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Snapchat Spectacles: Everything you need to know

Snapchat reportedly left with hundreds of thousands of unsold Spectacles

snapchat spectacles guide
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Tired of staring at your phone and ignoring your surroundings in order to stay connected? Well, Snapchat (now Snap Inc., technically) has the answer. The company’s Spectacles sunglasses have lit up the internet, a result of both the product’s unique nature and its initial limited availability.

Now that Spectacles can be purchased online, avid snappers will no doubt have lots of questions about the fashion-forward eye candy, so let’s not waste time. Scroll down to learn more about Spectacles.

How to find a pair

Snap Inc.
Snap Inc.

Spectacles (available in black, coral, or teal) went on sale in late 2016, and could only be purchased using a Snapchat Snapbot vending machine, or from the dedicated pop-up store in New York. That has all changed since the release, and Spectacles are now much easier to find and buy. If the cool tech eyewear is for you, then Spectacles can be purchased for $130 on the Spectacles website, plus taxes and shipping. Spectacles can also be purchased through Amazon for the same price, and in all the official colors.

According to two sources close to the company, Snap overestimated demand for Specatacles and are now left with hundreds of thousands of unsold units, The Information reports. The units are also apparently now sitting in warehouses, either fully assembled or in parts. The news comes after Snap CEO Evan Spiegel revealed that Spectacles sales of more than 150,000 had exceeded the company’s expectations.

In early June, Snap Inc. launched Spectacles in the United Kingdom, after first selling them only in the United States. All three colors are sold through the local Spectacles website for 130 British pounds. Amazon U.K. sells Spectacles as well, just like in the U.S.

This past summer, Snap debuted a pop-up shop in a brick and mortar location — and not just any brick and mortar location. The social media company chose none other than the famed London department store Harrods to become the first in-person vendor of the Spectacles (previously, you could only buy the glasses online or through a Snapbot vending machine).

The kiosk doesn’t really integrate much technology, surprisingly enough. Rather, there’s just a mirror for you to check out how the Spectacles look, and an Android phone that displays the sorts of 360-degree videos you can record with the eyewear.

Snapchat @Spectacles kiosk inside @Harrods in London.

— Blaire Bender (@blairebender) July 20, 2017

Snap’s pop-up Snapbot location in New York City. The store closed on February 19. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Before you buy

Well, it goes without saying, you will need an iOS or Android phone running Snapchat in order to use Spectacles. If you aren’t already a Snapchat user or you find it confusing, we don’t think Spectacles will change that outlook.

Note: You will also need to be using an iPhone 5 or newer that’s running at least iOS 8, or an Android device that’s running at least Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) with Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi Direct.

However, there are other things to keep in mind. Spectacles isn’t one-size-fits-all. For one of our editors, the Spectacles felt small and tight on the face. Snap says this can be adjusted by an optician, but be careful: applying heat or water to where the electronics are (in the front of the frame) may fry them. If Spectacles feels loose, Snap suggests tightening the screw of each temple – where the arm joins the lens frame.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to try them before you buy. If you decide you don’t like Spectacles after you receive one, Snap offers a 30-day return policy, provided you have a receipt and your pair isn’t damaged or altered. You can also exchange for a new pair if you encounter any problems that you can’t troubleshoot.

If you wear prescription glasses, you can swap out the Spectacles lenses for ones that match your prescription. An optician needs to do this for you.

Snap has released news special edition Spectacles, such as a pair designed to be compatible with goggles. There’s also a secret project in the works that involves augmented reality.

What’s in the box?

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Spectacles comes inside a magnetically-sealed, wedge-shaped case in Snap’s trademark yellow. For a glasses case it is somewhat large and hefty – you probably wouldn’t want to carry it around in your coat pocket. It’s made of a soft material that should protect the Spectacles in case of accidental drops. Inside, you’ll also fine a USB charging cord.

The case also doubles as a portable charging cradle. When seated inside the case, contact points at the joint of the Spectacles’ left arm (when folded) connect magnetically. One end of the cord ($10 for a replacement) is then connected to the case, while the other end has a standard USB connector for plugging into a computer, portable battery, or wall charger. The cord can also connect directly to the Spectacles, eliminating the need to use the case. Once the cord is attached and charging, you will see LEDs light up. Snap recommends using a USB wall charger, however, there isn’t one included.

Inside the case is a built-in battery that can be used for on-the-go, standalone recharging. When fully charged, the case can recharge a pair of Spectacles up to four times. Without the case, it takes approximately 90 minutes to fully charge a pair of Spectacles using a wall outlet, according to Snap. To see how much juice is left, double-tapping on the side of the left arm (where the shutter button is) will light up a number of LEDs that correspond to the percentage of battery life left. You can also find battery info via the Spectacles menu in the Snapchat app.

Double-tap on the side of Spectacles, and the front LEDs illuminate to show battery life. (Credit: Snap Inc.)

Snap says the Spectacles’ battery should last a day or 100 snaps on a single charge (one Snap is considered one 10-second video), but we’ve seen reports that indicate battery life is much shorter. If you use the Spectacles often, you may want to bring along the case.

Low battery indicator inside the frame. (Credit: Snap Inc.)

Unlike regular sunglasses, Spectacles requires extra care. Do not use one in water.

Pairing and sharing Spectacles

First things first: you’ll want to pair the Spectacles to your phone. Open Snapchat, and tap the ghost icon in the top left corner. Next, head to the Settings screen — accessed via the gear icon in the top right corner. Tap Spectacles, and under Pair New Device, select Pair Spectacles.

