Instagram Direct vs. Snapchat: Which is Better for You?

With direct messages Instagram is encroaching on Snapchat territory. Credit: Instagram.

(Image credit: With direct messages Instagram is encroaching on Snapchat territory. Credit: Instagram.)

With a new update to its app, Instagram now lets users send direct messages with photos or videos from one person to another, rather than just posting them to a public profile for the whole world to see. This might be Instagram's attempt to combat Snapchat, the temporary-photo app with a somewhat shady reputation for use in sending nude pics. So which app is the better fit for you? Let's take a look.

Who's on it each service?

Instagram: 150 million users sending 55 million photos per day; available on iOS, Android and a Windows Phone beta version.

Snapchat: Estimated at 60 million users sending 400 million snaps per day (the company hasn't given out official numbers); available on iOS and Android.

Takeaway: There's a better chance you have friends on Instagram (unless you're in the Snapchat demographic, typically teens), and while Instagram users don't share as much now, that could change with the new Direct feature.

What can each app do?

Instagram: You can take photos or videos up to 15 seconds long and post them to an online profile. Tagging people in the photos sends them an alert. And now you can also send the pics or vids directly to a friend.

Snapchat: You can take photos or videos up to 10 seconds long and send them to a friend. The pics have a timer from 1 to 10 seconds (you decide), and they are deleted once the timer finishes. Your recipients can only watch the videos once. You can also add content to your Snapchat Story, a profile that friends can see and whose content lasts for just 24 hours.

Takeaway: Instagram is great if you want an ongoing conversation with friends. Snapchat's focus is on ephemeral moments.

How can you customize content?

Instagram: Has 20 filters that let you change the color and tint of photos for different effects, such as making an image black-and-white or sepia-toned. You can also add text captions to photos.

Snapchat: You can draw doodles with your finger on the screen to alter photos or videos, with a huge variety of colors. You can also modify how long a photo lasts before it disappears..

Takeaway: With Instagram, you can seriously alter your image for an arty effect. And if you want captions on your photos, you will have to use Instagram, or hand draw letters with Snapchat. 

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Where else can you share pics and vids?

Instagram: In addition to your Instagram profile and via direct messages to friends, you can also share on other social networks: Facebook (which owns Instagram), Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare. Also, you can geotag photos, to appear on a map on your profile.

Snapchat: There are no options outside Snapchat.

Takeaway: Snaps are for just you and your friends, whereas Instagrams are meant to be shared with the world.

What app is better for you?

If you post to a lot of social networks, see yourself as more of a photographer than a selfie-shooter and want to share your meals or your nights out with everyone, Instagram is the choice for you. If you want a simple way to send moments — fun, sexy or otherwise — to people you just befriended at a club or concert, or to send to friends who can't keep the images long enough to tease you, go with Snapchat. 

But now that Instagram also has a picture-messaging function, a lot of the reason to use Snapchat has gone away — except the ability to erase your tracks afterwards. So, unless you have a tendency to overshare, and then regret it, go with Instagram.

Follow Kevin Ohannessian at @khohannessian and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Kelly Ohannessian is a freelance writer and editor. With more than 15 years of experience, she works with a focus on covering the creative aspects of the gaming industry. Her articles have appeared on Medium, Fast Company, Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Gamespot, and many more. Currently, she works as a manager at Brooklyn Game Lab.