Snapchat finally adds live chat for real-time conversations – WhatsApp, watch out! (VIDEO)

By Alexandra Burlacu | May 02, 2014 05:28 AM EDT

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The controversial Snapchat app has added a brand new chat feature to its self-destructing messaging service, now allowing for live conversation.

Up until now, Snapchat has never offered the possibility of having a real-time conversation. The ephemeral messaging service allowed users to send photos or videos that would self-destruct, and the company has drawn lots of interest ever since it started its journey back in 2011. Despite plenty of criticism and some legal hurdles, Snapchat continued to evolve and now it's taking out the big guns to go after heavyweight players such as WhatsApp and other popular mobile messaging apps.

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"Until today, we felt Snapchat was missing an important part of conversation: presence. There's nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you're chatting," the company wrote in its latest blog post. "We could not be more thrilled to announce Chat."

To start chatting with a friend within the app, simply swipe right on the friend's name in your Snapchat inbox and chat away. Messages that both you and your friend have viewed will disappear as soon as you leave the chat screen. If you'd like to keep them, you can always take a screenshot to save the conversation.

"We let you know when a friend is Here in your Chat so that you can give each other your full attention. And if you're both Here, simply press and hold to share live video - and Chat face-to-face!" the company further touts.

In other words, users will also be able to video chat live, just as they would on Skype or with Apple's popular FaceTime. The video chatting feature will work on both Wi-Fi and Cellular connections, but keep in mind that data consumption is typically quite heavy when using video over Cellular. Consequently, it is advisable to video chat when using a Wi-Fi connection to avoid draining your data.

While the mobile messaging market is becoming increasingly competitive, Snapchat believes it stands out from the crowd because it offers a different experience compared to rival messaging services.

"Messaging apps are focused on the number of types of content that you can send," Evan Spiegel, one of the company's founders, told the New York Times in an interview. "We are focused on what you are sending and how. This is really what we think mobile conversations should be."

Snapchat may have started small, but the company now aims to transform its service into a primary hub for mobile messaging, offering users all they need so they wouldn't have to switch to another app for other functionality such as live chat. The Snapchat app is definitely becoming more sophisticated, and it's only the beginning. To learn more about this new feature, check out the video below.

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