Snap showed off a new update to it’s fabled Snap Spectacles today. They’re new, but only sort of, and it’s not clear that they’ve learned much since the glasses first debuted in fall of 2016.
The changes they did make with V2 (water-proofing, higher-def video, slightly updated design) have fundamentally been tweaks towards perfecting a vision that consumers don’t seem to be identifying with already, all in a package that costs more.
Frankly, Snap was a much cooler company when Spectacles first launched a year-and-a-half ago, Instagram Stories had only launched weeks earlier, Snapchat hadn’t embraced a tumultuous redesign and the then-private company just generally had more positive buzz around it. Fast forward 2018 and the company’s updated “toy” glasses have a little bit more riding on them, not necessarily for the potential hardware revenues, but because they need to help the company steal back its cool factor lunch that Instagram has been eating.
Water-proofing and higher-def video are evolutions meant to appease existing users who have pushed up against the limitations, but this update is likely still too minor to get those people to upgrade, so what is Snap really gaining here aside from a shot at getting those already on the fence?
My colleague Josh Constine was optimistic with what the updated product had accomplished, “After two days of use, I think Spectacles V2 cross the threshold from clumsy novelty to creative tool accessible to the mainstream.” But as someone who hovered over the “add to cart” button on Amazon countless times after spending time with the originals, I personally just can’t see these updates being enough to truly widen the product’s reach in the coming months.
Keeping the price the same would have been shocking enough, but raising the price from $129 to $149 is just arrogant. Pricing a product like this in reference to the high-end eyewear market is understandable but they are fundamentally a gadget, albeit one sitting alone in a product class no one asked for. Spectacles didn’t really need all these minor updates right now, with this product strategy unchanged they needed to drop the price to $70-$100 and just focus on tightening up the experience on the software side.
The utility of these glasses is definitely suspect, but they are unquestionably unique in purpose and offer an early future for high-tech eyewear that so many tech giants are already betting on. While Google Glass of the past and Magic Leap of the present have promised the world, Spectacles were supposed to approach consumers in a place where they already were in a way that would get them comfortable with wearing a computer on their eyes. This is still the vision, but Spectacles haven’t cracked what this really means yet. Are Spectacles destined to just be a frat party action camera for your face or can they be something more meaningful down the road?
If they’re destined to only be a face-mounted action cam, they should probably look to GoPro and rethink their existence. If they have the potential to be something more than a dead-end, they should keep the brand alive in a lower-priced existence while forgetting about incremental upgrades and focusing on a more exciting (and expensive) future for smart glasses.
Snap’s biggest success with V1 of the Spectacles was their marketing push around them, meanwhile I’m not very confident they can drum up much love with this minor update. It may have been wiser for them to focus on hitting a lower price point with a more streamlined feature set. Snap’s V2 Spectacles double-down on the company’s original vision without acknowledging that perhaps there was a fundamental reason they didn’t sell as well as they had expected in the first place.