Snapchat now lets smartphone users create customized augmented reality (AR) lenses, the digital overlays the image-sharing app helped popularize with its rainbow vomit and dog-face masks varieties, per TechCrunch. Custom Filters can be personalized with text for special celebrations like weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvahs and then shared with friends in messages and Stories, which strings together multiple images and videos.
The Create-Your-Own-Lens maker lets users choose from 150 templates that add animal ears and sparkles to the filter. Custom captions like "Happy Birthday, Luigi!" can then be added with a selection of fonts. Finally, the user selects the geofence area, ranging from 20,000 to 5 million square feet, that indicate where the lens will be accessible on a map and for how long.
Snapchat, which has 187 million users worldwide, charges as little as $10 for lenses, depending on the size of the geofence and the duration that they appear on phones. The lens maker is now available in the U.S. on the web and the settings menu of the iOS version. It will roll out globally and on Android soon.
While social media companies like Snap Inc., Snapchat's parent company, often seek big-name advertisers with large spending budgets, they can help their bottom lines by providing lower-priced services for a mass audience. Not only do features like the Create-Your-Own-Lens maker keep people engaged with the app, they also can generate incremental revenue that adds up over time and helps carve out a reputation for Snapchat as a readily-accessible AR platform for its users.
Snap has said 70 million people use its Lenses per day for an average of more than three minutes, which translates to 500 years of play time each day. The pricing of customized lenses is designed to be affordable enough for mass audiences and smaller businesses while also deterring spam. For example, a Custom Lens would cost $1,182 for a day in New York's Central Park, while a single block in San Francisco's Mission District would be $92 a day, according to TechCrunch. Snapchat wants people to choose its platform over rivals like Instagram or Facebook to create experiences for special occasions, especially as people use social media to plan and share their activities with friends and family.
In the longer term, social media companies like Snap, Facebook and Twitter likely will seek other ways to generate recurring payments from users, just as Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google have done. For example, Apple not only sells iPhones for as much as $1,000, but it also generates revenue for additional services like app downloads, mobile pay, streaming music subscriptions and cloud storage.
The news comes on the tails of Snap's Q4 earnings report earlier this week, which beat analyst expectations for user growth, providing a much-needed boost to Snapchat, which has struggled to grow its audience and revenue since going public last year. Snapchat late last week also opened an in-app e-commerce store selling merchandise inspired by some of its popular features, such as a dancing AR hotdog — another indicator of where it might trying to drive fresh revenue in the future.