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Snapchat Steps Up Its Game With Sophisticated New Messaging Features

Snapchat-breakfast
Snapchat rolled out its biggest update yet Thursday, in a move that added text messaging and video chatting to its photo and video sharing app.

The latest version of the app focuses on helping its users have conversations, rather than just one-off picture and video messages.

SEE ALSO: Messaging Wars: Vine vs. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat

"Until today, we felt that Snapchat was missing an important part of conversation: presence," the company wrote in a blog post. "There’s nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you’re chatting."

Following a slight delay in the app's rollout, the new Snapchat is now available to all iOS and Android users. Here's our first impression of how the new features stack up.

A new look
Before you even dive into the new chat and video features, it's obvious Snapchat has given much of the app a facelift.

Many of the app's icons and buttons have been redesigned and and the entire user interface has been given some much-needed polish. The menus, which you still navigate via swipes, are cleaner and less cluttered. The font has also been changed to a smaller, more subtle typeface.
Snapchat menus

 Snapchat menus
Snapchat's latest app has redesigned menus that are cleaner and less cluttered.
IMAGE: SNAPCHAT
While Snapchat couldn't be reached to confirm this feature, the camera itself also appears to have been improved — likely to accommodate the new video chatting features — which would be somewhat of a departure from previous versions of the apps, which were intentionally lower quality.

"The images might be a little grainy, and you may not look your best, but that's the point. It's about the moment, a connection between friends in the present, and not just a pretty picture," Snapchat's previous App Store description read.

Text messaging
One of the biggest changes to the app is the addition of text messaging. Previously, users could add short, 45-character notes to individual snaps, but that was the only chat-like aspect of Snapchat.

With the latest update, users can now have full-fledged conversations through the app. Simply swipe right over a contact's name from your inbox to pull up a conversation view.

Notably, the chat feature can only be accessed via the app's inbox, so text messaging only works with contacts you have exchanged snaps with in the recent past. If you want to begin messaging with someone not in your inbox, you will need to send them a normal photo or video message.
Snapchat Messaging

 Snapchat Messaging
Snapchat's new test messaging feature includes a gesture-based camera.
IMAGE: SNAPCHAT
Photos can also be exchanged within messaging via the capture button that appears next to the text window. Single tap the button and the app takes you to the normal capture screen that will look familiar to most Snapchat users — with one major change.

The bottom left corner now includes a button that allows users to upload images from their camera roll. This is the first time Snapchat has given users the ability to share photos not taken within the app This is the first time Snapchat has given users the ability to share photos not taken within the app and it's only an option within text messages.

Should you hold down the yellow capture button, the app again directs you to the app's camera but one that uses gesture-based controls. Swipe up or down to switch between the device's front and rear-facing cameras and let go to capture your image.

If you want to send a photo with text overlaid, the limit is still 45 characters. As soon as you go over the character limit, the yellow capture button disappears, forcing you to either trim your message or send your message independently of the photo.

Messages disappear as soon as both users view and navigate away from the message, but individual messages can be saved by tapping on the screen.

Video chatting
The newest version of Snapchat also adds live video chatting to the app. This feature is triggered only when both users have the app open and are in the same conversation. When this occurs, the yellow capture button turns into a blue button the company is calling "here."

Hold down the here button and the app begins to record video that immediately appears on the other user's screen. As with sending photo messages in text chats, you can toggle between your device's front and rear-facing cameras by swiping up or down on the screen.
Live Video Snap

 Live Video Snap
Snapchat's new live video chatting features allows users to share videos of what's going on around them in real time.
IMAGE: SNAPCHAT
Unlike FaceTime or other video calling apps, the phone doesn't ring and there is no "answer" button when someone initiates a video call. The video simply appears and the other user can choose whether or not to activate it on their end as well.

In keeping with the ephemeral theme Snapchat is known for, let go of the button and the video immediately disappears from the screen.

As far as video quality, the video the other user receives isn't exactly the HD quality of other apps like FaceTime, for example, but it's pretty good — especially considering it's in real time — and, as with the overall camera quality for still images, appears to be an improvement over the previous versions of the app.

Compared to this reboot, the old Snapchat, with its simple design and emphasis solely on disappearing photos, seems a bit immature. With the newest update, the company has managed to build a surprisingly powerful messaging platform that manages to feel true to the app's roots.

Snapchat's newest app is available now on iOS and Android.