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Arslan Tayliyev
Arslan Tayliyev

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How to Make an App Like Snapchat

What is Snapchat? While 90% of US youngsters from 13 to 24 years old consider the app to be part of their lifestyle, Snapchat remains a brilliant example of how to launch a digital startup in a highly competitive field such as social networks and messengers.

Snapchat wasn’t the first app that performed instant messaging or media-based social networking features. But it is definitely the one that managed to sell its unique communication style to the public and gained an astounding revenue. In 2019, Snapchat ad-selling revenue is likely to reach $1534.2 million.

Let’s follow the Snapchat history in order to find out what made it so successful, calculate Snapchat clone development costs, and your chances to set Snapchat-like business in 2020.

How to Create an App Like Snapchat? Study the app’s story!

In 2020, Snapchat is not just an app, but a cultural phenomenon. Back in 2011, it had been developed as a student project at Stanford by Reggie Brown, Evan Spiegel, and Bobby Murphy. And since then the company has developed rapidly. In confirmation of this, we can recall that current Snapchat estimate is over $22 billion.

The app is now the number one social media in the US and France and the second most popular social platform in Germany, Canada, and the UK. The app reaches not less than 60% of smartphone users aged from 13 to 34 years including the most solvent audience there.

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To create app like Snapchat you need to understand the nature of it. So what is Snapchat? Everything started from an instant messenger that allowed users to share photos and videos with captions, drawings, and filters. You may find some common features between Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat of recent years, but keep in mind that things like self-destructing media content (Stories and Snaps), as well as face recognition tools, had been originally implemented in Snapchat.

The core feature of Snapchat is the ability of uploaded media to disappear after the viewing. With snaps, it happens in a few seconds and its owner can decide how many seconds is enough for observing the content.

Current Snapchat is not a classical messenger, but a private messaging space where Chats and newsfeed (Discover section) are brought together. At the same time, there is a bunch of really innovative media editing tools inside the app. You may create quick photos, videos, add various elements to them and then make the content visible to particular friends, group of them or all Snapchat users.

The main strength of Snapchat is its innovativeness. If you dream of commercial success like this, think of a feature that could be as astounding for your target audience as self-destroying content for Snapchat was for its first users.

How to Develop an App Like Snapchat Step By Step

There are several steps for your team to follow in order to find your unique selling proposition, profitable niche and appropriate marketing strategy. To learn more about app development process look through app development service.

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Step 1 – Market research

Study the market and name your direct and indirect competitors. Describe your target audience, list their needs and discover their style of making decisions and willingness to pay for the application. Study the names of your competitors’ apps also and try to figure out what name must be most appealing for your target audience. To learn how to create a memorable name for apps.

Step 2 – App features

What features are you going to borrow from Snapchat and what kind of features you need to add to your Snapchat-like product as a bonus? List all of them and make sure you didn’t miss anything. Start from the idea that you need to develop an MVP that can change in the future. Focus on features that are essential.

Step 3 – Budgeting

How much does Snapchat cost? Basing on the list of feature calculate how much money will you need to implement them. Don’t forget that the overall cost will include marketing, project management, design and development expenses. Choosing between native and cross-platform development also affects the cost. For more information on what an application budget consists of, read the article on how much an application costs.

Step 4 – App design and development

Assign tasks to your design and development members, follow their progress and be flexible. On this stage it is impossible to identify if all of the planned approaches were applicable, so be ready to change and improve the design and polish the project before realising.

Step 5 – Marketing strategy

The marketing aspect is inseparable from all the stages of the project. Naming, visual identity, UI and UX approval, copywriting and the promotional plan itself are parts of a general marketing strategy developed by the marketing team. A marketing strategy should be ready at least 2 months before the launch date.

Step 6 – Releasing MVP and collecting feedback

MVP is just the beginning! If this version of the product does not become insanely successful, do not be discouraged. You’ve created it as part of an experiment. Collect as much feedback as possible, follow the behavior of your users inside the app and track where they get to know about your product. Fix gross errors by updating the application. Read what does MVP mean and why you need it.

