Sep 18, 2013

[Apps] Snapchat (Android)

As much as it feels like there are a gazillion apps out there for one to experiment with, all it takes is the recommendation of a friend to try it out. The social angle to things is always an interesting leverage these days and it feels like pretty much every single app out there is obligated to have some sort of a social angle.

A friend of mine introduced me to Snapchat - and to date he remains to be one of my few contacts on the platform. It's a rather peculiar service that tries to marry chatting with photography. I didn't think I'd get into this sort of thing given how I didn't last all that long on Instagram (and that was an ironic attempt at that app as well). But it's a different kind of messaging experience that may deserve more than a second look for the rest of you.

Snapchat is a messaging app that focuses on photos and videos as your primary means of communication. But the key difference is that everything that you snap is a but a moment, both in terms of what the image captures and how long it will last. I've only used the Android version of the app, but of course it's also available for iOS.

To explain further, you can probably think of Snapchat as being based on disposable photos. When you send a Snapchat image or video, you get to set how long the message will remain visible for the recipient. Once the timer runs out, the image no longer exists for either of you. While you do have the option to save it before you send it and the recipient has the option to take a screenshot once they get it, in the end the whole point of Snapchat is to have these moments disappear forever. That's why the icon is somehow a ghost. And when the user does takes a screenshot, the sender will receive a notification that he did that.

Now I know what you're thinking - gosh this must be great for sexting or something along those lines. And while I'm sure there's a significant number of users who use the platform for precisely that, there's more to the experience than adult entertainment.

Snapchat is about moments - trying to distill an experience into a single image. And theoretically, you want the person to remember your Snapchat instead of having a copy of it on their phone to refer back to from time to time. Thus by its very design, its trying to promote a particular type of user experience.

The images won't be at the highest quality that your mobile device is capable of - I assume they've scaled the sizes of the images down in order to minimize data usage and encourage more chatting for the users. But the way it degrades images, so to speak, also adds a unique quality to things. It's sort of like how Instragram users apply filters to achieve similar effects.

You can also add quick captions to your images or you can draw things over your images whether it's just funny faces, flowers, or whatever. The freehand drawing tool really has no limitations and gives you different colors to work with. But it's sort of ironic that you can devote so much effort to decorate your image but in the end it won't survive for more than 10 seconds.

What I like most about the experience is the effort to try and find unique images that will capture the interest of your friends even for that one moment. When I take particularly quirky chats, it will lead to a direct conversation over SMS or a regular messaging app like Google Hangouts or something. The Snapchat images are in themselves conversation starters that can lead to different interactions with your friends, provided you're all not just taking silly selfies or something.

Snaptchat is an interesting messaging experience that may not be for everyone, but it's one that I've come to enjoy. I only have two people that I regularly talk to at this point and I'm not sure how I'd handle having even more friends to "talk" to. But hey, we'll see. For now the app is one that I'm happy to rate as a good 4 stars out of 5.
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