As the competition between Snapchat and Facebook rages on, Snapchat is making its next advance, this time by capitalizing on a feature Facebook has yet to replicate.
Snapchat’s rolling out a new version of their animated Bitmoji tools which will enable users to include friends’ Bitmoji character in their Snaps, with the two characters interacting on screen.
The functionality builds on Snapchat’s animated AR Bitmoji Lenses, which they released last September. Called ‘3D Friendmoji Deluxe World Lenses’ (not exactly the zippiest title), the option will be available if you and the friend you’re communicating with both have an active Bitmoji character in Snap. The new Lens will be available within the regular Lens carousel – just point your camera and start shooting and the animation will play out.
The option adds another dimension to the app’s popular Bitmoji offering. Snap Inc. purchased Bitstrips, the owner of Bitmoji, back in March 2016 for an estimated $64 million. Bitmoji characters have always been popular, and the Bitmoji app itself is always hovering around the top 10 iOS App Store charts, popularity that’s only increased since Snap introduced their in-app characters. And as noted, thus far, Facebook don’t have an answer – while Facebook, mainly through Instagram, has been able to copy most of Snap’s features, Bitmoji's not something they’ve had the capacity to go after.
At least, not yet.
As Facebook eyes the merger of social media tools into VR environments, it seems inevitable that Facebook will also roll out its own version of similar virtual characters. The question then will be whether Facebook’s Bitmoji can be better than Snapchat’s.
In this regard, Snapchat has the advantage of experience. The team from Bitstrips has been working on developing customization and likeness features for some time – just recently, Snap rolled out a whole range of new ways to further enhance the similarity of your character.
Facebook, meanwhile, has been working on related tools. Last April, Facebook showcased their 3D avatars for VR, which are constructed by scanning your Facebook profile photos in order to create a virtual version of your likeness.
More recently, Facebook published a blog post which outlined their development of full-body AR tools, which would be able to track people’s actions while walking, sitting dancing – even identify the subject when obstructed by other objects. In combination, the two options could, theoretically, provide competition for Bitmoji characters – but Facebook hasn’t announced a focus on this element as yet, keeping their 3D characters within the VR environment, while continuing to develop other features.
That means that right now, Snapchat has the advantage on this front – and as noted, Bitmoji continues to be a popular option, it makes sense for Snap to look to further enhancements and tools to broaden the scope of the tool, and build on its usage.
In future, this may also provide them another avenue to monetization, with purchases of virtual clothing and animations (note the Nike Air hoodie in the top example). That’s not something Snap has outlined as yet, but it may be worth considering, and it may give marketers another way to reach Bitmoji users, especially as the tools become more advanced. Sponsored options like this would also provide another branding opportunity – an actual shift in this direction would be an interesting development, and you can bet Facebook would be paying attention if that were to take place.
It’s an interesting area to watch – as has been well documented, Facebook has worked hard to replicate all of Snapchat’s most popular features thus far. It seems inevitable that Bitmoji will also soon be in their sights.
Snapchat’s 3D Friendmoji Deluxe World Lenses are available on Android and iOS now.