Snapchat Refreshes App to Revive Prospects

New augmented reality features, an SDK for Stories, and a games platform highlighted Snapchat’s first developer’s conference last week.

AR features announced at Snap’s first Partner Summit:

  • Solving math problems by pointing the app’s camera at them;
  • AR effects for monuments, pets and people;
  • Buying what the camera sees through Amazon; and
  • Identifying songs through Shazam.

Snap also introduced SnapKit at the conference. The SDK allows Snapchat Stories to be embedded in other apps.

For example, in the Houseparty group chatting app, stories about what friends are doing outside the chat can be seen on a Stories carousel.

In Tinder, Stories can be displayed beside photos to boost appeal.

The SDK takes Snapchat from being a camera app to being a camera platform.

Snap Games

Snap Games also made its debut at the Partner Summit.

The games can be played with friends instantly from the Snapchat’s Chat bar. Players can see who they’re playing with, send them chat messages, or talk to them live.

Six titles initially will be launched with Snap Games:

  • Bitmoji Party — a series of quick, wacky mini-games;
  • Tiny Royale, from Zynga — shoot to the top in bite-sized Battle Royale action;
  • Snake Squad, from Game Closure — work with your squad to be the last ones standing;
  • C.A.T.S. Drift Race, from ZeptoLab — drift around a track and speed past friends for a win;
  • Zombie Rescue Squad, from PikPok — rescue survivors in a zombie-infested city; and
  • Alphabear Hustle, from Spry Fox — collaborate to form words fast and build your village.

New Originals

Snap also announced the addition of more shows to its Originals offering. Launched last year, the first batch of original video shows included scripted programs by Bunim/Murray, creator of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and Carter Harris, a writer on Friday Night Lights.

Other programs included a supernatural soap opera (Dead Girls Detective Agency), a college comedy (Co-Ed), and a docuseries about Danielle Bregoli, the “cash me outside” girl (Bringing Up Bhabie).

New shows in Snap’s Originals series lineup include the following:

  • Two Sides, from New Form — about a young couple navigating a breakup that’s told from both characters’ points of view simultaneously;
  • Can’t Talk Now, from New Form — a teen soap that takes place inside the phones of a few high school freshman BFFs;
  • In Sneakerheads, from Indigo — the misadventures of three college freshmen as they navigate the crazy, shady, and mercurial world of Los Angeles sneaker culture;
  • In Commanders, from Dakota Pictures — two high school outcasts discover a retro computer with a mysterious code that can alter real life;
  • Denton’s Death Date, from Insurrection Media — a high school junior’s death date is only a week away;
  • While Black, from Indigo — a docuseries that explores racially charged social issues through disarmingly candid conversations led by author, filmmaker, recording artist and educator MK Asante;
  • A daily afternoon show by BuzzFeed bringing viewers the latest celebrity, entertainment and sheer OMG moments blowing up the Internet;
  • In Dead of Night, from Bazelevs — a teenage girl must escape a quarantined city full of zombies armed only with her phone;
  • Compton Dreams, from October Films — a docuseries following the highs and lows of three up-and-coming artists from Compton; and
  • In Stranded, with Sam and Colby from Bunim/Murray — two paranormal investigators go off the grid into a cursed Pennsylvania town.

A Critical Development

The new additions to Snapchat aim to increase engagement, said San Jose, California-based Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research, a high-tech research and advisory firm.

“With user growth stalled, it needs something new and fun to get people to use it more and to appeal to a wider audience,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The company needs to keep changing and improving the user experience in creative and fun ways, or it will be passed by Instagram,” Krewell added.

One new Snapchat addition in particular — the opening up of the software to third-party developers through SnapKit — could be critical to the company’s future success.

“Snap has seen many of its most notable features adopted by competing apps that can boast larger audiences, which can limit its ability to differentiate, and also limits its ability to add content and services from third-parties,” explained Jack Kent, director for media and advertising at IHS Markit, a research, analysis, and advisory firm headquartered in London.

“Providing a wider and more open platform to third-party content and services is crucial for Snap to develop its proposition,” he told TechNewsWorld.

However, “Snap will need to prove it can drive monetization for its content partners to succeed in the future,” Kent said.

In adopting these moves, Snap is emulating the long-established strategy for major Asian messaging apps such as WeChat, Kakao and Line, he added. So far, Western apps have been more limited in their platform strategies. Facebook Messenger has added a number of features, including gaming, but these apps have had a rather limited impact so far.

Playing the Privacy Card

Snap’s new game offering also could benefit its app.

“A well done, seamlessly integrated gaming service could help Snapchat stand out from the crowd,” said IHS Markit’s games and apps analyst Louise Shorthouse.

“Access will be intuitive for established users, and it will encourage them to remain within the Snapchat ecosystem for all things social,” she told TechNewsWorld.

“Games may represent an opportunity for wider reach,” Shorthouse added, “depending on their success. But this is less about attracting new users and more about engaging the current audience.”

In the past, Snap innovations have been snapped up by competitors, most notably Instagram.

“It’s been a game of ‘anything you can do, I can do bigger,’ because Instagram has such a massive user base,” said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, a consumer technology advisory firm in New York City.

“Perhaps Snap has an opportunity now because there’s so much scrutiny on Facebook and, by extension, Instagram,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“They can position themselves as a more secure, more respectful of privacy alternative to Facebook,” Rubin said. “Apple has been playing that card very well versus Google. But if Facebook keeps its properties together, it’s going to be tough, because Facebook is doing even more to integrate messaging among its three big platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.”

John P. Mello Jr.

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reportersince 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, theBoston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and GovernmentSecurity News. Email John.

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