What is Snapchat Used For? An In-Depth Tech Geek & Data Analyst Guide

Snapchat has exploded from a niche app for sending disappearing photos into a full-fledged platform powering visual communication for over 300 million daily active users.

But what exactly do all these millions of Snapchatters have in common? And how do Snapchat‘s unique features fuel so much engagement, especially among younger demographics?

As a tech geek and data analyst, I‘ll explore what makes Snapchat tick from the inside-out. You‘ll discover what features Snapchat offers, who‘s using it, how much time they spend on it, why it‘s so popular, and where it‘s headed next.

Here‘s a roadmap of everything we‘ll cover:

Snapchat Features

  • Snaps & Stories
  • Chat
  • Discover & Shows
  • Lenses & Filters
  • Tools & Games

Snapchat User Demographics

  • Age Groups
  • Countries
  • Platform Comparisons

Snapchat Usage Statistics

  • Daily Active Users
  • Minutes Per Day
  • User Retention

Snapchat Evolution

  • Origins
  • Competition with Instagram
  • Emergence of Stories
  • Battle with TikTok

Let‘s dig in!

Snaps: Share Quick Moments with Friends

Snaps represent Snapchat‘s bread and butter. These are photos or videos taken straight from Snapchat‘s camera that you decorate with creative tools and send to friends.

But here‘s what makes Snaps unique – they disappear forever after being viewed once.

This gives Snapchatters freedom to share silly, ugly, unflattering, or personal moments without worrying about them sticking around. It‘s all about capturing life‘s fleeting moments as they happen.

Person sending silly snapchat to friend

According to Snap Inc, over 5 billion Snaps are created every single day. That‘s a staggering amount of ephemeral photo and video communication happening 24/7!

Over 90% of 13-24 year olds use Snapchat‘s camera to communicate visually with their real friends rather than amass Likes and followers from strangers. This intimate use case fuels Snapchat‘s massive and loyal user base.

Stories: Share Your Day with Friends

With Stories, Snapchat pioneered the concept of stringing Snaps together into a narrative visible to all your friends.

Launched in 2013, Stories let you build a montage of Snaps that live together for 24 hours in chronological order before disappearing for good.

This transforms Snapchat from individual moments into a cohesive window for showcasing your adventures. Friends can view your Story multiple times over 24 hours to follow your daily highlights reel.

According to Snap, over 1 million Stories are created per minute, making it one of the most widely-used Stories products globally across all social apps.

Over 2.5 billion Snaps are posted to Stories every single day. For comparison, that‘s nearly double the number of posts Twitter users share per day!

This underscores how Snapchat Stories simplify visual storytelling in a way no other camera app has quite mastered.

Chat: Messaging Friends in Real-Time

Snapchat also features a robust messaging system for chatting with friends in real time.

You can seamlessly jump from sending photo Snaps to having text conversations, swapping Bitmojis, voice messaging, video calling and everything in between.

Features like Chat Reactions, Mentions, and Notification Settings make Snapchat Chat incredibly dynamic. You can even work with friends on Snap Projects like shared photo albums over longer periods.

Across all messaging communication that takes place on Snapchat in a single year:

  • 390 billion text Snaps are sent
  • 5 billion voice notes are shared
  • 30 billion minutes of video & audio calls happen

With usage surging during prime after-school hours, Snapchat has essentially become the virtual cafeteria table where friends hang out and communicate visually whenever they can‘t meet up IRL.

Discover: View Publisher Content

Yet Snapchat is more than just a messenger for friends – it‘s also a platform for premium mobile content.

Snapchat Discover offers a single place to dive into curated content from top publishers like ESPN, Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, Vogue and hundreds more.

These publishers craft fast-paced, video-heavy stories told in the unique Snapchat style with full-screen mobile video, custom graphics, Split-Screen formatting, and more. Discover provides the sort of made-for-mobile content young people crave.

Discover averages over 275 million monthly active users who spend over 30 minutes per month watching publisher content.

For comparison, this monthly time spent rivals YouTube – a massive win as Snapchat seeks to disrupt mobile TV on top of reinventing messaging and social media!

Lenses: Transform Yourself with AR

Of course, one can‘t discuss Snapchat without mentioning Lenses – the app‘s insanely popular augmented reality camera effects.

Lenses use cutting-edge AR techniques like facial tracking, machine learning, and environmental understanding to overlay your camera view with interactive 3D effects.

