While Snapchat's growth has been slowed by Instagram, one area in which Snap has continued to hold a lead is innovation, and creating standout, must-see new AR tools and visual features that get people talking about the app.
We saw this again back June when Snapchat saw a huge increase in downloads following the launch of its 'baby' and 'gender-swap' lenses.
Those types of trending additions - which also include the Dancing Hotdog, the dog ears, the rainbow vomit - all help to give Snapchat a boost and get more people downloading the app. And Snapchat knows that, in order to stay ahead of the increasing competition in the AR space, it needs to keep innovating, and maximizing user attention with such features.
In line with this, and as reported by AdAge, Snapchat recently announced that it will pay out more than $750k to its top augmented reality stars in 2020, 3x what it paid out to creators in 2019.
That's a significant commitment, especially when you consider that Snap is on track to generate around $2.1 billion in ad revenue next year. But as noted, Snap knows that innovation is key - it can't compete with Instagram and Facebook on audience size, but it can help to maintain its position by continually rolling out new and engaging AR tools. It's not the only key, but it's one of the ways that Snap can fuel its renewed momentum.
The ultimate goal, of course, is for Snap to iterate its Spectacles video sunglasses into fully functional AR devices.
That, seemingly, has always been the objective - back in 2017, Snapchat filed a patent that detailed how their AR-enabled Spectacles would work, with display sensors built into the glasses which could overlay digital images on your real-world view.
It seemed, at the time, that Snap believed it was closer to making this a reality than it thought - when Snap re-branded as 'Snap Inc.' back in 2016, and labeled itself 'a camera company', the next stage seemed to be the shift to AR-enabled Spectacles, with all the development releases and details pointing to this next stage.
But as all the tech giants well know, building functional, compact, AR-enabled glasses is hard - Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that he thinks consumer-viable AR glasses are still a few years away, and that's with all of Facebook's resources and development capacity behind it.
Definitely, Snap still appears to be working towards this goal, but even if it is going to make it to that next level, it will need cutting edge AR experiences to elevate it even further. Hence, the investment in increased AR development makes sense - and as noted, that should help it to maintain that creative capacity, and keep up with the larger players.
But it could also help usher in Snapchat's AR-enabled Spectacles. The latest version of Spectacles, released back in August, doesn't include this capacity, but it's getting closer.
Could Snap, with its established production of similar glasses, and advanced AR tools, actually be on track to advance on this front ahead of its competition?
Could we see AR-enabled glasses in 2020?