Snapchat: the one app to rule them all?

With a package of new features released Tuesday, the social media app Snapchat just revolutionized itself.

Jae C. Hong/AP/File
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel poses for a photo in Los Angeles.

The app that allows people, mostly teenagers and Millennials, to send photos and videos that quickly disappear has released a batch of major upgrades that aim to make it easy to message with friends in every way imaginable from one screen.  

"We want Chat to be the best way to communicate – second only to hanging out face-to-face," the company wrote in a blogpost announcing the release of Chat 2.0 on Tuesday.

In a move that takes on its messaging competitors WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and even phone companies, Snapchat appears to be morphing into a sophisticated communications platform that offers the most comprehensive and fun way to talk to your friends.

Whereas the old Snapchat only let users message each other through ephemeral texts, emojis, photos, or videos – users could set their image-based messages to disappear from within a few seconds to within 24 hours – the new Snapchat allows them to toggle among video, audio, text, playful stickers, and drawing within a single conversation with a friend.

"You can start by sending a few chats, and when your friend shows up, start talking or video chatting instantly with one tap," Snapchat explains in its blog. "Your friend can simply listen if you want to sing them a song, or watch if you have a new puppy to show them. If they aren’t there, you can quickly send an audio note to say what you mean. And sometimes, a sticker says it best :)," the company writes.

The new all-in-one features should help keep Snapchat’s 100 million daily active users inside the app longer, giving the social media app more time to serve up lucrative ads, the holy grail for social media platforms.

Some of the other new features that are aimed at keeping Snapchat users engaged include one that automatically shows Snapchatters new photo and video posts from their friends, instead of requiring them to click on each one separately to select it. Snapchat also now allows people to send multiple photos at a time through chat, and to adorn them with snazzy design tools. People can also send photos from their phone’s camera roll while on an audio or video call; they will appear translucent over the chat window, as TechCrunch points out.

But perhaps the biggest change, and one that’s available in competing messaging apps, is that Snapchat will now have a phone function within its app, available through Wi-Fi or mobile data.

As Vanity Fair points out:

If consumers continue shifting toward using more services within apps, traditional cell-phone plans are rendered obsolete. You won’t need to make phone calls on your phone if you can use data (or Wi-Fi) to place a call within Facebook or Snapchat. Some carriers are apparently already preparing for that brave new world: T-Mobile has quietly introduced a plan offering unlimited data and texting without cellular calls for as low as $20 a month, cutting out the ability to make phone calls (except those to 911) completely.

The new features are now available to iOS and Android users.

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