seem like a minor addition, as the first round of stickers that you’ll be presented with are the very familiar emojis that seems to crop up in every popular messaging application, these days. Look at the bottom of the sticker menu, however, and you’ll see categories upon categories, all of which accumulate into over 200 stickers that you can slap onto your snaps before sharing them with your fellow Snapchatters.
A small addition? Only if you look at it as a feature alone, instead of another massive way for Snapchat users to express their creativity in every snap that they send. Expect to see more stickers added with future Snapchat updates!
Here’s another whammy that definitely deserves your attention, and will definitely remain a fruitful feature for Snapchat’s future (unlike the lens store, which was dead-in-the-water only months after its launch).
We’ve written about them more extensively on Appamatix before, but they’re actually very similar to the community filters that allow users to submit custom-designed Geofilters that are particular to specific locations. However, whereas community filters are free to submit (and only a few are selected by the Snapchat team) on-demand Geofilters have no such limitation. They’ll cost you $5 for a 30-minute distribution period, and you’re limited by a rather small Geofence, but the possibilities that they can present are virtually endless.
Imagine being a small business that can’t afford to get onboard with Snapchat’s sponsored Geofilters, but still would benefit from promotion through Snapchat. With an on-demand Geofilter, $5 can buy you some hefty distribution and advertising at parties, on one of the trendiest chat applications on the market. Individuals stand to benefit from them, too. Have a birthday party coming up? Knock out a custom Geofilter and make it available to Snapchatters amongst your party guests!
The above features taken into consideration, it’s easy to forget that all of this has been released before April. Additionally, the above features only leave more room for Snapchat to build upon the landmark features that have cemented its popularity. Stickers are an easy feature to expand in subsequent updates, and the fact that they can be resized, rotated, and placed anywhere in a snap gives them a surprising amount of potential for so simple of a thing.
My personal favorites (along with many, many users) are the changes made to the video calling and messaging systems in Snapchat. In many ways, they can be seen as the app pushing back against its most notable competition, but in other ways, they establish Snapchat’s willingness to remain a dominant force in the social media sphere, rather than as a media-based niche interest aimed towards young users. These 2016 updates and features bring a lot to enjoy for every Snapchat user, and help to generate excitement for what’s to come later in the year.