After a year of speculation, Snapchat has finally revealed its first hardware product. “Spectacles,” as the company has branded them, are a pair of video-recording sunglasses that are due to be released this fall.
Alongside the new product comes a rebranding of the company itself, now known as Snap Inc. The decision to rename reflects the firm’s expansion beyond its flagship app, CEO Evan Spiegel told the Wall Street Journal.
Unlike the rumors that have been circulating around the product, Spectacles are not the augmented reality glasses everyone thought they would be. Instead, Snapchat Snap Inc. is offering a hands-free video recording experience that gives you the flexibility to quickly record your surroundings in the short “snap” format the company is associated with. And, crucially, to look good while doing it.
The Spectacles Spiegel unveiled come with stylish, round frames and will reportedly be available in three color variations — black, teal, and coral. Judging by the images in WSJ Magazine, the cameras are housed in the hinges next to the frames — tapping them allows you to snap 10 seconds of video from your POV.
The camera features a 115-degree angle lens, which is wider than a typical smartphone’s and “closer to the eyes’ natural field of view.” Spectacles’ clips wirelessly sync to a smartphone, allowing users to easily share their videos — although the company did not confirm whether the Snapchat app would be a prerequisite to video distribution. Playful customization is key to Snapchat’s success, so it will be interesting to see if it allows users to add its app’s existing features (such as filters, geofilters, and doodles) to their clips.
The videos that the sunglasses capture are circular, in order to give them that “human” feel. In fact, Spiegel — who tested a prototype of the product as far back as early 2015 — claims he felt like he was experiencing a “memory” when watching the footage he recorded.
Spectacles will retail for $130 when released. There is no word on whether different styles will be aimed at men and women, and for now we can only assume they will be unisex. Spiegel, who is known to have a love for fashion, and a talent for product design (which he studied at Stanford), was photographed wearing the sunglasses by iconic fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld — further emphasizing the product’s chic presentation. Additionally, Spiegel said they will only be released in a limited amount, a strategy likely aimed at drumming up hype.
Snap Inc. isn’t the first company to attempt to bridge the world of tech and fashion with a wearable. Everyone is familiar with the Apple Watch, which initially came in a 14k gold edition, and now offers a Hermès band with its newest iteration. There’s also the product that everyone thought Snapchat would ape; Google Glass. During its steady decline, Google released a Glass variation designed by fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg.
The major difference between those examples, which retailed for well over a thousand dollars, and Spectacles is the price. Snap Inc. evidently realizes how important it is to offer a sense of style when it comes to wearables, but it also knows its existing market (teens and young millennials) won’t fork out the sums associated with luxury products.
Like so many tech companies, Snapchat managed to drop the ball when it came to revealing its product. Earlier today, a Spectacles promo was spotted on YouTube by Businesss Insider. The video, which was quickly taken down by Snap Inc., offered the first glimpse of the product in color. In the clip, an actor is seen wearing the black version of the sunglasses, with the circular camera (featuring a yellow ring around it) lighting up when tapped.
Will Spectacles turn out to be this fall’s must-have fashion accessory? Spiegel tried to deflate the pomp (and maybe even ridicule) that the product could attract by stating the sunglasses are more like a fun “toy.” This could also be a shrewd marketing move intended to make them more appealing to Snap’s younger users, or a tactic to deflect any criticism if they fail to attract consumers. Nonetheless, the company formerly known as Snapchat has finally shown the world its next move. All that remains to be seen is whether its highly engaged users come along for the ride.