Snapchat users will find some significant new features in the mobile application's latest version, which is being rolled out today.
The updates include a feature that will enhance selfies called Lenses, a new Trophies feature for virtual rewards, and Snapchat's first-ever attempt at in-app purchases, Replays.
Lenses. With Lenses, users will be able to take a selfie, and then choose one of several face filters to bring their snaps to life. The filters, or lenses, will pop up automatically when a user's camera is in selfie mode, and they press and hold down on their face on the screen. The lenses can distort your face so you look like you're a lot older, for example, or they can add animations and sound. The experience is reminiscent of Photo Booth on Mac computers.
Here's an example:
Right now, the lenses are being created by an in-house team at Snapchat, and one new lens will rotate in every day. Trophies are another new feature coming to the app. Trophies will grant users virtual awards and stickers based on how they use the app, like Foursquare's Swarm app does with badges.
For example, if you send ten snaps with your front-facing flash on, you may unlock a sticker. Snapchat won't send you a notification when you receive a new trophy, however. Users will have to keep checking their trophies page via a small trophy icon that turns yellow when a new one has been gifted.
Paid Replays. The most important new Snapchat feature is one users will have to pay for. Snapchat, which is built on photo and video messages that disappear after a few seconds, has been letting its users replay one snap of their choosing every day for the past two years.
Now, Snapchat users will be allowed to replay more snaps, but it will cost them. They'll be able to purchase three replays for $.99 to use whenever they want, but they can't use them to replay the same snap over and over again. "We introduced Replay in Additional Services almost two years ago, and we’ve used it to relive those amazing moments (or the ones we weren’t paying attention to...) just one more time before they disappear," Snapchat writes on its company blog. "We’ve provided one Replay per Snapchatter per day, sometimes frustrating the millions of Snapchatters who receive many daily Snaps deserving of a Replay. But then we realized — a Replay is like a compliment! So why stop at just one?"
This feature is significant because it's Snapchat's first attempt at in-app purchases. In-app purchases are what drives much of the revenue other major messaging apps like WeChat and Line generate. And any Candy Crush player knows how addicting good app add-ons can be ("Pay $.99 for a new life!"). Snapchat has been experimenting with paid features like this since at least 2013, but it's never publicly rolled one out.
“We think we can build really cool stuff people want to pay for," Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel told in 2013. "The app is now a part of everyone’s day-to-day lives. That means that they will — I at least would — pay for a more unique experience.” Last November, Snapchat began ramping up its monetization efforts. The 3-year-old company —which has grown to 100 million daily active users, 4 billion daily video views, and 500 employees — launched native ads and video placements in the stories section of the app.
While it didn't bring in much money in 2014, Snapchat is expected to generate around $50 million this year primarily from advertising. In-app purchases could become a whole new revenue stream if Snapchat can get its teen users hooked to the add-ons. But as Snapchat notes in its Lens announcement, even asking its young audience for $.99 could be considered "a little pricey."