Snapchat revamps chat feature to provide a more holistic messaging experience

Despite its name, the chat part of Snapchat hasn’t been pushed as hard as other parts of the app until now with an overhaul that aims to secure its spot in the fast growing market of mobile messaging.

Moving forward, users can now make audio calls, which alongside video calls has been bolstered with a slew of add-ons to make it easier to use. Video calls have been possible since 2014, though it was harder to do and meant people were more inclined to use the app to send single snaps or text messages.

Video calls can now be started without needing a person to be present in the chat and there’s an option to intuitively switch between video and audio during a conversation. And should someone not pick up a call, then a 'Note', which is essentially a GIF, can be recorded for them to see the next time they fire up the app.

More than 200 stickers that can be shared within Chat are being introduced including the brand’s signature ghost, aliens, sloths and walruses. Each chat will display the most used stickers for that conversation in an attempt to personalise the experience. Another addition makes it easier to send photos and videos using the chat feature, offering up a more compelling reason for people to choose Snapchat’s video and voice call chat features over the likes of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

The investments aim to make the app more intuitive to both old and new users, all the while positioning itself as a viable alternative to rival apps amid growing competition for users. The scope of its ambition was there for all to see in the blog post that revealed the changes, which included the statement: “We want Chat to be the best way to communicate — second only to hanging out face-to-face.”

Much has been made of mobile messaging being the future of marketing, with brands such as Adidas and Unilever making early forays into the space to test its viability. It’s why Facebook has been keen to show the ecommerce side of its messenger app, and more commercial products can be expected on WhatsApp after its decision to scrap its subscription fee earlier this year.

“While introducing a set of features that minimises the need of its core user base to leave the app, Snapchat has also diluted its offering," said Ramzi Yakob, a consultant at TH_NK,.

"At this point it's no secret that a messaging interface is likely to become a primary interaction paradigm between people and the web of connected services, but short of becoming a digital behemoth like a Facebook or Google - Snapchat should really do everything it can to drive usage without watering down what makes it unique and attractive to its core demographic. If it doesn't, it leaves itself open to new startups that do have a razor sharp focus of appeal to a younger generation.”

Beyond ‘Chat 2.0’, Snapchat has beefed up its ‘Stories’ feature. Now they will play automatically one after the other, meaning that people won’t have to click on each one separately, which had been a bone of contention for some. One other beneficial side effect for the company’s advertising business could be that it pushes up view counts.

Finally, Snapchat’s privacy policy has been updated to clarify the legal rights its user grant it when it comes to certain parts of the app.

More changes can be expected from Snapchat this year, with everything from e-commerce to programmatic ads tipped to arrive as the business moves closer to its flotation on the stock exchange.

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