LOS ANGELES: Snapchat has announced a major update of its chat service, including a range of new multimedia features that are expected to ramp up its challenge to rival conversation apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Describing its product update as "Chat 2.0", the image-messaging app said in a blog post that it wants the platform to be "the best way to communicate" and second only to actually meeting up with your friends face-to-face.

"You can start by sending a few chats, and when your friend shows up, start talking or video chatting instantly with one tap," Snapchat said.

The company is introducing a host of new features, including video and audio calls that users can make with just one tap, as well as video and audio notes, which allow a short message to be left which the recipient can open the next time they open the app.

In addition, users will be able to use more than 200 stickers, which are ready-made reactions and pictures that can be sent to friends within chat. This is a user-friendly option for those who prefer to express themselves without words or don't have the time to look for other choices.

Snapchat is also introducing Auto-Advance Stories, which allow users to catch up with friends. As soon as one story finishes, the next one starts automatically after users simply swipe to skip ahead or pull down to exit.

"What we love most about the new Chat is how easily you can transition between all these ways of communicating — just like you do in person," Snapchat said.

Finally, the company also updated its terms of service and privacy policy to make it clear that private communication will not be stockpiled and that users' friends will not be shown an ongoing history of everything that has been posted.

"We believe that this approach makes Snapchat feel less like a permanent record, and more like a conversation with friends," it said.

Data sourced from Snapchat, the Verge; additional content by Warc staff