Explainer: What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a mobile messaging application used to share photos, videos, text, and drawings. It’s free to download the app and free to send messages using it. It has become hugely popular in a very short space of time, especially with young people. There is one feature that makes Snapchat different from other forms of texting and photo sharing: the messages disappear from the recipient’s phone after a few seconds.

This message will “self-destruct” in 10 seconds.

It is simple to use; you take a picture using your camera phone, select recipients from your contacts, decide how long you want the message to be visible for (up to 10 seconds), and click send. For the recipient, the process is very like getting a text message, simply tap to view a snap. Also, the message disappears from their phone once the time limit has expired, although the details of the sender and the time stamp remain. Users can add friends from their phone/device contact lists in addition users can now add friends who are nearby them, so if users are hanging out in a group – it is now easier for them to connect and become friends.


1. Take a photo


2. Customise photo


3. Adjust time settings


4. Send to contact

Snapchat has another nifty feature that contributes to its popularity; a simple drawing tool. Users can easily draw pictures, draw on top of photos, and add text to photos before sending them. This feature is a hit with young people who are using social networks as an outlet for creative expression and having a laugh.

Additional features

More recently Snapchat has added a one-to-one chat feature. Users can chat via private messages. Once both parties leave the chat the messages will disappear. Users can choose to save the chat, in which case the messages will be saved for both users to see again. Video chat is another feature to have been added to Snapchat more recently. Snapcash, a new feature which lets users transfer money to each other through the chat function, is currently available only in the US.

Snapchat Filters

Other new features include filters – which allow users to add fun filters/stickers to their snaps.


Snapchat Filters (image via Tech Insider)

Snapchat Filters (image via Tech Insider)

Snapchat Stories

Another popular feature on the app is Snapchat Stories. Users can compile photos/videos for all their friends to view and publish them as a Story. Unlike normal Snaps, Snapchat Stories last for 24 hours and can be viewed more than once. Teens like this feature as it allows them to share snapshots of their lives from the last 24 hours with all of their friends. Snapchat users can also browse through stories published by popular brands and celebrities.

Snapchat Memories

The latest update to the Snapchat app now allows users to upload photos and saved Snaps from their device photo albums. Snapchat Memories was created so users could show each other their photos from the app. Users can also search through memories using different tag words associated with the photos for example cat, hug, selfies etc. Memories can be shared as a story, directly to another friend or by showing a friend the album in real life. Users have the option to hide photos imported to Memories by moving them to the ‘My eyes only’ folder which can be password protected.

Privacy Settings

Once you have set up an account, by default, anyone who knows your username or phone number can send you a message. However you can set your Snapchat account to only accept messages from users on your “My Friends” list in the settings menu in the application. To do this, simply select “Who can send me snaps…”, then select “My Friends” instead of “Everyone.”

To block a user, tap the Menu icon, select “My Friends,” locate their name in the list and swipe right across their name or on Android phone, long-hold the name, press “Edit” and then “Block.” To delete a friend from your contacts, press “Delete.” Even if you haven’t added the user as a friend, their name will still appear in the “My Friends” list under “Recent” if they have sent you a message recently.

Group Chat

Snapchat also allows users to send group chats. Groups can be created while sending a Snap, or when making a new Chat. When your friends are present in a Group Chat, their name is displayed at the bottom of the Chat. Users can tap their friends name to start a 1:1 Chat within the group chat.

Chats sent to a Group are deleted by default after 24 hours. Snaps sent to a Group can be opened and replayed just once by each recipient. If a Snap isn’t opened, it’s deleted after 24 hours, just like Chats.

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