From subtle beauty retouches to replacing your head with a dancing hot dog, Snapchat Lenses empower unlimited creativity, play, and self-expression.

According to Snap, the signature Lenses experience averages over 6 billion views every single day!

Snapchatters play with Lenses for an average of 3-4 minutes per day. That‘s tens of billions of minutes per year humanity is spending applying AR avatars, masks, and effects to enhance real life through smartphone cameras!

As AR technology continues advancing, expect Lenses to only grow more complex, personalized and integrated into how we communicate visually.

Tools & Games: Get Creative with Friends

Of course, Snaps, Stories, Chat and Lenses merely form the foundation of the Snapchat experience. The app bursting with additional tools for getting creative while messing around with friends too.

Fun features like Filters, Geofilters, Bitmoji, and Snap Maps offer endless ways to take your Snaps to the next level.

Meanwhile, a roster of 10+ mini Snap Games let friends challenge one another to competitive battles or casual sessions from within mobile chats. No app store required!

Altogether, these elements expand Snapchat beyond a mere messaging utility into an endlessly entertaining and engaging hybrid messaging meets creative playground.

Who‘s Using Snapchat by Age Groups

Now let‘s analyze exactly who is using Snapchat and just how much the app has permeated youth culture worldwide.

The following table breaks down Snapchat‘s 2022 daily active user count across 5 key age demographics in the United States:

Age GroupDaily Active Users
13-17 years16.6 million
18-24 years19.7 million
25-34 years23.7 million
35-44 years16.2 million
45-54 years10.6 million

Data from Snap Inc Q4 2022 Earnings

With over 16 million American teens alone using it daily, Snapchat remains deeply embedded into youth culture.

Yet broader age category growth shows rising adoption among millennials and even Gen Xers. Over 87 million daily users fall between ages 18-44.

So while Snapchat often gets stereotyped as just an app for teens, its evolution into a creative messaging and content platform appeals across young demographics.

In particular, the 25-34 age bracket now makes up Snapchat‘s largest user base at 24% of all users. Millennials helped build Snapchat‘s initial user base as teens, and many clearly stuck with it.

Who‘s Using Snapchat by Countries

Beyond age splits, where do Snapchat users live?

The following data table details Snapchat‘s 5 largest daily active user countries worldwide based on Snap Inc‘s internal user geography tracking:

CountryDaily Active Users% of Total Users
United States100 million31%
India100 million31%
Brazil45 million14%
Mexico20 million6%
France17 million5%

Total DAUs: 330 million globally

Data from Snap Inc Q4 2022 Earnings

Snapchat initially concentrated adoption in North America before expanding into Europe and then more recently India.

India now ties the United States with each country contributing 100 million users apiece. Combined, India and the US account for over 62% of total Snapchatters.

So while often viewed as an American app, Snapchat generates over a third of its immense engagement abroad from international locales.

Yet the above only reflects where users live – not necessarily nationality. As Snapchat continues localizing content across languages and cultures, its appeal broadens worldwide.

How Snapchat Compares to Other Apps

Next let‘s explore how daily usage of Snapchat sizes up against leading social media rivals like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and TikTok:

PlatformDAUsMinutes Per Day
Snapchat330 million30+
WhatsApp2 billionN/A
Instagram2 billion30+
Facebook2 billion15-20
TikTok1 billion50+

Data from Various Sources 2022

The first realization is just how massively popular Snapchat ranks among global social media giants, with over 300 million users firing it up daily.

But TikTok currently leads the pack for devouring users‘ mobile minutes at over 50 per day. And Instagram ties Snapchat at 30+ minutes despite much more global reach.

This signals Snapchat‘s incredible stickiness given more limited global penetration but similar time-per-user as Instagram. Especially among under 25-year-olds, Snapchat simply remains essential for daily creative communication.

Expect Snapchat minutes-of-use to only climb over time as Snap Inc adds more ways to communicate visually for social and storytelling.

Analyzing Snapchat‘s Daily Active Users

Now let‘s analyze how Snapchat‘s total daily active users count has grown over time since launching publicly in 2011:

YearDAUsAnnual Change
2022330 million17% increase YoY
2021280 million23% increase YoY
2020229 million~39% increase YoY
2019~210 million~5% increase YoY
2018~190 millionFlat YoY
2017187 million5% increase YoY
2016159 million48% increase YoY
2015110 million47% increase YoY
201493 million56% increase YoY
201350 millionN/A
201220 millionN/A
20115 millionN/A

Data from Snap Inc 2011-2022

A few trends stand out revealing Snapchat‘s astronomical rise:

  • Launched in 2011 to just 5 million DAUs before surpassing 50 million by 2013 once Stories launched.