Core Technologies of Snapchat

In 2020, as many as 190 million active users access Snapchat daily and its DAU rate still continues to grow (in 2018, the number of active users was 2% less than today). What is the trick? A set of technologies is the answer. Snapchat looks clear and simple for the end user, but its data architecture, inner digital mechanisms and even UX are the product of careful study and recent discoveries in the field of machine learning, augmented reality and visual object recognition.

Keep in mind that to build an app like Snapchat you need to stay ahead of technological curve or be ready to purchase technologies for developing your startup.

Machine learning

The machine learning technology is implemented in several Snapchat operation areas. The first is Discovery section self-management.

The mechanism analyzes users’ behavior, builds an algorithm to figure out who is likely to watch the content of particular type and then arranges stories in a way we would adore them. The idea is to keep our attention as much as possible and and make us addicted to Snapchat. As a result, the average app user checks the app 20 times per day spending 30 minutes on those actions.

Machine learning helps Snapchat to sell advertisement spaces inside the app. The algorithm works out which users are likely to be interested in particular sponsored content and then optimizes the targeting.

The technology was also applied by the Snapchat team while developing face recognition and augmented reality features. It helps to categorize face types and adopt animation to real life objects. For example, it makes possible for the app to identify racial differences.

Face detection and tracking

Face detection is not a self-standing Snapchat feature. However, it is an important part of image and video framing and editing.

To create a single static snap or animated story with your face you need to point a smartphone camera at the face. Immediately, the face detection mechanism will scan image coordinates. The mechanism works well even with non-frontal tiny or partial faces, turning them into pyramid-based digital shape.

At this point, Snapchat outputs coordinates for all facial feature such as eyes, lips, and nose and start tracking the face in real time. Then image processing begins and chosen animation features could be applied onto your face image.

Snapchat uses active shape modeling plus machine learning to adopt animation features to a particular human face. It also provides users with some options like swapping faces with another person in the picture.

Augmented reality

Snapchat offers augmented reality filters to its users. Some of them need face image to be applied, other work with any time of visual content adding some virtual elements to it.

Augmented reality is a type of computer vision technology which remains an opposition of good old computer graphics. Instead of building 3D objects from nothing, it turns visual data into 3D space. To detect different objects on the screen Snapchat uses recognition features and machine learning mechanisms.


Location tracking is still a significant feature of Snapchat. There is a Snap Map where you could find information on current location of your friends and get to know what they are doing at the moment. This feature is only available if a user permits other users to see their location. Snaps that exist for several seconds and stories that vanish in 24 hours are being geotagged and could be pinned to the map.

Snap Map also gives you an opportunity to scroll around your current position and find who’s near, connect with them and agree to meet. ActionMoji which is a version of cartoony static BitMoji avatar gives you quick access to friends’ stories and direct messaging.

Location tracking mode is also useful while adding people to your contact list. Add Nearby menu shows you Snapcodes of Snapchat users around.

Another type of geolocation usage is Geofilter. The mode allows showing your snap for people on the particular area only.

Money sending and user tags

These are not the core app feature, but still, they are some of those that show how many technologies were empowered to make Snapchat number one app in lots of countries. In 2014, Snapcash feature has been launched as a collaboration with Square financial services group. Thereby app users can now send money to each other through messages.

This year, it became possible to tag other people on your pictures and video. Brands also could link their webpages to the uploaded content.

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Snapchat Features and Cost to Develop

How to make an app like Snapchat? To calculate Snapchat MVP budget you need to list all features that should be integrated into it. In this paragraph, we are trying to focus on the core functions of the app and guess how much did it cost to make Snapchat. We determined the number of working hours that are required to develop a native iOS/Android app like Snapchat.

Login, profile editing, and settings

12 hours

That is simple to become a Snapchat user. You could sing in with your phone or Facebook profile or create your account using email and unique password. There, you could customize your BitMoji avatar and app general settings like your privacy restrictions, visibility or notification policy.

Taking photos and videos

60 hours

Snapchat idea is to helps others to create visual content quickly and then to send it to friends or to share it with the public. For this, a smartphone camera should be integrated into the app. An access to inner phone galleries also should be provided.

