Snapchat came a long way since launching its ephemeral messaging app half a decade ago. Since then, the Venice, California-based company introduced a plethora of features which made Snapchat one of the most popular apps among millennials on the planet, rebranded itself into Snap Inc., and jumped into hardware development. Its first piece of consumer electronics is called Spectacles. As the name suggests, Spectacles are smart glasses designed to ennoble your experience of using Snapchat.
Back when they were first leaked online in September, some people were drawing comparisons between Snapchat Spectacles and Google Glass. However, the two products couldn’t be more different. In fact, they’re so radically unlike each other by design. One look at Snapchat’s marketing campaign for Spectacles is evidence enough that the California firm is focused on presenting its first connected glasses as a cool and stylish gadget which not only allows you to record Snaps in an extremely convenient manner but also serves as a fashion accessory. Likewise, the product is sold as such given how Spectacles can currently only be purchased from eye-catching Snap-branded vending machines which are randomly popping up across the United States and disappear after 24 hours, just like Snaps do. This is a limited edition product for Snapchat users and the California firm made sure to point that out as efficiently as possible.
From the design perspective, Spectacles are sunglasses made for Snapchat. Sure, they’re smart glasses by definition as they can record videos and wirelessly upload them to one’s smartphone but this product wasn’t designed as an all-purpose gadget that Google Glass is. Because of that, Spectacles are much easier to use than what one would expect from a connected piece of eyewear. Pressing a button at the top left corner of the glasses initiates a 10-second recording which can be prolonged by additional 10 seconds, up to half a minute in total. Recordings can be automatically uploaded to a smartphone over a Wi-Fi connection, and charging Spectacles is as simple as placing them in their case. In comparison to Google Glass’ relatively complicated touch interface, Spectacles are as intuitive as smart glasses can be. There’s no augmented reality in the mix here, just a pair of sunglasses which allow you to take your snapping to the next level. It’s a significantly simpler idea, but that’s exactly why it has more potential to succeed.
That’s the main thing Snapchat learned from Google. Instead of trying to develop an all-purpose piece of connected eyewear that the market may not be ready for, the social media giant focused on one very specific purpose and designed an entire product around it. This allowed the company more freedom when it came to designing the actual look of its glasses thanks to the fact that it didn’t have to fit a whole lot of sensors into the device. Last but not least, this approach not only made Spectacles more intuitive to use but also significantly cheaper. An affordable price point is important when you’re targeting a young audience that Snapchat obviously does. Sure, one could argue that the initial iteration of Google Glass was aimed at tech enthusiasts and developers and not millennials, but it was still a consumer product that ended up discontinued because consumers deemed it too expensive. As it turns out, even tech enthusiasts will think twice before shelling out $1,500 for a piece of emerging technology.
In addition to that, Business Insider reports that sources close to Snap Inc. claim the company is absolutely terrified of being associated with Google Glass. That’s why Spectacles sacrifice their battery life and light up when recording, so that people don’t feel like someone is always monitoring them. Spectacles weren’t designed as a futuristic gadget but a convenient accessory. That approach doesn’t indicate that Snap Inc. lacks the ambition Google has as the company is reportedly also working on augmented reality wearables. The key difference is that Snap Inc. isn’t planning on launching that technology commercially anytime soon because they believe people simply aren’t ready for it. Given how the first iteration of Google Glass was received, they may be onto something.