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.