Snapchat introduced two new features today that focus on conversations instead of ephemeral pictures and videos. Pending an update from the app store, users will soon be able to message friends and video chat in real-time.
"Until today, we felt that Snapchat was missing an important part of the conversation: presence. There's nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you're chatting," the company said in a blog post.
While you can still send self-destructing photos and videos, you can now choose to start conversations either via text or live via video chat. To begin, swipe right on a friend's name to open the text-based chat screen. The app will alert you when your friend is active online and available to chat. Like photo and video sharing, your conversation will disappear when you close the chat window.
You can also share live video streams or start two-way video chats when you and a friend are both available. To share live video, tap and hold the blue button. Your face will pop up on your friend's screen. To display video using your device's rear-facing camera, drag your finger upwards to activate it. If your friend wants to join in the video chat, he or she can tap and hold their screen to begin sending you video. To end a call, just lift up your finger.
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These new chatting capabilities put Snapchat in competition with a number of other popular messaging apps, including WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired, WeChat, Kick, and Facebook's own messaging app, Messenger.
The mobile messaging push has heated up in recent months as number of sites and apps have added chat and photo-sharing features. In December, Instagram rolled out private messaging, which lets you send photos and videos privately with up to 15 of your friends. Twitter also updated its iOS and Android apps in December, adding the ability to direct message photos.
Facebook, however, is taking a different approach to messaging. Last month, it announced that it will separate mobile messaging from its main app. Soon the social network will require you to download both the Facebook mobile app and its Messenger app in order to chat with friends.
Snapchat's text and video chat features are the app's first updates since it launched Stories in October. Stories let you share your Snapchats with all your friends instead of sending them to select ones. Friends can access your Stories for 24 hours before they disappear from your account.
Check out the video below for a look at Snapchat's text and video features:
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