KEY POINTS

  • The camera is quickly taking precedence over the keyboard when it comes to users creating and sharing content on their smartphones. This evolution reflects changes in the way people use their devices and the increasing power of smartphone cameras.
  • Faster processors, bigger screens, better networks, and more powerful cameras have transformed the smartphone. These changes have seen the smartphone camera move from a technically limited add-on feature of a smartphone, to a major computing input medium.
  • Chat apps are driving the shift to camera-based communication. Not only are consumers using chat apps as a primary communications interface, but they’re sharing and interacting with images and videos on these platforms in growing numbers.
  • Facebook's competition with Snapchat is one of the catalysts of this transformation. Facebook has adopted a camera-centric strategy for all four of its platforms — WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, and its flagship social app — to fend off the challenge posed by Snapchat's popularity.  
  • Camera-based chat apps are poised to explode. The opportunities for brands, advertisers, and content creators abound. They include better ad targeting, improved customer acquisition, and new ways to sell products.
  • There are some hurdles left to overcome. Making sure consumers are aware of smartphone camera functionality within chat apps and keeping them engaged are significant challenges. Data sharing also remains an issue due to the rise of so-called "walled garden" digital ecosystems in which the platform has total control of the user experience.

Introduction

First came emojis. Then stickers followed. And now photos and videos have become integral to smartphone messaging apps that once could convey nothing more than plain text. Thanks to the ever-growing popularity of Snapchat, the camera is quickly taking precedence over the keyboard when it comes to users creating and sharing content on their smartphones. This evolution reflects changes in the way people use their devices and the increasing power of smartphone cameras.

The implications for device makers and social platforms, as well as the publishers and marketers that rely on them, are profound. Unable to ignore Snapchat's success, other apps are rapidly adding camera-first image- and video-sharing features, ranging from video calling to more computationally intensive photo and video editing. In particular, Facebook’s bullish stance on image-based messaging validates Snapchat’s efforts, and will likely pull brands and other messaging apps into this gravitational shift in chat app interaction. By the end of March 2017, it had turned [...]