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Report: Apple developing iPhone-based social video app to take on Snapchat

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Snapchat. Periscope. Vine. Facebook Live. Instagram. Ephemeral video apps all, built for sharing clips of late-night debauchery with your closest buddies. And they’ve obviously tapped a nerve.

Cisco predicts the amount of video streamed via mobile will grow to 11 times the current rate by 2020. It’s really unsurprising then that Apple, rarely a company content to sit on the sidelines, wants to tap the veritable gold mine with a pick of its own making. Bloomberg reports that the Cupertino, California, firm is working on an enhanced camera app for iOS that allows users to quickly edit and share video they’ve shot on an iPhone.

The repositioned camera app has serious development chops behind it. Programming is being spearheaded by the same core team that worked on Apple’s Final Cut Pro and iMovie software, and Joe Weil, former president of a New York-based video production company and co-developer of video blogging app KnowMe, is lending “creative vision” and overseeing day-to-day dev work.

Things could change between now and the feature’s eventual debut, but current plans call for functionality that’ll allow iPhone users record short video (less than a minute in length), apply “filters” and “drawings” to said video, and send the resulting masterwork to contacts in their phone’s address book or social network friends list. And that’s it.

The focus is on “ease of use,” Bloomberg reports — specifically, on building a collection of “[simple] video editing with tools that appeal to the generation of users growing up with Snapchat and Instagram.” Apple, in other words, is angling to compete squarely with incumbents in the social space like Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Line, and WeChat.

Don’t hold your breath for a near-future release, though. The company’s targeting a 2017 ship date on “recent” iPhone and iPad models, potentially alongside the revamped iMessage that the iPhone maker unveiled at its WorldWide Developer Conference in June. But it’s reportedly contingent on the internal version meeting a strict “timetable” and “expectations.” And there’s another potential wrinkle in the form of Apple’s internal privacy team, which has the power to torpedo new features and apps if it determines that they could “expose too much user data.”

If the feature’s delayed, it wouldn’t be the first. According to Bloomberg, Apple poured significatn resources into a photo management app based on machine learning, dubbed Memories, tentatively, two years ago before folding its functionality into the default iOS photos app.

Apple under increased pressure to pursue lucrative new forms of revenue. It posted its first year-over-year decline since 2003, and shipments of the iPhone are expected to miss expectations. Revenue for the second fiscal quarter of this year $50.6 billion, down $58 billion a year ago. And market analyst Ming-Chi Kuo projects an 11.6 percent decline in iPhone sales — significantly below the projected industry average.

Video isn’t the only social arena that Apple’s pursuing. Bloomberg said that over the past year, the iPhone maker has experimented with what it describes as an advancement of “proactive assistance,” the anticipatory recommendation system that debuted as part of iOS 9.

The current implementation sports predictive search bar that surfaces commonly used apps, most frequently contacted friends, and most commonly visited websites, and shows reminders for upcoming flights, proximate weather conditions, and traffic warnings. The forthcoming iteration, though, reportedly packs a “system-level” mechanism that makes sharing content between contacts easier. It’d allow iOS circulate text messages, emails, and other social media content among one another in “a single window” — potentially, it seems, like Google’s Allo messenger.

Apple could’ve picked a worse sector than social. According to market analytics firm eMarketer, Facebook’s on track to capture more than $16 billion in ad revenues worldwide this year — a jump of 42 percent over 2014. Instagram alone is predicted to generate $1.5 billion in revenue by the end of 2016. And Twitter is expected to rake in $2 billion. In total, worldwide social media revenue is projected to reach $41 billion in 2017.

And that’s not to mention pure usage. In the United States, people report spending more than 216 minutes per week using social media on a mobile device. And by 2020, the number of folks on social networks is expected to surpass 2.7 billion. That, needless to say, is a lot of valuable eyeballs.

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Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
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