This Is What Snapchat's East Asian Competitors Do To Your Selfies
"The beauty filters make me look cute, but I'm cute as hell anyway."
Sian Butcher / Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed
Earlier this year, an app called
Meitu, made by the Chinese technology company of the same name, was discovered by Americans and Europeans and went viral. Photo apps like Snapchat and Instagram reign supreme in the West, but outside this sphere, there's a whole universe of popular photo editing apps like Meitu that most English-speaking people haven't tapped into yet. And if the viral – albeit short-lived – success of Meitu is anything to go by, it's only a matter of time before similar apps from East Asia break into the Western market again. So it's probably time to get to know what's out there.
We decided to test out three popular East Asian camera apps.
Naver / Meitu / Line Corporation
We picked three apps to try, based on their popularity in East Asia, their growth in countries outside East Asia, and recommendations from current users. Snow is an app released in 2015 by Naver, a Korean company that also owns the popular messaging app Line. On Snow you can add filters and stickers to selfies, create stories, and send pictures to friends who also use the app. Snow boasts 100 million users worldwide, and is particularly popular in South Korea and Japan.
BeautyPlus is another app created by the company behind Meitu. It allows users to edit selfies, as well as offering filter options. BeautyPlus is popular in Japan, and like other Meitu partner apps, its appeal is quickly growing outside Asia.
Foodie is owned by Line Corporation, an offshoot of Naver. The app was originally created so people could take better photos of their food, but users have found that it's also pretty great for seflies. Each filter is named after the type of food or drink it best complements. Foodie is popular in South Korea and Taiwan, where it was the No. 1 app early last year.
We asked BuzzFeed staff members to try out these three popular East Asian beauty apps and tell us whether they'd consider swapping their staple photo apps for these alternatives.
Francis and Amna's reactions to Snow:
Francis: This is exciting. I quite like dicking around on Snapchat and showing the results to my girlfriend. I don't share selfies, just take them. Amna: I like how it affects the lighting. I don't know if I'm imagining it, but it makes my teeth look really good. This is so cute – I look adorable. Francis: Ooo, I love being a kitty. But this has also done something to my face. Amna: I definitely want to keep this. They make me 100% more girly than I actually am. Francis: I don't really like the colour filters – they're not fun, they just give me a sepia tone. Amna: I prefer the cute flowers and kittens. Francis: There's a lot of options for what to do. It's a little bit more confusing than Snapchat. It seems more cute than playful, and I prefer the playfulness of Snapchat.
Amna: So many options. I could play with this all day. I think I prefer it to Snapchat.
Paul and Cassie's reactions to Snow:
Paul: I only really use Snapchat, and then it's for the filters as they make me look cute as hell. Cassie: Yeah, I really like the Snapchat bunny filter. Both open the app. Cassie: I think it's already doing something – my skin looks a little bit blurred. That makes me feel uncomfortable, but then again Snapchat does a similar thing. Paul: The pretty filter doesn't do anything for me – I added the white filter and I'm still pale. Cassie: The glasses filter makes me want to get glasses. I look so cute! Would you recommend this to friends? Cassie: I think it's fun but I'm not really someone who starts trends, so unless my friends were using it I probably wouldn't. Also, a lot of the filters you get are similar to those on Snapchat.
Paul: The beauty filters make me look cute, but I'm cute as hell anyway and Snapchat does that too, so I don't feel like this is very different. Like Cassie says, there are a lot of filters and they don't appear to go away, so maybe this is good for that, but I'm not particularly upset about anything it's done to my face.
Rachael and Ryan's reactions to Snow:
Ryan: I don’t use a lot of Snapchat-like apps. I’ve tried a few times to get into them, but I think I’m just outside of the age demographic they appeal to. Rachael: Quite honestly, the only reason I used Snapchat these days is to catch up on my friends' weekends or see what celebrities are doing. But I will mess about with a filter when I'm on there. Ryan: I like Snow! Rachael: I feel it really brings out my cute side – like with Snapchat, the filters feel alluring. This is just innocent filters, like a cute little fox eating its dinner.
Ryan: The filters are great. If I were a Korean teenager I would probably be on Snow pretty much constantly.
Rachael: Yeah, I wish more of my friends used this. It's great for taking a cute selfie and acting like you know a great app no one else does, but it'd be cool for more people over here to take it up.
Francis and Amna's reactions to BeautyPlus:
Amna: Oh, this is cute. I don't get it, but it's cute. Oh wow, wait, I don't like it. Francis: I don't like how it's automatically made me a bunny without my consent. Amna: I don't like any of the makeup available. I get it, but it just doesn't feel natural. They're a bit too vibrant for me, which I guess is weird as I'm Asian. Francis: It's like they've photoshopped your face a bit. It also keeps trying to get me to download other apps. It keeps getting rid of anything at all natural about my face. Amna: I'm still trying to find a feature that works on me. Oh wait, can I thin my nose with this? I quite like the acne one but it just takes away too much. Francis: I'd never use this on a photo. Amna: I prefer fun apps – I'm still me with them, just with some bunny ears on. I feel like I'm seeing everything wrong with my face and how I can fix it, and that's addictive and I don't like that.
