Recently, Snapchat added a “Memories” feature and Instagram added a feature called “Stories.” Consequentially, both platforms now allow a user to stitch together a “story” (a composite vertical video composed of a number of short video clips.) Here I will compare and contrast the two platforms’ versions of the “Story.”
Snapchat was clearly the first to support this feature, although until Memories it was limited to clips (they call them “snaps”) created by the camera and tools (drawing, text, filters, layers) available inside the Snapchat app. Instagram Stories supported both in app created clips as well as video clips from the user’s “camera roll” from the outset. Both platforms also allow still images to be inserted in a story.
Let me begin with the looks of the resulting stories, as this is where the major differences are. Snapchat has two “modes” of display. When the imagery is produced by the app camera/tools, the results are nominally full-screen 9×16 images. (These are embedded with pillor/letter boxing on devices such as the iPad that have other aspect ratios.) When an image is uploaded from the camera roll, the resulting story is placed in an additional white frame. This frame’s size seems to be device and/or OS dependent. It is 45% of the screen on my iPad 3rd generation device.
Here is how My Story looks on Snapchat on the iPad:
And here are the calculations:
iPad retina Native Screen Size: 1536×2084 = 3,021,024 = 100%
Snapchat iPad app window size (2x): 1284×1930 = 2,478,120 = 82% (screen)
Snapchat iPad app video size (2x): 880×1560 = 1,372,800 = 45% (screen) 55% (app window)
And here are the calculations:
Moto-G screen 720×1280 = 921,600 = 100%
Snapchat window 720×1280 = 921,600 = 100%
Snapchat video window 554×988 = 537,472 = 58%
On Instagram, the resulting story is full-screen, independent of source, however the video may be cropped. It is not clear exactly what the expected video aspect ratio of Instagram might be. When I send it a 9×16 (0.5625 aspect ratio) 720P video (720×1280 pixels), it crops it to 720x1183n (0.60 aspect ratio) on my Moto-G/Android and to 1280×1919 (0.66 aspect ratio) on the iPad device. The cropping seem to come from the top and/or bottom. Here are the iPad image (top) and the Moto-G image (bottom). Note also that since Instagram Stories are full-screen, the graffiti (User name/avatar, progress bars, volume bar, view count, dismiss X, …) obscure parts of the already cropped top and bottom of the imagery.
Both platforms can create a story from multiple clips. On Snapchat a clip can be a maximum of 10 seconds. On Instagram 15 seconds is the maximum clip. On playback on both platforms, there is a perceptible visual and audible “gap” between clips. I believe this to be a artifact of the OS overhead and/or OS/codec interface, not a glitch of the programs or the streaming. For example, if I view clips using the MX video player on my Moto-G, I perceive the same type of gap between clips as on Instagram or Snapchat, even though the clips are local to the device. These gaps are annoying and detrimental to the ability to create a decent storytelling experience, especially if music is included!
With respect to the resolution of the imagery, Snapchat appears to reduce the resolution. My 720P imagery is not reproduced in HD type resolution, more likely 360P or less. Instagram does not appear to degrade the resolution, however the cropping does degrade the visual appearance.
As regards the Audio, the fidelity of the internal speakers of most mobile devices is so bad, it doesn’t much matter. I could not discern any difference between the platforms, even with high quality headphones. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any. Someone with much better audio skill and understanding will have to chime in here.
Turning to the creation of a story, the platforms are very comparable in capabilities, especially for uploading already created video. I find the interface on Snapchat to be faster and less error prone than Instagram. Snapchat appears to queue multiple clips, while if I try to upload more than one at a time on Instagram they tend to fail. Additionally, there are more steps and screens to navigate on Instagram than Snapchat. The presentation order of clips seems to be reverse alphabetical in Instagram also.
The bottom line seems to be that the platforms are very similar! The annoying gap between clips appears to be unavoidable (except by not requiring the clipping in the first place, which is the obvious correct answer.) The trade-off in addition to your personal preference seems to be whether you prefer your uploaded video to be excessively framed (Snapchat) or cropped (Instagram.) Neither is particularly appealing. Additionally, Snapchat seems to lose some of the resolution in your video.