Media editing and Lenses

200 hours

How much does Snapchat cost? Filters, drawings, and text caption editing are main tools provided by Snapchat and they are also the most expensive features there. Some of these options such as Lenses are powered with complex machine learning algorithm and 3D modeling engine. Lenses perform animated elements that could be automatically overlain on the top of the real-time picture from the camera.

Media self-destruction

12 hours

That is the firm app feature from which the whole story started. Users can choose how many second their friends could see a multimedia message.

Geofilters and location tracking integration

40 hours

The app uses smartphone location tracker to geotag media content. Having a geotag on your photo or video you could make them visible only in distinct locations, automatically attach them to your Snap Map, or just give others a clue where they were taken.

Friend searching and listing

40 hours

The one could add friends using Facebook friend list or phonebook, scanning their Snapcodes or using Add Nearby option. Friend list will be performed in a special chat section.


180 hours

In fact, Snapchat considers itself to be a chatting tool and, moreover, it was born as a messenger itself. The difference between the already existing Facebook at that time was the content vanishing feature of Snapchat. And the idea of quick span sharing, obviously. Snap Chats are different from regular messaging. They are media-based.

Video and audio calls

200 hours

That wasn’t the basic feature of Snapchat, however, you cannot imagine a messaging app in 2019 with no possibility to call or video call your partner. The feature also allows leaving audio and video notes.


48 hours

How much did it cost to make Snapchat? The Snapchat app of 2019 is more complicated that the one from 2011. To make a clone of the currant app you need bigger budget than Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown had 8 years age.

Unlike snaps, user’s Story can be viewed numerous times during 24 hours after being uploaded. The user sees how many people saw the story and even can check their names.

Stories are played one by one making the user to watch span broadcasts as long as he or she wants. Stories from people and companies outside user friend area could be found in the Discover section. Snapchat arranges content personally to each user based on behavior analysis made by its algorithm.

Push notification

30 hours

A user can be notified about new messages and other updates immediately when they occur.

Admin panel

120 hours (web application)

To keep your application in order, provide technical support to users, as well as manage ads and get customer insights, you need an admin panel. It should be secure and used by your team only.

Keep in mind that Snapchat is an existing app and to conquer the market you have to propose people something brand new, but not a Snapchat clone. That could be a niche product serving a group of users with the same interests (like an app for pet photos sharing) or for those who lives in the same area. Additional feature development could be calculated for you individually by LANARS team. Contact us to know more.

The Cost to Make an App Like Snapchat

App development means much more than just abstract working hours.

First, you need to hire a team.

Second, you need to set a working plan and management process.

Third, you need to approve the design, work out the marketing concept, and test your product carefully.

Here, we’d like to look deeper into project development stages that are essential for Snapchat-like startup.

Team hiring

To answer the question like “What does Snapchat cost as a startup to be launched?” you need to calсulate the number of wages of all workers involved in the development process. To make a Snapchat MVP app you require the standard team of a project manager, Android and iOS native apps developers, a UX/UI designer, a QA engineer, a copywriter, and a marketing specialist.

To speed up the development process you could hire more developers. And if you’d like to develop some complex features like face recognition algorithms without buying ready to use technology from other company (like Snapchat once did), you need highly specialized employees in your team.

Design and copywriting

It’s obviously not enough to list app features and to pass them directly to your developers. UX and UI aspects is a huge issue that helps Snapchat to gain its popularity.

Design costs depend on the number of features and screens to perform them clearly. To make Snapchat-like design from zero your designer should spend at least 120 hours on wireframing, 80 hours on UI design, and over 100 hours on UX design for both platforms.

You may wonder how much is Snapchat app copywriting cost. Text work for the clone of the current app and its marketing-related tasks will take around 20 hours.

Features development

The more features your app will have, the more money you need to spend on it.

In the previous paragraph, we’ve already looked through the main Snapchat MVP features. Let’s name them briefly: sign up feature, friends adding , uploading media, location tracking, notifications, chats, media editing, audio and video calls, self-destruction mechanism, Discovery section arrangement, etc. That will cost you 742 working hours in total.