Francis: It has limited appeal.
Paul and Cassie's reactions to BeautyPlus:
Paul: Immediately it's asking me for loads of permissions. Cassie: It wants me to tell it if I'm a girl or a boy. Paul: I fall in the age band second from top, so I feel stupid-old right now. Cassie: I'm on the anime cam, and the camera alone isn't changing my face as much as Snow did. Oh, this has blurred me out – I am blemish-free. I don't really like the idea of having spots in real life, but I get kind of offended when a filter takes away blemishes. I've also noticed it makes my lips and nose tiny. Paul: Oh. The photo editor has offered me to "swipe to get the firm skin of a young girl". Cassie: It is interesting how you can change the makeup levels and stuff, but it's not really changing my makeup, it's changing my jawline. Paul shares a photo he's edited. Cassie: It looks like you've been left in a serum for a week and your features have been rubbed out. Paul: I don't like the teeth-whitening, it's made me feel bad about my own teeth. Fixing bags under my eyes just makes me look gaunt. This has just made me feel bad about my face. I wouldn't use it on social media, because I don't look like that. It's just criticism – your eyes suck and your teeth are yellow.
Cassie: It'd make me feel a bit dirty changing my face then pretending it's me. I like fake filters, like obviously with Snow, I'm not a cat in real life, and I don't mind.
Rachael and Ryan's reactions to BeautyPlus:
Ryan: BeautyPlus was sort of confusing, to be honest. Rachael: There's a lot going on, and I'm not sure where I have to go to do it. When I click on one section it opens another app. I just want to make myself look pretty jeez. Ryan: I did notice the filters were a good balance between making me look silly and making me look cute. I’m not a Chinese teenager so I don’t know what they think is cool, but these filters do seem a little cheesier than Snow’s. Rachael: Once I found the "beautifying" features, I weirdly enjoyed it. I tried the app out while wearing no makeup and it made my skin glow in a way that rosehip oil and vitamin C lotions could only dream of. It's not perfect though – the "tone' feature literally changes your skin tone. That's a bit creepy. Ryan: I weirdly love how the cat filter made my skin look though. Very pink, but in a calming way.
Rachael: TBH I've used a similar app to hide dark circles under my eyes before and I wouldn't be adverse to using this to do the same. I kind of look a bit like a glowstick, but I'm into it.
Francis and Amna's reactions to Foodie:
Amna: Mmm, this is fine. Francis: Yeah, it's okay. Amna: Ohh, the doughnut filter is working for me. Francis: I feel like it makes pictures fuzzy for me. Yeah, I'm not keen on this. Amna: Bring back the first one, I like being cute. Francis: None of these would replace the apps I already have. I'm going to delete them immediately. Amna: The second one would be super helpful for the week before your period when you get spots and that. But I think I'm going to keep Snow as it's not that threatening.
Both Amna and Francis close Foodie and go back to Snow.
Paul and Cassie's reactions to Foodie:
Cassie: Filters always make my hair look ginger. I quite like it. Paul: This is very basic, it's just changing colour layout. Romantic just makes me look a lot pinker. I'd usually do this sort of editing through Apple's default app, which has limited options, so this is useful. Cassie: I really like the black-and-white filter, a lot. Paul: I'm probably going to use one of these. Cassie: I'm into it, I really like this one. Paul: Our office photographer can be fired now. Cassie: It doesn't change my face massively – I like to think this is how I look. I like it, it has more range than Instagram and I can imagine it also works well for food.
Paul: This feels harmless and nice.
Rachael and Ryan's reactions to Foodie:
Ryan: Foodie is boring! I don’t like it. It’s boring. Rachael: OMG I love this. Ryan: There are no fun filters and the stuff it did to my face is baaaaasic. Rachael: I like that it does nothing more than make me look a little perkier than normal. The effect is minimal, but makes my tired makeup-free face look like I'm in a fancy-ass moisturiser advert. Ryan: I guess one of the filters made my skin look slightly better than normal, but there are so many apps that do that. I say pass. Foodie just feels boring and posh.
Rachael: How can an app be posh? Whatever – you're missing out on crispy filter magic.
So what app did everyone like the best?
Amna: I love Snow. Francis: None of them, really. Paul: Snow is my favourite, but Foodie is genuinely useful. Cassie: I like Foodie the best but Snow second, because it's cute but I hate the face-changing effects. Rachael: I love them all for various maybe bad reasons, but have to go with Foodie.
Ryan: Snow is clearly superior. It’s the Cadillac of apps you can take photos of your face with.