Code reveals Instagram may be close to launching voice, video chat features
Piling on the features to keep users coming back for more.
Instagram may soon add a new feature that keeps users in the app longer (if that's even possible). According to a TechCrunch report, icons for "call" and "video call" lie buried in the Instagram and Instagram Direct APKs. This may signal that Instagram is close to debuting voice and video chatting options in its apps, features that have been rumored for the past couple of months. Instagram would not comment on the unearthed icons or its future plans.
In January, the WhatsApp blog WABetaInfo spotted a video chat feature in a non-public version of Instagram, and that discovery sparked rumors of a forthcoming calling feature. This new discovery in the app's APK could mean that Instagram plans to push out voice and video chatting in its app soon.
Such features would heighten the competition between Instagram and Snapchat, a battle that has been raging for a few years. Snapchat introduced text and video chatting in 2014, and those have been some of the few features Instagram hasn't yet implemented in its main app. The closest that Instagram has come is Instagram Direct, a standalone app it began testing late last year that lets users send photos and videos to individuals, rather than posting them to a profile as they would in the main Instagram app.
The most blatant copying of Snapchat to date was the introduction of Instagram Stories back in 2016. Similar to Snapchat's feature, Instagram Stories lets users take ephemeral photos and videos, string them together in succession much like a slide show, and broadcast that creation to their followers. All photos and videos in Instagram Stories disappear after being live for 24 hours.
Should it happen soon, a voice and video chat launch from Instagram would come at a bad time for Snapchat: the company has come under fire from users who have complained about the app's recent redesign, claiming it's confusing and not as easy to use as the old version. While Snapchat is far from dead, Instagram has given it a run for its money—Instagram Stories has proven to be a success for the image-sharing app, gleaning 300 million daily active users last year. According to Snap, Inc.'s 2017 annual report, Snapchat as a whole sees 187 million daily active users.
Voice and video chatting is undoubtably important for Instagram, regardless of Snapchat. Its parent company Facebook understands the important of chat functions in its own apps: Facebook Messenger has millions of users that use not only its text chat, but also its voice, video, and group video chat features. Adding similar abilities to Instagram could encourage current users to spend more time on Instagram as they would be able to share permanent and disappearing content with their followers, as well as make direct calls to close friends, all in one app.