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Thursday, May 01, 2014, 06:49 am PT (09:49 am ET)

Snapchat for iOS update lets users chat, hold impromptu video calls

Time-limited image sharing app Snapchat on Thursday announced Chat, a new feature that allows users to send text messages to each other and connect through a live video chat with one tap.



To access the new features, users simply swipe to the right on one of their friends' entries in the Snapchat inbox. When both parties are using app at the same time, the app notifies them by animating a small button and they can immediately begin video chatting by pressing and holding.

One interesting user experience decision is the method in which Snapchat allows users to switch cameras. Rather than tapping a button to change feeds, users can simply move their own video preview window from the top of the display — which enables the rear camera — to the bottom, which will enable the front camera.

The addition of text messaging appears to be a direct assault on market leader Facebook, through whose networks flow hundreds of millions of text messages each day thanks to Facebook Messenger and the company's recent $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.

Unlikely to be affected, however, are Apple's iMessage and FaceTime features. Snapchat has positioned itself for quick, time-limited talks, while iMessage and FaceTime are designed for longer, ongoing conversations.

At press time, the Snapchat update was still in the process of rolling out through the App Store.