Everywhere you look today, large social media ventures are seemingly ripping a page out of Snapchat’s playbook. Instagram did it, Facebook’s Messenger app has done it, and we are about to witness Facebook itself clone Snapchat’s daily stories big time. As much as Apple are primarily known for their hardware, it goes without saying that this major shift in what consumers want from their applications (or: spike in perceived self-importance) will not have gone unnoticed by Apple’s software department.
Coincidentally or not, Snapchat-like features are spreading like wildfire at a time where Apple are beginning to talk more openly about the prospect of tying Augmented Reality into a future iOS version. Against the backdrop of Pokemon GO’s success with augmented camera images and Snapchat’s unrivalled popularity based on selfie filters, it is not far to seek that Apple will be looking to capitalize on such trends as well – and what better way to jump on the bandwagon than to provide built-in effects for the stock camera?
Like the sound of it or not, it has got to be a proposition almost irresistible to Apple, mainly for two reasons: the ability to deepen monetization of their in-house apps and chance to reel in a whole lot of new Gen-Y customers. Here’s why filters on iOS could happen in 2017.
Apple are no strangers to gamifying and, more crucially, monetizing their own services. As recent history proves, long-standing apps like iMessage are not exempt from that. Quite the contrary, any icon on the iPhone’s home screen with a large enough base of regular users and the framework to throw in a monetization model (Apple Music, iMessage, Photos), Apple will gladly go ahead and do so. If both of those requirements were met earlier with regard to the camera application, I strongly believe that the same fate would have befallen the camera app already.
Unfortunately for Apple (and fortunately for us) though, before the proliferation of Snapchat took hold, there was little incentive to market the camera’s abilities in any terms other than photography to a then disinterested crowd. This has obviously changed. Today, every company wants a bite of the cherry and with the millions of iPhones out there, Apple are in a stellar position to cash in on the trend big time.
Monetizing Camera and FaceTime
Either by way of direct integration into the Camera app or the release of an equivalent to the Macbook’s Photo Booth (which already offers simple ‘Effects’), millions of iOS users would get to play around with the wildly popular AR-laced filters and effects. More importantly for Apple, they could actually one-up Snapchat and extend the use of filters into another thriving domain: FaceTime. If the filters available in camera could be applied permanently to faces during a FaceTime call, Apple in their inimitable mannerism could pitch this as as cute, innovative and much more than the act of playing catch-up.
Where does the monetization come in? Well, nothing would be easier than periodically updating filters (like Snapchat does already) and eventually offering premium ones to unlock in exchange for a small fee. Revenue making from in-house apps is eminently important for Apple’s future business growth and this would pose a new gateway.
Reel in the next generation of customers
Drawing on the example of iMessage once again, we by now know that Apple puts a great deal of emphasis on the ‘sticker and emoji generation’. Neither emojis nor Snapchat filters can be discounted as a fad any longer and the bulk of happy users of such features will not be going anywhere in a hurry.
Consequently, it would be business savvy for Apple to cater to that segment more directly than just providing the blueprint for apps like Snapchat. Whilst acutely aware that you cannot conflate all users, many people would unquestionably love to be able to launch their iPhone’s camera and indulge in light-hearted filter fun. FaceTime is already enormously popular with that group of people, but add real time filters to the communications platform and all bets are off.
Facebook’s latest design concessions have proven that Snapchat has become too big a phenomenon to overlook. Since Tim Cook’s Apple is no longer unimpressionable by consumer trends, it is not a stretch to see them connect the dots and take advantage of the privileged position they are in before long. Played wrong, the clean camera app winds up cluttered and gimmicky. Played right, serious photographers would have very few to no touch points with the camera additions, while young customers from other platforms could flock to Apple’s ecosystem in droves.
Do you believe the Snapchat effect is going to rub off on iOS? I certainly think so.