Snap and Verizon partner on 5G and new digital ads that will be overlaid on top of the real world

Key Points
  • Verizon and Snap will work together for 5G augmented reality features. 
  • Snap sees broader adoption of AR as leading advertisers to grow their investment in the platform. 
  • The partnership will also have a co-marketing element, with Verizon preloading the Snapchat app on select 5G phones, for example. 
An example of one of Snap's "Landmarker" lenses.
Snap YouTube video

Verizon and Snap on Thursday announced a partnership under which the two will work together on 5G and new augmented reality initiatives that allow users and advertisers to overlay digital objects on top of the real world.

Right now Snapchat has features including its "Landmarker Lenses," which let users see real-life locations with augmented reality layered on top. For instance, a lens with a "Game of Thrones" theme that launched earlier this year showed the Flatiron building in New York City as an icy perch for a dragon. Sometimes it's also a drippy slice of pepperoni pizza, but you can only see these effects through the Snapchat app.

Snap also has "Portal Lenses," which let Snapchat users walk inside a "portal" into another digital experience where they can walk around and interact with an environment. One launched with Gucci last week as part of the brand's "Gift Giving" campaign. Again, you need the Snapchat app to partake.

But, there are relatively few of these experiences. The partnership could help make these sorts of augmented reality effects more widespread. Verizon and Snap said future effects will include ways for consumers to experience live events in new ways through Snapchat.

Snap YouTube video

Snapchat is banking on AR for ad growth

In its third-quarter earnings report in October, Snapchat said its community had created more than 600,000 augmented reality "Lenses" in its Lens Studio. The faster and more high-quality those experiences are thanks to 5G, the more consumers are likely to want to spend time with them.

Snap's CEO, Evan Spiegel, said on the company's earnings call that augmented reality is a "natural growth opportunity" for Snap because, although it's still a relatively new technology, "it provides real utility for our community and real results for our advertisers."

Jeremi Gorman, Snap's chief business officer, added that "while early, the broad adoption of AR will lead advertisers to grow their investment in our platform as we continue to create engaging new experiences for Snapchatters and reach incremental customers."

But we still need 5G in more places

The partnership will also have a co-marketing element, with Verizon preloading the Snapchat app on select 5G phones, for example. Verizon also will have sponsorship placements within Snap Originals video series.

But consumers shouldn't expect to see these new experiences overnight. Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband service is only active in 18 cities right now. It plans to expand to more than 30 cities by the end of this year. Even so, very few devices support 5G at this point.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Snap.

Snap CEO talks about possibility of a wealth tax
Snap CEO talks about possibility of a wealth tax