Snapchat revives its 'hands-free camera' sunglasses
Whatever will they think of next?
Evan Spiegel must really like sunglasses. The Snapchat founder has brought back Spectacles, the company's camera-fitted shades, despite the $40-million they cost the company when sales flopped upon launch.
The updated version of Spectacles features a slimmer frame, water resistance and six different designs to choose from. Like their predecessors, they can be used to record 10-second video clips and take photos, which are automatically uploaded to the users’ Snapchat app on their phone.
Spectacles were widely regarded as a disaster after only selling 220,000 in their first year, a measly figure when you compare it to tech products like the iPhone, of which 1.4 million left shelves in 2007.But Snapchat is as different from Apple as sunglasses are from phones. Snap says it is happy with that sales figure. It seems that they fared far better than Google, which was widely reported to have sold just tens of thousands of its now defunct Glass eyewear in the year following its launch.
While Google Glass seemed creepy, Spectacles do not. A set of tiny lights surrounding the camera make anyone in direct sight fully aware that they are being captured on camera.
Spectacles, branded as a “hands-free camera” are less intrusive than a camera phone, which often causes a crowd to pull awkward faces, manoeuvre limbs in unnatural positions and, perhaps the biggest crime of all, cause women in group shots to bend at the knee and fold forward as if to stay inside an invisible frame.Spectacles are now water resistant – note, not water-proof – and Snap’s marketing videos show wearers diving straight into the pool for underwater shots. This is a crucial upgrade, following customer complaints that the sunglasses were failing to hold up when they got wet.
My own pair of the first version enjoyed a well-used but relatively short life span. I wore it on a kayak where it met its end at the hands of a freak wave. I continued to wear the Spectacles because, despite losing broadcasting capabilities, they still performed their primary function and at over R1,700 a pair, I’m sure most owners would have done the same.
The camera is not broadcast quality, but why should it be? Your smartphone is a better option for filming longer clips but the Spectacles are good enough to make crisp films that fit a smartphone screen.There’s no need for uploading and exporting either; they sync instantly to Snapchat. You can send the clips and photos elsewhere using the Snapchat export function, too.
Snap says there’s no target demographic for the Spectacles but Snapchat has always been a favourite with a younger crowd.
The glasses cross an interesting line in web culture war. Products, investors often claim, only succeed if they perform a useful purpose. While there are plenty who will just ask “why?” when they see a pair of the Bluetooth sunglasses, just take a look at the Snapchat and Instagram influencers and you can see there are plenty of snap-happy social media addicts who will use these all the time.If lessons have been learned, there’s no reason Spectacles can’t become a cult product for those obsessed with documenting their day-to-day lives.
- The Daily Telegraph