Snapchat has made its name as the messaging app of choice among the young and hip. Now the Venice, California-based startup is charging into the tricky wearable technology market.
This fall, Snapchat plans to roll out a limited release of sunglasses called Spectacles, which come with a built-in camera and cost $129.99 a pair. The glasses can record videos for up to 10 seconds, and upload the clips to Snapchat through Bluetooth or wifi.
“We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out,” Snapchat’s 26-year-old creator Evan Spiegel said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal (paywall). “It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.”
Snapchat also rechristened itself as Snap Inc., a nod to its new life as a company that peddles hardware products as well as an app. “In Spiegel’s thinking, Snapchat isn’t a social-media company. It’s a camera company,” the Journal declares.
The treacherous wearable market will not be easy for Snapchat to navigate. Thus far, offerings like Google Glass and Apple Watch have been unable to convince many consumers that their design, capabilities and price points make them worthy tech staples.
But Snapchat does have a few things going for it. Spectacles, available in a 1980s palette (paging Corey Hart) of black, teal or coral, look like fairly normal accessories, as opposed to other products that look more suited to a gemologist or Inspector Gadget. The sunglasses remove the struggle of holding up your smartphone to shoot videos, allowing users to keep their hands free and more easily participate in the moment they’re trying to preserve. (As an unintended consequence, it will also be a lot easier to shoot videos of people without their knowing it.) And the camera features a 115-degree field of view with a circular frame, in an attempt to produce videos that more closely mimic human vision.
That said, recording is activated by the tapping the corner of the glasses, much like a third-base coach—so users won’t totally escape the physical awkwardness of wearables. It is also unclear whether consumers will even want yet another device that needs to be charged. But so far, Spectacles appear to be getting a positive reception—including a shout-out from supermodel Miranda Kerr, the fiancée of Snap’s CEO.