Project management and QA

That is needless to say that you need a person to manage the team, let it fit in the work plan and be in charge of the project in general.

Project management also includes setting meetings, solving upcoming issues and coordinating outsource work. For the project like Snapchat MVP launch, you need a skilled project manager for not less than 110 hours in total. A QA will spend around 180 hours looking for weak points of your almost-ready product.


Branding, monetization strategy development, app promotion and different types of market research should be done by professionals. The marketing team could include market analysts, marketers, brand managers, copywriters, designers, market campaign coordinators, SEO managers and lots of other specialists depending on what promotion style you’ll choose.

We advise you to assign not less than 30% of the general budget on those needs.

So how much is the Snapchat app? The total bill will cover 1400 working hours of various specialists and lets you spend on the MVP not less than $70 000 if you decide to hire your team in Eastern Europe instead of the US or Germany. The Eastern Europe hourly rate is around $50. That is also the LANARS average rate. Contact us to get your personalized calculations.

Snapchat-like App Monetization

How much does Snapchat make per year? Snapchat revenue increased dramatically during a couple of years. In 2019, its growth rate reached 39% comparing to last year statistics. That turned Snapchat into an extremely successful case in the field of social networks.

And while most of the app revenue comes from global advertisement ($1534.2 million is expected to be gained by the company this year), Snapchat users continue to spend up to $1.5 annually purchasing premium features. Sounds awesome, right? Let’s study Snapchat monetization strategies deeper and choose which one could be borrowed by your startup.

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Snapchat monetization concept is Freemium. The free version contains sponsored content, while the premium one has no ads and gives users access to some extra features.

At the same time, the app follows the AIDA marketing model combining it with recent technology innovations (face recognition, augmented reality, and self-learning data engine). The app attracts users rising their Awareness, Interest, and Desire and then provoking a target Action.

There also plenty of services and features that are provided by Snapchat for money. Here, we listed all of them:

  • Regular advertising (Stories).You’ll hardly find a global brand that doesn’t have its account on Snapchat. To promote commercial content brands pay to the app. Such content will be shown to targeted Snapchat users in Discover section between Stories of their friends. Snapchat will automatically choose people who are likely to appreciate the ad show it to them. Usually, brands pay $0.10–0.15 per view having millions of them daily. Links could be attached to the ads.
  • Sponsored geofiltered content (Snaps). Brands and public people can purchase sponsored geofilters and upload snaps with them in order to promote themselves on local markets. Example – local shopping offers. Such snaps appear between regular ones with a special sign.
  • Snap Ads and API. Companies have special status on Snapchat and have access to additional promotional instruments that simplify ad management and makes it easier to analyze the efficiency of their market campaign. Snap Ads allows brands to put their animated advertisement between regular friends’ snaps.
  • Commercial partnership. A company can become a Snapchat special partner. In this case, they can use specially designed promotional tools like marks of events on snaps, customized profile design, and sponsored lenses to raise brand awareness and increase customer loyalty. Sponsored lenses can be used by Snapchat audience for free. Such campaigns are not necessarily commercial, but sometimes are charitable or just social.
  • In-app purchases and premium package. Snapchat users can pay to view snaps again or get premium access to the app. The premium version contains additional lenses and extra features. Premium Snapchat accounts are private and sometimes the premium concept of the app is criticized for being used for adult content sharing for money.


In 2019, Snapchat is an intriguing hybrid of multimedia-based private messenger and social media platform. In just a few years, the startup has managed to become the leader of the US and several European markets, having successfully completed such giants as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The success of the app is based on several factors. First, its developers managed to create their own hybrid niche by introducing text messenger alternate. Second, Snapchat is always armed with the latest innovations. For example, it was one of the first to introduce face recognition feature in the app.

Snapchat's current profit is colossal, and the audience consists of the most active young class. That gives the company an opportunity to earn a lot from advertising while running a Freemium app.

If you want to create a successful application just like Snapchat and have a couple of revolutionary ideas, all that we can advise you is not to lose a minute. If you do, your competitors will not.

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