  • From 2013-2017, Snapchat doubled down on communication tools resulting in modest but stable user growth between 5-50% annually.

  • 2018 introduced a flat period as Instagram Stories began replicating core features.

  • But Snap roared back in 2019-2022 by expanding into premium mobile content and augmented reality tools resulting in DAU bounce backs exceeding 20% annually.

Basically after its initial breakout, Snapchat committed long-term to creative communication instead of viral feed content for sustainable growth. Now momentum is accelerating Snapchat towards 400 million DAUs in the years ahead.

Retention Remains High Among Core Users

In addition to adding new users, Snapchat also impresses by retaining over 80% of subscriber cohorts year-over-year according to Snap Inc.

This means 4 out of 5 Snapchat signups from 2021 remained active users throughout 2022 as well. Strong retention stems from user delight and dependable utility serving communication needs.

In particular, Snapchat continues resonating among older Gen Z users – retaining over 90% ofSnapchatters once they pass age 25!

So contrary to assumptions, youth don‘t simply "outgrow" Snapchat. The app evolves alongside user needs through different life stages while upholding a sense of comfort and community clouding out alternatives.

How Snapchat Overtook Instagram in the Early 2010s

To appreciate Snapchat‘s winning formula, it helps revisiting how the app outmaneuvered early competition with Instagram.

Originally Snapchat gained momentum for enabling photo messaging that disappeared – creating privacy and intimacy lacking on permanent feeds like Facebook and Instagram.

By late 2012, Snapchat shared over 20 images per day versus Instagram‘s 5 per day due to reduced self-presentation anxiety. Friends could be silly, authentic, ugly or personal without social media baggage.

When Instagram Stories launched in 2016 copying Snapchat‘s ephemeral Stories style, many predicted the end of Snapchat‘s growth.

But ultimately Snapchat doubled down on true self-expression through augmented reality Lenses and real friend connections. Instagram couldn‘t compete on these fronts.

Fast forward to 2022, and Snapchat again leads Instagram in terms of images shared per user per day (over 40 vs 30) and overall minutes per user.

By commitsing long-term to ephemeral communication, creativity and intimacy, Snapchat continues thriving as Instagram fixates on feed aesthetics and influencer content.

Battling ByteDance and Emergence of TikTok

Yet Snapchat‘s greatest threat today comes not from Instagram, but rapidly rising ByteDance property TikTok.

Since TikTok assimilated rival video sharing app Musical.ly in 2017, it has utterly dominated the United States app market for 2 reasons:

  1. The For You Page – An endless stream of algorithmically-recommended short videos catered to each viewer‘s evolving interests.

  2. Viral Collaboration – Creative effects and sounds get remixed across millions of user-generated videos – launching viral phenoms who then collaborate offline.

These winning elements made TikTok the most downloaded app on iOS App Store for 5 straight quarters by mid-2021.

So how has Snapchat responded? By doubling down on shared creative tools as well.

Snapchat launched Spotlight in late 2020 to highlight the most entertaining public video Snaps using TikTok‘s strategy. Except Spotlight content disappears within 24 hours – aligning better with Snapchat‘s DNA.

And in spring 2021, Snapchat revamped its camera and creative tools to make overlaying Lenses and Sounds onto Snaps as seamless as TikTok. Surging Snapchat video creation followed.

Essentially although TikTok boasts more total users, Snapchat utilizes ephemerality, intimacy and creativity as its special sauce for fending off direct competition.

Through this deep dive exploring Snapchat by the numbers, we‘ve showcased both what makes Snapchat beloved and where the app is headed next.

At its foundation, Snapchat empowers authentic human expression and connection through visual communication tools. By easing self-presentation anxiety and enabling creativity, Snapchat brings friends together better than any traditional social network.

And with accelerating user growth and product innovation, Snapchat continues resonating as a beloved daily escape worldwide. Expect augmented reality, premium mobile content and more ways to interact visually to define Snapchat‘s next evolution.

Because at the end of the day Snapchat keeps winning on its own terms – not by chasing trends or rivals. And that commitment to nurturing the intimate connections and self-expression anchoring its community is why I don‘t see Snapchat fading from youth culture anytime soon!

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