A New Survey Says Snapchat Is Not A Camera Company

Snapchat‘s users don’t easily buy the claim that it is a camera company. A new survey produced by Zirra, a research firm that analyzes private tech companies, finds out that only 15% of young adults think that Snapchat is a camera company, an argument made by the company on the occasion of filing an S-1 document more than a week ago. The largest group of participants in the survey think it is only somewhat accurate that Snapchat is a camera company (44.3%). Comparing the group that tends to believe that Snap is a camera company (Quite and Definitely) to the group that doesn’t think that this description is fitting (Definitely not and Somewhat), the latter is the largest. This sentiment survey managed last weekend included 70 participants, all between the ages of 18-29.

Over half of respondents do not think the description of Snap as a camera company is fitting.

Snapchat’s declaration of itself as a camera company rose many eyebrows in the industry:

“We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way that people live and communicate…Our flagship product, Snapchat, is a camera application that was created to help people communicate through short videos and images… we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones. This is because images created by smartphone cameras contain more context and richer information than other forms of input like text entered on a keyboard. This means that we are willing to take risks in an attempt to create innovative and different camera products that are better able to reflect and improve our life experiences.” (From Snap’s S-1, Feb. 2nd)

Silicon Valley execs were mostly surprised to learn that one of the most successful businesses in the field of social networks- a market characterized by high engagement, rapid growth, and profitability for those who rule it- assumes it operates in the arena ruled by less glimmering manufacturers such as Canon, Panasonic, Sony, and Nikon.

The fact that users use mobile photography to communicate doesn’t necessarily mean that Snapchat should be considered a camera company. We don’t think that Apple sees itself as a music company, despite the acquisition of Beats and the nice sales of content in iTunes. If anything, Snapchat, as well as Facebook and Google, are advertising companies- as most of their revenue is generated by advertisers.

MadIccy / Pixabay

GoPro. THIS is a camera company

More than calling Snapchat a camera company, the trouble is with the fact that Snap’s founders, Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy, think that calling Snapchat other than what it really is will impress the investors. Snapchat offers funny photo lenses with full AR capabilities. It also launched the Spectacles, a pair of sunglasses with a camera inside but the revenues from that product are still negligible.

Snapchat definitely has a team that develops sophisticated computer vision stuff. The company also bought computer vision technology companies such as AR tech company Cimagine and drone camera company Lily Robotics. But other popular apps such as Facebook, Google, and Baidu are also developing their computer vision tech without calling themselves “a camera company.” If Snapchat has a “hidden” camera in the works- we’re still not aware of it. The company wants to go public but hasn’t disclosed any such plans. This is why calling itself a camera company can be perceived as a gimmick at best, with the potential to scare away some investors at worst.

The New York Times compared Snapchat to GoPro, suggesting Evan Spiegel take a pass on the ‘camera company’ title. GoPro is profitable, but its growth is very slow. No wonder shares are trading at less than half the IPO price. But Snap’s expenses are growing, and losses are widening. As sad as it sounds, investors are much more fond of a losing giant social network, than a slightly profitable camera company.

Instagram was the most popular app overall, followed by Facebook with Snapchat close behind in third place. WhatsApp was consistently ranked last.

More respondents would prefer to stick with Snapchat even if Instagram copies their features, but many would use both apps.

But our survey also carries some good news for Snapchat. Our millennial respondents rated Instagram slightly higher than Facebook and Snapchat, but said they would prefer to stick with Snapchat even if Instagram copies their features and use both apps. When asked about new features that should be added to Snapchat, participants demanded features more similar to Whatsapp than to Instagram.

Extending maximum video length, the ability to change usernames, and group chat were the most popular potential features. Accessibility related features were also popular, with a high number of responses for access to Snapchat from computers, and low-bandwidth options for people with slow or limited data.

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Assaf Gilad

An ex-journalist from Calcalist, a leading business and tech news outlet in Israel, I'm now writing about startups for Zirra.com.