Review: Are Snap’s Spectacles worth the hype?
Can the Snapchat creator succeed where Google has (sort of) failed?
Snap Inc’s Spectacles: none has made it outside the US, which means Snap has the “short supply” side of the hype machine ticking over nicely.
Product name: Spectacles
Where to buy: n/a
Snap Spectacles $130
Was there ever as much hype over a product as Snap Inc’s Spectacles? I’m sure there are some contenders, but the company behind Snapchat seems to have nailed its approach to flogging a pair of rather pricey sunglasses designed to work with its video-sharing service.
For a start, Spectacles can’t be bought just anywhere. You have to track down the latest location of the Snapbots, vending machines that will dispense a maximum of two pairs of video recording glasses to each buyer (done according to the card you use). And there are queues. Long queues. So if you want a pair, be prepared to be patient or find someone selling them on Ebay for above the $130 original price.
The mysterious bots popped up in a few different locations since the product launch in early November – all US-based – including a several week-long stint in New York and a brief stop off at Las Vegas for CES last week. So far, none has made it outside the US, which means Snap has the “short supply” side of the hype machine ticking over nicely.
It also fulfils the “shiny new tech” aspect nicely, too. A couple of years ago, it was all about Google Glass. If you listened to some people, we would all soon be wearing head-mounted displays, getting our information directly to our eyeballs in real time, constantly connected to our email and online news sources. Google Glass was going to revolutionise our lives. In a way, they were sort of right, but the implementation was a little off.
So what exactly is so great about Spectacles? They’re not immediately identifiable as a video recording device because they look like regular sunglasses with a couple of design quirks – two yellow circles either side of the lenses. They don’t really stand out, unlike something like Google Glass. Spectacles have a small light on one side that will alert others that you are recording; the other circle is the lens.
I will admit, though, putting them on initially made me feel more than a little self-conscious. Surely everyone knew what they were and were looking at me suspiciously? They didn’t and they really weren’t. It was, as usual, all in my head. If you really wanted, though, you could easily cover the yellow ring on the glasses, and the tell-tale LED ring too.
The idea is that the video is shot from your perspective, it’s like sharing a memory as it happens with friends. And getting started is simple: one tap of the video button (located in the left side of the glasses) will start recording; a long press will finish it. The default is 10-second bursts, but if you hit the button a second and third time, you can extend it to 20 and 30 seconds.
These glasses are designed for Snapchat, so it makes sense that you’ll need an account to get the video from your glasses to your phone. You don’t have to have Snapchat constantly connected though.You can film while you’re away from your phone and, later on when you are in range, the video will transfer. It’s a reasonably effortless process.
The clips land in a Specs section of your Snapchat Memories roll, ready for you to edit and share. By default, the video imports over Bluetooth in a lower definition, which didn’t impress me too much with quality but is fine for sharing on Snapchat or online. Lurking in the app, however, is the option to import HD video, which brings wifi directly into it.
The video is designed for use in Snapchat, but it can be exported. You can save your clips out of Snapchat and into your phone’s camera roll, but they export as a round view. It’s unusual, but not unusable.
The squashy yellow case acts as a charger: pop the glasses in the case and they will start to charge. You get about four recharges out of the case, which adds up to a lot of Snaps. You can also charge the glasses with the same cable directly. Keep a close eye on it, though, because this isn’t a standard micro USB set-up; it’s a proprietary charger and getting a replacement doesn’t look too easy – for the moment at least.
Spectacles work simply and work well. You can capture a first-person view of something just by looking at it and in situations where whipping out your phone to record would spoil the moment. Transferring video is almost effortless and the charging case means that you’ll rarely run out of power when you need it. And if you do, at least you’ll still be able to use them as sunglasses.
Do we really want to get to a point where our lives are (even more) documented in minute detail? It’s something to consider. There is also the creep factor. That recording light can be easily covered up with a bit of tape, so you could be free to record with impunity – but only in 30 second bursts. Replacing that charging cable – inevitable – will also be a pain.
Spectacles are limited in availability. If you’re outside the US right now, you are depending on the resale market to get your hands on a pair. That round video format outside Snapchat may not be to everyone’s taste either.
Good fun, if you’re a Snapchat fan.