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Snap launches Minis to run other apps within Snapchat - and there's more

Snapchat Minis launched
(Image credit: Snap Inc)

What would you say to an app that allows other apps to function within? Snap, the US-based social media and camera company, has launched the Minis as a suite of miniature apps that allows users to enable multiple experiences within a Snapchat window. 

Minis, which would be integrated into the chat window on Snapchat, would allow users to buy movie tickets, chat with friends and meditate alone using the miniature applications made by third-party developers using HTML. This was among a slew of new features that the company announced at its virtual Partner Summit yesterday. 

To start with there would be seven Minis on Snapchat. These include one to send messages to friends in the form of encouraging words, another one to meditate and a third that allows users to book movie tickets and pick seats using Atom. Besides, one can also share content from Minis directly with friends and since they load on the fly, recipients can instantly join. 

Of course, it may take Snap some more time to launch similar apps and services in India, where its user base saw a 120% spike year-on-year with Snap Inc Managing Director (International Markets) Nana Murugesan promising new features and ideas that makes Snapchat retain its relevance in India's crowded market for messaging. 

The existence of these miniature applications was first reported by The Information, which compared it with WeChat where users can buy food, pay their bills and complete other tasks. These additions had reportedly spiked revenues by a whopping 160% to $113 billion for WeChat, making it the most popular app in China.

What's behind the move?

The obvious purpose behind the Minis is to create eCommerce avenues, now that its main competitor WhatsApp has already ventured into digital payments and shopping. It has done so  via tie-ups, including one with India's fast-growing Jio Platforms through the Facebook-led acquisition of stake in the digital services company. 

Given that revenue growth of the kind experienced by WeChat in China is topmost on the minds of all messaging service providers, it came as no surprise that Snap is using Minis to enhance revenue generation options. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel told The Verge that Minis would enhance the company's reach via eCommerce and social shopping. 

And, there's lots more too...

While it is true that Minis appeared to have the best potential to change Snapchat's fortunes in the medium term, the company did announce several new features during the Partner Summit that was held virtually in the face of travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The other announcements do promise a revamped Snapchat over the coming days and weeks. 

For the first time in its existence, Snapchat would get a navigation bar with the new design being tested now for almost four months now. The navigation bar, available to all users now, allows users to access Snap Maps and original videos with a couple of clicks, thus making them more accessible within the app. 

As for Snap Maps, it would display more basic information about local businesses including their location, address, hours of work and reviews gathered from Foursquare and TripAdvisor. The company said that ordering food would also become a reality later this year with Uber Eats being one of the delivery partners. 

The Snapchat camera would now scan plants and dogs to identify them. The company says that its comprehensive database would help identify as many as 90 percent of all plants and trees while the Dog Scanner would be able to spot as many as 400 breeds. There is also the possibility of identifying packaged foods for nutrition information being blended into the app. 

Snachat introduces LocalLens

(Image credit: Snap Inc.)

Snapchat would also allow users to submit public snaps under specific topics such as "life hacks" and allow them to browse contributions from the group or community. This provides users an additional destination within the app besides introducing a new layer of curation on the platform that sees more than 3 million public snaps submitted daily. 

And for casual gamers, Snap also announced ten new games for the platform. The titles include Bitmoji Paint where players from around the world can contribute to a single huge collage. And, game developers can now license it to bring Snapchat avatars into their games with Scrabble GO and Uno being named as launch partners. 

Snapchat introduces new games

(Image credit: Snap Inc.)

The company also announced multi-year deals with Disney, ESPN, ViacomCBS, the NBA and the NFL to create shows for its Discover tab, which would also be introducing a new feature called Happening Now that displays editorially curated headlines from across the world. It would turn news updates around politics, entertainment and sports into an easy-to-consume format customized for smartphones. 

It also introduced a new filter called Dynamic Lens that includes real-time information related to current scores. Another filter called Local Lenses allows users to team up and decorate nearby buildings with digital paint as part of a shared augmented reality picture. Snap's Lens Studio, which is a filter creation software, would now let developers import their own machine-learning models. 

The company is also working on apps that curb stress and anxiety around social networks. It has partnered with healthcare group Headspace to create a Mini that will give Snapchatters access to guided meditations and mindfulness practices on the app. 

Of course, several of these features may not be immediately available in India, given that the partnerships are US-centric in nature. However, by the looks of it, most of the features that have been launched at this Partnership Summit could help SnapChat lure away customers from the competition that has been well-ensconced in the country for some time now.