A Spectacular Idea

For those that have not heard yet, Snapchat is now under the company name Snap Inc. Why the change? Because Snap Inc. isn’t just a mobile app anymore. A new feature will be added to the company, and it’ll come in the form of a pair of sunglasses with a camera on the edge of the sunglass lens. They’ll be called Spectacles. Here’s a 30 second look:

A recent WSJ article notes some amazing qualities of the sunglasses. To be released this fall, Spectacles will be a method for users to record videos hands free. This means uploading videos where you’re not bogged down by having to physically hold onto a mobile device. Furthermore, Spectacles will roll out to be a one size fits all in three colors. Evan Spiegel hopes that these sunglasses will not only make the user experience on Snapchat better, but will also be a new source of revenue for the firm. Priced at $129.99 a pair, I definitely see some roadblocks ahead, but also some promise for the future of Snap Inc.

Where have we seen wearables fail in the past? You guessed it – Google Glass. Which begs the question: if the company that is regarded as the best in class for creating successful technologies failed at making wearable glasses popular, how can Snap Inc. do it? Well, there’s an article for that too.

One factor that is mentioned in the article that I would like to focus on in the sheer capabilities of a pair of Google Glass vs. a pair of Spectacles. In my opinion, Google was trying to do too much with Google Glass. The Business Insider article notes that “you could never tell what someone was doing with Google Glass.” I think this led to a poor user experience, with people not really understanding the concept of what Google Glass was supposed to do. People understand Snapchat. They understand that a camera on a pair of sunglasses will help make the picture taking and video recording experience more seamless. In other words, the actual application of Spectacles is much more intuitive, which will allow user adoption to be much faster.

Speaking of user adoption, I think network effects will be huge for Spectacles. Snapchat began in September 2011. Right around it’s 5th year anniversary, it has over 150 million people visiting the app every, single day. The power of the mobile app has led to a valuation of around $18 billion. Although not as rampant, I think Spectacles has a great opportunity to experience immense growth as well. People will see friends posting unique videos – ones that are not in the traditional rectangle shape. I think its relatively low price point will allow the product to reach a wide audience, and people will want to hop on the bandwagon. The potential power of network effects that can come out of this is very high.

I still think that this product will have some challenges, though. One major point is that this is a pair of sunglasses. I feel that Snapchat could have done a lot more damage with this product if they rolled it out in March, right before the summer. Going into fall, the Venice based firm forgot that sunlight will be gone for other parts of the country very soon. The need for sunglasses will be gone, and people will have a lot more time to think about whether or not this is something they need to buy this very moment. On a similar note, I’m not sold on how often users will use this device to document their life. Although my phone is pretty much always on me, my sunglasses aren’t. I can’t slip them in my pockets, I won’t wear them if I’m going out at night, and if I’m not wearing my contacts (aka wearing my prescription glasses), I’m definitely not wearing my sunglasses on top.  Snap Inc. plans to put an LED flash on the pair of sunglasses, but just imagine: you’re at a party with your friends in a room that’s fairly dark, and just so you can capture a 10 second video hands free, you whip out a pair of sunglasses to record. Eh, not so sold on it.

However, I think what’s of promise here is that any situation where you can take a video with your phone, Spectacles will be able to as well. The unique, 115 degree view will allow those that watch your videos to quite literally see what you’re seeing. It also has a light on the lens itself to notify people around you that you’re currently recording, so it’s a little less creepy. And who knows? This could become the next fashion statement. If it means anything to you, GQ has already written a piece about it.

All in all, this is news, and for good reason. Snapchat is taking on a sizable risk in expanding to wearables, where software companies haven’t always fared the best. Google Glass and Apple Watches are just two examples of how two of the largest companies in the world have not been able to make it out as successfully as they would have hoped. This is an immense milestone for Snap Inc. If anything, I’m definitely behind this venture, and hope that it sees wild success. This is a great example of where social media and digital business have truly come together. I’m very excited to see how this (and any future products from Snap Inc.) fares.

9 comments

  1. cattybradley · ·

    So cool to hear that Snapchat is exploring new ways to enhance its video sharing app. I think there is definitely a market for this product. The Sunglasses seem to be inspired by the Go-Pro hands free philosophy, which I believe will ultimately encourage more posts and engagement with the actual app.

