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Tech: How to Use Snapchat on iPhone and Android

Snapchat has evolved from being an app with a handful of obvious naughty uses to a social media platform where you can both broadcast your life and watch content from a wide range of sources. The messaging app’s ability to let you control the privacy of the pictures and videos you send was integral to its popularity. But now brands like BuzzFeed, ESPN, National Geographic and People magazine have made their way to Snapchat, giving fans an inside look at what’s going on behind the scenes.


Snapchat has become so popular so fast that more than 800 million snaps are being shared per day, and there are more than 100 million active users watching 6 billion videos per day. Here’s how to sign up, get started snapping out photos and videos and become a Snapchat expert.

How to get started with Snapchat

1. Install the Snapchat app. Fire up the App Store or Google Play and install it. Kick your feet up while the app transfers over.



2. Sign up for an account.

Since you can’t just use an existing Facebook/Google/Your Favorite Social Network account to log your way into the service, you’ll need new credentials. Tap Sign Up. You’ll be asked for your email address, pa$$word and your birthday. Tap Sign Up.

3. Pick a username. Select a “unique identifier” for your account that cannot be changed once it’s set. Your friends can use this to find you on the service, and the username will appear underneath your real name in their Snapchat contact list.

4. Friend up.

Snapchat will ask you if it can tap into your phone’s contacts list. Unless you have a burning desire to add friends manually, we recommend you grant Snapchat this permission so you can commence friend-adding. iOS users will also be asked to enter in their mobile numbers for easier searching; fret not, Android fans, for you can add this information later — so long as the text-based verification goes smoothly for you.

Once Snapchat comes back with a list of your contacts that it has identified as users of the service, you can add them as friends by clicking the large person-with-a-plus button to the right of their names. If you want to remove contacts (or block them) later, just long-press on their names until the secondary menu pops up on your screen.’

How to send pictures or video in Snapchat

1. Tap to shoot, hold to record video.

Once you’re on Snapchat’s main screen, taking a picture is pretty easy for those who have ever used their phones’ cameras before. If not, here’s a quick guide: Tap an area of the picture you want your phone to focus on. Tap the big round circle to take a picture. Hold the big round circle to take a video.

2. Save your own shots.

The icon to the right of the timer, a downward-facing arrow, allows you to dump the shot you just took into your phone’s traditional gallery. It’s useful if you want to save your shot for future purposes, as there’s no other way to do so once you’ve sent the picture out.

3. Set picture time limit.

Tap on the stopwatchlike icon in the lower left and you can set the specific time that you want your picture to be available for a friend to view. You can go all the way from a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 1 second to a maximum duration of 10 seconds.

4. Add a caption.

Tap in the middle of the picture, and you can add text on top of your photo or video. Tap on the T icon to change the caption from a line to text to a larger brick of text. After you’ve written a caption for your snaps, you can move, pinch and zoom that text to place it just where you want. Before you can pinch and zoom your caption, you’ll need to have set the text to the larger font, by tapping on the T icon.

If you’re feeling a little nostalgia for “Draw Something,” you can also tap on the icon in the upper-right corner of the screen to draw directly onto your image with varying colors of a virtual pen.

5. Send your snaps.

Click on the arrow icon in the lower right to get your shot ready to send. Up pops your friends list; select everyone that you want to receive your image, take one final breath of confidence and click on the now-displayed arrow in the lower right-hand corner.

Discover Videos on Snapchat

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Tap on the icon in the lower right corner to move to the stories screen. At the top of the screen, Snapchat has a row of icons that lead to streams of photos and videos from brands like Refinery29, ESPN and Comedy Central. You can swipe to the left to jump to the next snap, press and hold to send a snap to a friend and pull down to leave the stream. Tapping on the Globe icon in the upper right corner of the Stories screen allows you to check out more brands, like CNN, Vice and Food Network.

How to view Snapchat messages

If you’ve received a Snapchat, or just want to check out the log of Snapchat pictures or videos you’ve sent out to your friends (just the log; not the media itself), tap the little cube icon on the lower-left of Snapchat’s main screen. If you have any to-be-viewed messages, the number will appear over the cube itself.
Once you’re on the messages screen, you’ll see any new pictures or videos that your friends have sent you listed with a filled-in square or arrow icon and a “tap to view” message underneath them. Don’t do that unless you’re really ready to view the image or video, because that starts the countdown timer for how long you’ll be able to view it.

When the timer runs out, the message will transition over to a “double tap to reply” prompt — do just that to continue your Snapchat “conversation.”

How to send a text message in Snapchat

If you want to send texts without photos, tap on the voice bubble icon in the upper left corner in the Snapchat message log screen. Find a friend you’ve sent a photo to already, type your note and click Send. These messages will self destruct after they’ve been viewed, and if one of you takes a screenshot of the chat transcript, Snapchat will let the other person know.

How to edit Snapchat settings

Tap the ghost icon at the top of the screen, and then tap the gear icon in the window’s upper right corner. You can confirm your mobile number by tapping the a$$ociated field if you skipped this part when first setting up Snapchat. You can also open up your Snapchat for messages from anyone on the service — not just your friends — by changing that setting (but make sure you want to do that).

How to add a profile photo

Tap on the Ghost icon at the top of the main screen, and then tap on the Snapchat icon in the upper middle part of the screen. Press the shutter button at the bottom of the screen. Snapchat will take a series of photos of you using the front-facing camera on your device. Tap the action button at the upper right corner of the screen to share this online so that your friends on Twitter, Facebook and other services can add you on Snapchat. If you want to take a new profile photo, click the retry button in the upper left corner.

How to add filters

After you’ve shot your snap, swipe to the left or right to add a visual filter that adjusts the photo quality — changing it to sepia or saturated — or one with a text overlay that shows the temperature in your area, the speed you’re moving at or the neighborhood you’re snapping from. You can add two filters by holding your finger down on the edge of the screen after you found the first filter you want to use, and then swiping again with your free hand.

How to add an animated selfie-lens

When you’re snapping a selfie — tap the icon in the upper right corner to switch to front-facing mode if you haven’t already — press and hold on the part of the screen where your face is. After a wire-frame design appears on your face, a series of lens option buttons will appear.

Swipe between the options to change from a monocle’d hipster, a torrential crier, an ice god and more. Follow the prompts —  like ‘Raise Your Eyebrows.’ — that appear, and tap the capture button to take a Snap, or press and hold on the capture button to record a video.

How to post to your public Story

If you want to share a photo or video you’ve shot with all of your followers, tap on the Square and Plus button on the lower left corner after shooting a snap. Tapping on the arrow in the bottom right corner will make your snap visible to all of your Snapchat friends for 24 hours. You can also select your area’s Local Story to share your moment with your community. You can view the Story streams that your friends have published by tapping on the icon in the bottom right corner of the main screen.

How to snap better at night

When you’re taking photos in dark areas, a moon icon will appear in the upper left corner, next to the flash icon. Tap on this icon for brighter photos and videos, so it will be easier for your audience to see what’s going on.

How to add emojis to your snaps

Click on the sticker icon at the top of your photo or video when you’re editing it to bring up the emoji sticker sheet. You can add as many emoji as you and, as well as pinch and zoom them to your heart’s content.

The Android version of Snapchat also gives you the opportunity to lower the quality of the videos the app takes, as well as Snapchat’s default camera orientation. You’ll find both of these settings buried within the “Video Settings” section.

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