It’s tough to think of another mobile platform that’s enjoyed as much success in as short a time as Snapchat.
The service has managed to successfully shed its early reputation as sexting platform number one. In the process, it’s transformed into a service that prides itself on being a platform for authentic media-sharing. Who needs carefully shot, crystal clear DSLR snaps when spur-of-the-moment, blurry shots can feel more intimate? Who cares about smooth, 4K video clips when shaky footage happening right now feels more authentic?
Or at least that’s the thinking…
As a result of the app’s live nature, it’s quickly become a social media icon alongside Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But the social media world is fleeting and Snapchat is showing signs that it might not be evolving at the breakneck pace the industry requires.
We’ve seen Snapchat clones before, such as Snow and Cyberdust, but they’ve all required a new account to be made and/or aren’t used by friends. But Instagram’s move earlier this year to introduce Instagram Stories (swiping Snapchat Stories in the process) represents a major threat to the firm.
Hundreds of millions of users have Instagram accounts already – then there’s the ever-present Facebook authentication as well. In other words, there’s no need to dabble with new accounts.
It’s not just the convenience of an existing account that makes Instagram’s effort more pleasant, either.
Snapchat has long suffered from a UI problem. To put it plainly, it was generally a game of “touch this arbitrary element and see if that does something”.
Whether it’s because the app is so dissimilar to other social platforms or because it’s genuinely incoherent, Snapchat didn’t make navigation easy for you. Hell, even the mega-popular augmented reality features are presented as more of a hidden feature than a major draw-card.
Snapchat is still a disappointment, both in terms of UI and under the hood
But we do see some major improvements on this front, such as more specific icons and helpful text prompts. And at least the company mentions the augmented reality features (and how to activate it) in the app store listing.
Nevertheless, for something as simple as Stories functionality, Instagram has been killing it, featuring these stories prominently at the top. And creating one is as simple as Snapchat too – just hit the “+” icon on the homepage.
Another oft-neglected department for Snapchat is performance, as we’ve seen numerous reports/claims over the years of the app being a bit of a mess, to say the least.
In fact, Snapchat has been cited as one of the worst-performing apps in an AVG study late last year, using an excessive amount of data and battery life.
To this end, the company has added a “travel mode” to the service, letting you manually load messages/media rather than automatically retrieving content. Still, if the developer hopes to get emerging markets on board, it’ll need to make the app resource-friendly and mindful of slow networks.
There have been a variety of third-party apps for the service, allowing you to potentially do some nefarious things. But for every dodgy, privacy-busting app, there have been useful third-party clients, such as Rudy Huyn’s 6snap on Windows Phone.
Unfortunately, Snapchat has actively fought against the Windows Phone app, despite the fact that they don’t plan to develop for the platform. Sure, the company takes privacy very seriously (and rightfully so), but shutting down excellent third-party apps isn’t the way to go.
In fact, 6snap’s Huyn reckons that Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel “hates” Microsoft, reasoning that some third-party apps on Android and iOS have escaped Snapchat’s banhammer.