Snapchat Spectacles – Genius or a Google Glass Redux?
Last week was an odd one for social media.
- Rumors flew that Google, Salesforce, NewsCorp. IBM and Amazon were all considering buying Twitter.
- Facebook came under fire for an earlier admission that it had grossly inflated a key viewing metric for its videos. And
- Snapchat changed its name to “Snap Inc.” and announced the coming of its first piece of hardware, “Snapchat Spectacles.”
This last one was the most surprising to me (and other social media observers) by far.
Snapchat Spectacles, to be released later this fall, are essentially sunglasses with a small camera lens embedded in a corner. By tapping a button on a corner of the glasses, users can instantly record 10-second clips of video that they can upload to Snapchat. If they double-tap the button, the glasses will record continuously for 30 seconds.
Not Google Glass
So…how is this not another version of the failed Google Glass?
For one, Spectacles are cheaper – just $130 a pair (vs. Google Glass’s $1,500).
More importantly, the privacy concerns related to Google Glass related mostly to its connection to the Google interface – the ability to look up and access data on something you were viewing instantly and without onlookers instantly realizing it.
Not only will Snapchat Spectacles not feature that functionality, but it’s also three years later.
Given the ubiquity of smartphones today (even vs. just three years ago), I think the masses as a whole now realize that there’s little difference between someone Googling you via your phone, and being able to do so directly from their eyewear.
Also, unlike Google Glass, Spectacles inform onlookers of the recording function via a small light.
The Verge had this to say about the primary differences between Snapchat Spectacles and Google Glass:
One, new technologies often fail the first time around, only to become mainstream on their second or third introduction to the mainstream. (See: social networks, tablet computers.) Two, Spectacles are less than one-tenth what Google Glass cost, making them much more accessible. Third, Snap is positioning the glasses as less of a face computer and more as a GoPro for your life. And people love their GoPros.
I covered the first point in my post Strategy and the Second Mover Advantage.
And it’s hard to overstate the cost difference. At $1,500, Google Glass was immediately positioned as a signal of a certain wealth and status.
Snapchat, however, has always staked its brand’s reputation on being cool to teenagers.
Finally, whereas Google Glass made people look like The Borg from Star Trek, Spectacles’ aesthetic is intentionally fun and cheesy, the sunglasses equivalent of a Swatch watch.
Only time will tell whether these sunglasses (which are available in just three colors to start) will be the next big thing.
But Snapchat has made barely any missteps so far. And it is the only major social network to credibly threaten Facebook’s share of the youth market.
Many pundits (myself included) were surprised by Snapchat’s announcement that it was moving into hardware with Spectacles last week.
But few of us will bet against the company’s record of success.