Last month, Uber unveiled a totally redesigned and streamlined version of its app that featured a cleaner interface and way less confusion around which service to request. The company also promised to add a couple of new things: a Snapchat filter and the ability to use a friend’s location as your destination. Today, those features go live, and The Verge got an early look to see how it works.
The Snapchat filter only works when you’re in the vehicle en route to your destination. Swipe up to show Uber’s new “feed,” and you’ll see a prompt to unlock several new Snapchat filters. That redirects you to Snapchat, where the app will ask whether you want to unlock the filter for a short duration. The idea here is that you’ll only be able to use Uber’s Snapchat filters when you’re in an Uber vehicle.
There’s a standard Uber filter, one that displays the estimated time of arrival at your destination, and a “mystery” filter — which for me just displayed a gold cup that said Uber.
Full disclosure: I got a little car sick while trying to unlock all the filters and take a selfie in Snapchat. Granted, I’m not the target demographic for this feature. I’m sure seasoned Snapchat users could do it with their eyes closed.
Still, my question is who is this for? Is their a segment of Uber users who have been clamoring for this? I certainly have seen a fair share of Snaps that take place in the backseat of an Uber, as well as plenty of Uber drivers who became unsuspecting co-stars in their customers’ stories. Heck, some drivers are just asking to be shared with the world. Like this driver-slash-DJ. He deserves his own TV show.
I didn’t get a chance to use the “Uber to a Person” feature since it wasn’t live yet for anyone else. But the concept is certainly intriguing. Imagine being able to tell your Uber driver, through the app, to take you to a friend rather than a place? Uber said the goal behind its app redesign was to create shortcuts in the hopes of shaving milliseconds off the user experience.
In order to use a friend as a destination, Uber requires that person to agree to share their location with Uber. This may raise privacy questions, especially among non-Uber users, who will receive the request as a text message rather than a push notification. Of course if they object, they can always decline to share their location.
Uber says the Snapchat filter is a “fun and social way” to let the world know you’re in an Uber. A more cynical take is this fits in nicely with Uber’s corporate mission to stamp its brand on as many platforms as it can. A Snapchat filter is an easy way to ensure the Uber logo is featured prominently on a very popular social platform. And it entices riders to become more engaged with Uber’s app.
The company clearly desires to turn its core product into something more than just a way to summon a car. It also wants to be a middleman for food delivery, social media sharing, IRL meet-ups, and much more.
Uber isn’t the first ride-sharing company to see the Snapchat as a way to solidify its cred among millennials. Lyft has been partnering with Snapchat celebrities for months to promote exclusive discounts and free rides. The company even gave Kylie Jenner a year’s worth of free rides after the reality TV star was suspended from Uber, in the hopes she would promote Lyft to her millions of Snapchat followers — which she did.