Put the glasses on and look at the Snapcode on your screen. Press the shutter button and the pairing process should begin. If all goes accordingly, your Spectacles and phone will recognize each – in less than 10 seconds – and you will be given the option to name your Spectacles. Afterward, Snapchat will finish setup, adding it to your Bluetooth device profiles; in iOS, the Accessories List menu will pop up during initial pairing, and you’ll need to tap on your Spectacles’ name to finish pairing. Overall, the whole process should take about a minute. You can pair multiple Spectacles to your account; just repeat the process.

Interestingly, the Spectacles will also record during the pairing process, so you’ll have a Snap of the setup in your Memories – a reminder of when got your first pair of Spectacles.

Spectacles can be shared in a household or amongst friends, but before you hand it over, make sure to transfer any remaining snaps to your phone, and unpair Spectacles (in the same Spectacles menu in Snapchat, tap Manage and Clear Spectacles Storage; then tap Forget Spectacles in the same Manage menu). If you forget to import, however, they will remain in the Spectacles’ internal storage and will not transfer to another person’s phone. Spectacles may start deleting older snaps if it runs out of room (it can store up to 200 snaps; a red light will blink as a warning), so keep that in mind.

After you’ve unpaired Spectacles, the next person just has to follow the same pairing procedure.

How to snap

Snapchat Spectacles
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Spectacles are like point-of-view action cams, except you wear it on your face. Taking snaps is as easy as pressing the shutter button. Press the button once and it will record for ten seconds. When it’s recording you will see a ring of LEDs spinning. A small light on the inside of the glasses tells the wearer when the Spectacles starts and stops recording; it flashes quickly when there’s two seconds left.

There’s no way to curtail the length of a single Snap other than stopping the recording (press and hold for two seconds), but you can extend the recording by another 10 seconds – up to 30 total – simply by pressing the shutter button once or twice after it starts recording. However, in Snapchat’s Memories screen the videos will appear as two or three 10-second segments, rather than a single 20- or 30-second Snap.

After pressing the shutter button, Spectacles will take a 10-second Snap. (Credit: Snap Inc.)

Transferring snaps to your phone

Ready to review and share those snaps? You will need to transfer (import) them to your phone, and it’s equally as easy as taking a Snap.

As long as the Spectacles are paired, snaps are automatically transferred (via Bluetooth) every time you launch the app, which takes about 10 seconds. You can see the status of your imports in the Specs tab of Memories section. Don’t worry if you accidentally close Snapchat during the transfer process – all snaps taken with Spectacles are saved in the glasses until you manually clear the storage, or Spectacles deletes them in order to make room.

The Spectacles records snaps in HD or high definition, but the ones that are automatically transferred are in lower resolution (standard definition, or SD). To import the HD version, you just need to tap Get HD at the top. This will take you to another page where you can select the higher quality snaps (by day) that you want. HD imports require Wi-Fi. In Android Snapchat will automatically switch to Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi Direct) to pair with Spectacles, but it will resort to Bluetooth if necessary, which will take longer.

With iOS, you will have to manually, when prompt, go to your phone’s Wi-Fi menu in Settings, select the Spectacles (it will be the name you gave it), and return to Snapchat. Once the HD versions are transferred, your iPhone will return to its previous state. There’s no Bluetooth option for transferring HD snaps.

The low-resolution snaps aren’t terrible, but they lack the sharpness of HD. Imagine a video shot with a low-resolution front (selfie) camera versus the higher quality rear camera, to get an idea.

Imported snaps can be found in the Memories section of Snapchat, which you get to by tapping on the small Memories button that’s below the large shutter button. You will find them in the Specs tab – the same place where you can watch the import status. All your Spectacles recordings are sequenced chronologically by time and day, which makes up your story.

You can view the snaps by tapping on the still image, and then tapping to cycle your way through any subsequent recordings. While viewing, you can rotate the phone for a different view of the Snap. In portrait mode, you’ll see the top and bottom of the Snap, while landscape orientation shows you the left and right.

If you shoot a lot of snaps during a day, you can highlight to view only the best ones. Snapchat does this automatically, but you can also pick them manually in the edit function by either pressing and holding on the snap or tapping Edit & Send at the bottom. When you’re done, you can tap on the small, starred circle that’s next to the snap.

Editing and sharing

After snaps are imported, you can treat them just like any snap you’d post on Snapchat. You can overlay text, draw or write on it, and add stickers. Then, you can share with the public or select Snapchat friends to send a snap to. If you’re already a Snapchat user, we won’t go into too many details. If you aren’t familiar with Snapchat, we have several tips to help you get started.

One useful feature in Snapchat that you may not be aware of is a quick menu in Memories. Simply press and hold on a snap, and a menu will appear that lets you share, edit, show tumbnails, export, make private (My Eyes Only), or delete. The thumbnails view is handy for seeing all your snaps in one place, so you can easily edit or highlight only the ones you want.

If you export a snap that had been shot with Spectacles, either to your camera roll or Facebook, what you’ll get is a video in a circle. This is what the Spectacles see, versus a video that had been recorded with a phone’s camera.

Update: Snap reportedly overestimates demand for Spectacles, has hundreds of thousands of unsold units. 

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Nick Hastings
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nick is a Portland native and a graduate of Saint Mary's College of California with a Bachelor's of Communication. Nick's…
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