The brand formerly known as Snapchat has been making headlines this week with two pretty big announcements. The first was the name change to ‘Snap Inc.’ (signifying a diversification of the brand away from simply video messaging apps); the second was that of Spectacles (‘Specs’) – the latest in wearable video technology.
Specs are modified sunglasses which allow you to record video clips of varying lengths – either 10, 20 or 30 seconds. They’re available in three colours (black, teal and coral); rechargeable (the case doubles as a charging dock); and store snaps internally until the user transfers them (via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) them to a smartphone to view and share on Snapchat (this is all eerily similar to the plot of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror episode ‘The Entire History of You’).
There’s a lot to be said for the latest Snap innovation, and it comes in parallel a new brand direction (they are already now describing themselves as ‘a camera company’). This is a bold move for a brand who, just a few days ago, were known only for the sharing of ephemeral video clips.
Are Specs the new Glass?
Well on paper they could be mistaken for the most recent incarnation of Google Glass – remember how well those devices did in 2012? Sure, they still see resurgences in certain niche sectors from time to time, but they never did reach the mass-market consumer heights Google was aiming for. However with the Specs there are some key differences:
Google Glass was criticised for the ‘nerdy’ appearance and the fact that they seemed too futuristic or ‘dorky’. It took Google 2 years to take this feedback and transform the design into something more fashionable – and even helpful, with the incorporation of prescription lenses – but it seems to have been too little, too late. Specs definitely look more fashionable – though this is of course slightly subjective.
Glass was originally priced at £1,000 for developers – the consumer-ready version never materialised. Whilst Glass appeared to be expensive, it incorporated a lot of features and had a wider range of uses than Specs do. Specs have only one function – recording video – and the price reflects that – at $130 (£100) for the Specs, charger and charging case, the price seems to be spot-on for early adopters. and for their target market: Ray-Ban wearing teens.
Google decided to drip-feed Glass to the market, whilst pushing a high price and promising to change lives – this excluded a lot of excited adopters and limited the overall appeal of the device. However, Snap have a done a great job here – Spectacles are a cool design, simple to use, and will be sold at an accessible price point. They’ll be drip feeding the product to the market in limited numbers, much like Google did previously, but the price will not exclude those they seek to interest.
“We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out…it’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.” (Snap CEO – Evan Spegal)
They’re also launching at the right time – the number of people using video doubled between 2009 and 2013. Video is more widely created and shared than it was when Google Glass launched – 54% of adult internet users post original photos or videos online that they themselves have created, so the audience is already primed and waiting for this creation.
One of Google Glass’s main pitfalls was privacy – they were quickly banned from public places including bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas. There were many difficulties in overcoming the public’s fear of being recorded without giving consent and ultimately, the limitations and fears overcame the excitement, causing the demise of the device.
Snap Spectacles offer the very same feature which caused the demise of Glass – in fact, it is the only feature, so how are they planning to avoid the same fate we have already witnessed with Glass? Lights. The Spectacles feature a light on the inside to let the wearer know that recording is taking place – as well as an external light alerting those around the wearer that the glasses are recording. Whilst slightly more prominent than the ‘recording’ light on Google Glass – this doesn’t really solve the issue.
Despite the design and product features that Snap have incorporated into the spectacles (that are all arguably aimed at countering the invasion of privacy issue that basically sunk Google Glass), I don’t think it’s enough. People are, more than ever, aware of privacy and the risk of having it invaded, either first hand (being covertly filmed) or second hand (having photos/videos hacked and stolen from online storage). However I don’t believe Snap fully deal with the main reason Google glass was essentially a wearables fail: privacy. Ok, so there are a features that have clearly been included to counter the whole privacy thing, but I don’t think they’re enough to take it mass-market.
I think the majority of people are still not comfortable with the prospect of being spied on by people wearing devices that record what they’re doing. For me this is a major hurdle that any wearables product needs to leap, and I’m not sure Snap have delivered enough here to do that. They may nail some key segments – 18-24 year olds specifically – who are more comfortable sharing everything they do online, and are already using their app all day. And in this they also have the potential to increasing their 63% UK market share; but they also risk alienating the more security-conscious technology adopters, who are likely to react this like they reacted to Google Glass.
What do you think? Let me know below, or on Twitter @bradindigital