  2. Gotta love Snapchats ability to leave their comfort zone and move towards a new platform for their product. However, I am very skeptical of this new idea, as people saw with google glass people weren’t comfortable using wearable tech to record something. Even though it may packaged in a cooler way, I’m not sure how the sales of these glasses would do. Even if they do fail though, Snapchat is trying to increase their value and through trial and error, one of these new ventures will pan out for the better.

  3. I was intrigued by this product launch, but it feels a bit “gimmicky” to me. I like the idea in theory, but my impression is that lots of people do still use the “selfie” view on snapchat, which this would not have. Also, part of the problem with Google Glass is that people didn’t know if you were filming them or not, which made them uncomfortable. Of course, the problem may be less acute with the target market for these.

  4. Enter the skateboarder, snowboarder, trick biker, diver, Instagram adventurer …. who are now spending $150 to $350 on the GoPro cameras to document their tricks & experiences. These glasses fit in a pocket, sync up to a smartphone, and cost less than the lowest-end GoPro. The average Snapchat user may not buy en mass, but GoPro should be very nervous right now. This product will not transform the company or the market. It is an experiment and will garner some loyalists, just like the Apple Watch. The Ansoff Product Development Strategy, introducing a new product to an existing market, requires good R&D, new corporate competencies (design, manufacturing, supply chain management, retail). I like that the company is stretching itself, apparently in measured amounts. Execution will tell the tale.

  5. magicjohnshin1 · ·

    Awesome post! I wrote an article on wearable technology last week if you’re interested at all. It was about the ever so popular Fitbit and Apple Watch. I think it’s wonderful that Snapchat is trying to do this after seeing Google’s great failure. My main concern for this product lies with the security and comfort that people will have with filming. It kind of reminded me of spy movies when we were kids. I feel that this is a wonderful opportunity but people definitely need to warm up to it before a solid adoption. But once it does get going, I can definitely see this blowing up. The only difficult part is that glasses are not for everyone, meaning it would only tap a certain portion of the market. Overall great read and can’t wait to read more of your work, cheers!

  6. Great post. It will be interesting to see where the Spectacles go, I personally can’t ever see buying or using them. I like that Snap Chat is expanding and trying to test new ideas though, I expect we will see other great things from the company in the future, but I doubt these will go too far. I like that you mentioned that with fall/winter coming, people aren’t going to be wearing sunglasses as often. Definitely something they might want to consider.

  7. mashamydear · ·

    I think Spiegel has the same reservations that we do, and that’s why Snap Inc is only rolling out a limited quantity– to really feel out the water before jumping in. I appreciate the design of the Spectacles, it sort of mimics Illesteva although the sunglasses are evidently more bulky. I think Snap is trying to differentiate itself from Google Glass by being more fashionable (Spiegel was photographed wearing Spectacles by the one and only Karl Lagerfield), but I agree with the sentiment that I personally would never wear those sunglasses. The timing of the release may seem a bit funny, but it’s important to remember that the sun shines even in the winter so there will be some demand for the glasses. I think a bigger drawback will be the 10 second time limit. When I first heard of the release I assumed that the videos could be longer, thinking from the perspective of Google or GoPro. Furthermore, Professor Kane brings up a great point in that the selfie feature will be lost with this invention– which may be the biggest deterrent to its success.

  8. daniellep2153 · ·

    Thanks for such an interesting post. The concept around the glasses seems like a great idea, especially since people adopted a similar product, GoPro. I agree with the concerns you brought up, but I do have one more to add. Although people love the idea of being able to film in real time without using their hands, the price for the new spectacles does seem a little steep, especially for their target market. Consumers who use Snapchat the most are those part of Generation Z. I know at that age I definitely couldn’t afford a pair of glasses that cost what the projected price is for these. As these individuals get holder, however, I think this could be successful for the company. It will be interesting to see how these add to the existing competition and what other innovations may be added as users become more comfortable with the glasses.

  9. Very interesting topic – one that I flagged for discussion on the twitter feed too!

    I think that this a really interesting move for snapchat. Lately we have heard about a lot of companies going from hardware to software (I.e. GE), not the other way around. In regards to this particular product, I think it’s simplicity is a major benefit for potential mass appeal. I and other consumers were wary of Google Glass because it was such a complex leap forward and the learning curve was steep. What’s nice about these glasses is that the use is relatively straightforward for any Snapchat user. I look forward to trying these out at some point in the future!

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