Is Apple wasting its time trying to fight Snapchat? [Friday Night Fights]

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Apple has tried to fight the social networks before.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple’s next big venture could be to go head-to-head with Snapchat and similar content-sharing services. The company is expected to integrate new video features into iOS that would be developed by the engineers behind Final Cut and iMovie.

Friday Night Fights bug But is this a good idea? Apple failed miserably when it tried to take on social networks before, and some would argue that many of its products already suffer as a result of its expansion into new areas.

Join us in this week’s Friday Night Fight as we battle it out over whether Apple is wasting its time trying to fight Snapchat.

Luke Dormehl FNFLuke Dormehl: Anyone who remembers Apple’s iTunes-focused Ping may scoff at the news that Apple is reportedly working on re-entering the social networking space with its own “video-editing” tool set to debut next year. But it actually makes a ton of sense.

Apple’s been pivoting toward a services-oriented strategy recently. That would be reinforced if the company can make a successful tool that appeals to the people already using services like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

It would also be a great way of driving engagement with its devices. We know that Apple users tend to be more engaged with their handsets than, say, Android owners, but giving people another reason to use their iPhones would be great for the company.

The idea of focusing on video production is also strong — and could help sell more high-end iPhones like the upcoming dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus. Best of all is the fact that, while this sounds a lot like a Snapchat rival, Apple’s reportedly looking to integrate with existing social media networks rather than circumvent them completely.

It’s still way too early to start discussing how Apple will monetize a service like this (although the fact that it doesn’t have to could help, by removing the pressures of advertising). But so long as Apple can stick with this idea for longer than it has some of its social networking ideas of the past, I really like this concept.

Killian Bell FNFKillian Bell: I have to disagree with this. While it might sound like a good idea for a second, it’s insanely hard to compete with the social networks. Many have tried, and most have failed. No one is going to ditch Snapchat for an alternative that’s only available on iPhone; not even Instagram can convince Snapchat addicts to switch to its new Stories feature.

The big issue I have with this is that it’s yet another thing Apple has on its plate that takes its focus away from existing products. We’ve already discussed in previous Friday Night Fights how it seems like some things are being neglected as Apple spreads its wings and expands into new areas and product categories.

Just this week, the latest State of Mobile Device Performance and Health report from Blancco Technology Group revealed that iOS now has a significantly higher failure rate than Android. That’s the first time that’s happened since BTG started compiling these quarterly reports, and it’s yet further evidence that some things are suffering — particularly Apple’s software.

Plowing resources into another social feature that will almost certainly fail is only going to exacerbate that. Maybe Apple can think of a novel way to monetize it, but it won’t last, and no one’s going to buy an iPhone just because it has a new way of sharing video that you can already find on any other platform with a third-party app.

Luke Dormehl FNFLuke: Just like how no-one would buy an iPhone to get iOS, right? As I already pointed out, from the sound of things Apple’s looking to work with other social networks rather than replace them, but I don’t see any reason why it can’t add functionality that’s going to please a number of users. We’re already seeing iMessage becoming more than a regular text-based service, and Apple making it easy for users to put together videos and share them via social networking platforms sounds promising to me.

What you’re missing is that these are the kinds of thing Apple needs to do to move with the time and appeal to younger audiences. Apple’s been a cool youthful brand for as long as it’s been around, but it’s also 40 years old — and arguably its most youth-targeted product, the iPod, is now older than some teenagers out there. I’m not suggesting that Apple can (or wants to) become the next Facebook, but I can totally see the logic in this plan.

Now whether Apple sticks with it is something else. But Apple’s got the resources and the motivation to make this a great idea.

Killian Bell FNFKillian: No, that’s totally different.

Platforms and big features are selling points; small features are not. Just like no one in their right mind would buy an iPhone 6s just for Live Photos. Speaking of which, remember how big that was going to be? Everyone went crazy for it when it launched last fall, now how often do you see or receive a Live Photo? Apple’s new video feature would be exactly the same.

I agree that Apple should continue appealing to younger audiences, but taking on their favorite services isn’t the way to do that. Plus, it’s not like services aren’t already available on Apple’s devices. They’re there and many would argue that’s where you get the best experience. So, what exactly are we missing out on?

I think it would be much more logical for Apple to open up its existing apps so that third-parties can integrate their own features into them. It already allows developers to make editing tools and effects available within the Photos app, so why not extend that to the Camera app, and allow the likes of Snapchat to make cool features available there themselves?

This approach would be a whole lot easier for Apple, and much more successful, too. Plus it would have very little to lose.

Luke Dormehl FNFLuke: I think you’re really selling Apple short in a lot of ways, Killian. There are so many reasons for Apple to try this, that I’m surprised you won’t entertain any of them. Nobody is expecting someone to buy an iPhone purely for one app: the age of the singular “killer app” is dead. However, tools like this provide additional reasons why people would want to get an iPhone. We’ve already seen, from Apple’s most recent quarterly earnings, that the company is doing well — despite falling demand for iPhones. Why? Because it’s focusing on services, which are proving very successful for the company. If you also don’t get why Apple shouldn’t try and cater to younger customers, with the hopes of turning them into loyal adult fans, I don’t really know what to tell you.

I think we’re agreed on the fact that Apple’s got to prove itself in an area like this. Executed badly, this could absolutely be Ping 2. But I don’t think it will be.

But let’s turn this over to readers. Do you think Apple’s barking up the wrong tree with its social media ambitions? If not, do you think a video editing and sharing app the best thing Apple can come up with? Leave your comments below. And have a good weekend.

Friday Night Fights is a series of weekly death matches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?