Snapchat has been the perfect little app for trading quick meme photos with friends and recording short video messages. Now with its biggest update yet, Snapchat has added texting and built-in video chatting for holding actual conversations.
Instead of just sharing snaps and clips that disappear after a moment’s notice, this new update lets you text inside Snapchat for the first time. All users have to do is pop into a conversation as they normally would and tap on the new text box alongside the app’s familiar capture button.
Before the addition of texting, the only chat-like component in Snapchat was the ability to add 45 word captions to images. While users can now have conversations, Snapchat has not forgotten its ephemeral roots. All the messages will disappear as soon as the user leaves the chat.
Along with the new ability to text, the Snapchat has given the app a bit of a facelift. The user interface, from the icons to buttons, has been redesigned with a flatter, simpler look to match iOS 7. Users, however, can still navigate by swiping from their contact lists, to the camera, and directly into open conversations.
The other big change to the Snapchat app is the addition of video calling. Unlike the apps other asymmetric elements, video chatting requires both users to have the app open to the same conversation. Once everything is lineup, the app’s typical yellow capture button is replaced with a blue button call button.
Holding down the button launches the call, which will simply appear on screen for the person on the receiving end. There’s no ring or alert and the other user simply choses whether they want to activate it on their end by pressing blue button on their end. Similar to viewing images and recorded messages, the video chat will only remain active as long as the users hold down the call button.
Unfortunately Snapchat’s video calling feature works better on paper than in actually practice. It might be because the service’s servers are getting slammed with users all trying to use the new service at the same time, but I could not get a video chat to last more than a few seconds. What’s more holding down a virtual button might be built into Snapchat’s interface for viewing images and recorded messages, however, it’s annoying to keep pinned down with your finger for any conversation longer than 10 seconds long.
Snapchat won’t be replacing Apple’s FaceTime or Google Hangouts anytime soon, but the new update adds a bit more functionality to the app. At the same time the addition of texting helps keep the app afloat in a field of other apps like WhatsApp while staying true to Snapchat’s core principles.
Snapchat is an iOS and Android app available for Free in the iTunes Store and Google Play Store.
Kevin Lee is a freelance writer who types all day and listens to his ever-expanding music library. Follow Kevin Lee on Twitter at @baggingspam.