Snap Inc. seems to be on a tear, and it’s betting on new camera tech to up the ante further still: The social media platform just imbued its Snapchat camera with a 3-D mode for even more immersive images.
The iOS app update, which rolls out on Tuesday, allows more depth and lets iPhone users snap and share photos that move as the viewer’s phone moves. Snap first dabbled with 3-D visuals in its latest smart glasses. Spectacles featured a second camera, which allows the device to sense depth.
The experience may feel familiar to Facebook users who’ve posted or seen 3-D images in their feeds. In Snapchat’s case, users also get special 3-D effects, filters and lenses, and they can save the images to their Photos app.
While any mobile device can view the pics, only the most recent devices get the new camera mode, and only iPhones at that. By focusing on the iPhone X and newer phones, Snap effectively retired Apple’s older hardware — which is perhaps a natural move, as the latter continues to advance its camera technology.
And it looks like consumers are responding.
Based on iPhone 11 pre-orders since Sept. 13, interest in the three-camera, premium versions has edged out the base model phone. So far, according to Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo, the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max account for 55 percent of pre-orders.
Next year’s model is expected to push the camera tech further still, with a rather advanced depth-sensing capability possibly coming to the rear cameras. As for the front, the iPhone’s selfie camera already offers 12 megapixels and a new “slofie” slow-motion capture, which offer fun bits of entertainment. But these and other advancements are intensely meaningful to social camera companies like Snap, as well as mobile commerce developers — especially those that use them for fit, tailoring to other customizations.
As for Android users, there’s no word on when Snapchat’s new camera mode update will roll out to the Google Play store, at least not yet. But that could change after Google announces its Pixel 4 flagship device in October.
So far this year, Snap has succeeded at putting its terrible 2018 behind it. The company struggled to recover from its disastrous app redesign and backlash. But since then, Snap has re-redesigned the app, pushed out new augmented reality features, released a revamped and slimmer version of its Spectacles and focused more on gaming, which seems to be a hit.
And, it’s worth noting, the company has managed to do all that, while escaping the intense scrutiny that dogs other social media and technology platforms.
Now it looks like the public has rewarded Snap for its endurance. While user growth may have stalled out last year, the company added 4 million daily active users in the first three months of 2019, and then ratcheted that up to 13 million in the second quarter.
What that might look like in a year or two, as smartphone camera hardware and software improve, isn’t clear. But such tech would certainly give Snap more to work with, and that could be enough to keep growth nice and snappy.