Mobile Apps

Snapchat’s Curious About-Face

Fleeting memories will be a thing of the past with a new Snapchat feature currently rolling out.

“Memories,” introduced earlier this month, allows users of the app to save photos and photo stories to their phones, as well as share them with friends.

Finding snaps or stories can be done with a simple text search.

Protecting snaps and stories on a phone is easy, too. Items can be moved in and out of “My Eyes Only” mode with a few taps.

Unlike most Snapchat content, which is supposed to be ephemeral, content stored in Memories or sent to My Eyes Only is backed up to the app’s servers automatically.

Straying From Core Purpose

When Snapchat was founded, its claim to fame was that it could be used for ephemeral, or “Mission Impossible,” sharing of photos and videos. Memories is a departure from that path.

“It’s clear that either Snapchat’s vision of its purpose has changed over time, or its original incarnation was just a first step in a long-term strategy that we’re now seeing play out,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.

“Whichever it is, it’s clear that Snapchat has done a fantastic job building a strong position in a key area, and then expanded out very successfully from there to become an app where a large portion of young people spend significant time,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Snapchat is projected to grow 27.2 percent to 58.6 million U.S. users this year, according to eMarketer, surging ahead of rivals Twitter (56.8 million) and Pinterest (54.6 million).

Snapchat has been especially successful at capturing younger users, the firm noted. Its biggest user base is 18- to 24-year-olds (34 percent), followed by 25- to 34-year-olds (27 percent).

The fastest-growing group of Snapchat users is comprised of children under 12, which will grow by 42.9 percent this year, eMarketer found.

Widening the Usage Gap

Memories is more an expansion of functionality than a departure from Snapchat’s core values, observed Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner.

“With the new Memories feature in Snapchat, we are seeing them keep their main value at the forefront — that being ephemeral messaging — but also add a way for the app to be more flexible,” he told TechNewsWorld.

That flexibility could have a revenue upside for Snapchat, suggested Jackdaw’s Dawson.

“Memories will allow Snapchat to expand into even more roles on people’s devices, sucking up time that would otherwise have been spent in other apps, and all that means more opportunities to monetize that usage in different ways,” he said.

Memories could help Snapchat get a leg up on one of its biggest competitors, Instagram.

Instagram users in the United States last month spent more time per session with their Android version of the app than Snapchat users spent with theirs, noted Ross Rubin, senior director for industry analysis at App Annie. However, Snapchat had a higher average time per user, per month than Instagram.

“If Snapchat can increase its average session time, it can widen the usage gap between itself and Instagram,” Rubin told TechNewsWorld.

“Memories will certainly increase engagement — time spent in-app,” said Laura Naparstek, a researcher with Forrester.

“For most apps, daily active users is not an accurate measurement,” she told TechNewsWorld. “For Snapchat, it’s huge.”

Turning Off Users

Since Memories is likely to have more appeal to an older demographic, Snapchat risks alienating some of its younger users with the feature, cautioned John Carroll, a mass communications professor at Boston University.

“Snapchat wants to add another dimension to itself that they hope will appeal to a wider audience, including an older demographic,” he told TechNewsWorld, “but by introducing something that has appeal to an older group, they have to be concerned about reducing the overall appeal of the app to a younger group.”

Change always results in griping, remarked Gartner’s Blau.

“With any new features, some will protest — others will love it. I don’t think that Memories will be any different,” he said. “Ultimately, having that feature’s flexibility means that users can do more with Snapchat, and that should increase user satisfaction over time.”

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.

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