Despite being a new toy for all of us involved in tech to play with, Snap Spectacles have become quite well known through the mainstream. It’s not because they’re popular just yet, but because of how bewildering they are. I admit when I first heard the plans for this product, I didn’t have much faith in them. Now that they’re widely available, I’ve gotten a chance to play with them a little bit.
I received my pair in black with a bright yellow case and excitedly got to work. I asked myself, are these really going to be worth my time and enhance the Snapchat experience, or are they a silly gimmick that won’t last? You’ll find my answer below.
Basic Guide to Spectacles
Snap Spectacles are sunglasses with a built-in camera. The camera is capable of recording video specifically for Snapchat — up to ten seconds in length just like the app. You can then send these videos to someone or add them to your snap story.
At first glance, it might look like Spectacles have two built-in cameras, but only one of the circles is a camera. The other is a circular loop of LEDs that act as indicators for recording, charging and battery life.
When you’re ready to record, press the button at the top left of your glasses. A visual indicator facing you lets you know when the glasses have stopped recording.
One of the biggest disappointments of using Spectacles right off the bat is that you can’t post directly from the glasses. Your recordings transfer wirelessly to the Snapchat app, but it’s up to you to do anything with them from there. So while Spectacles do enable a hands-free experience while recording, you’ll need to use the Snapchat app to do anything meaningful.
That said, one of my favorite features is the case — where your Spectacles end up when you’re all done using them. The case super durable on the outside, soft on the inside, and has a battery of its own. Just secure your glasses inside and it can charge them up to four times before needing a recharge. The included USB cable gets the job done in a few hours.
Video Quality and Real World Usage
Spectacles interestingly shoot video within a circle. It’s hard to say whether it’s 720p or 1080p or any of that because it’s literally circular video. It won’t appear that way on your phone, but this shape allows you to tilt your phone to any angle and still see the video exactly as it was shot. If you switch to landscape, you just lose a little bit of footage off the top, and in portrait you lose some off the sides.
Video quality isn’t half bad though. It’s about on par with an older iPhone’s video camera — maybe an iPhone 4 or 4s. For the purposes of ten brief seconds on Snapchat, it’s more than adequate.
Spectacles also seem to have a fisheye effect that you can’t do anything about. I imagine it’s solely there for the purpose of trying to recreate the feel of looking through the perspective of someone else, and it weirdly does its job. That said, Spectacles can’t shoot any serious video and they aren’t intended to. They’re for quick clips throughout your day and nothing more.
A huge downside is the sunglass factor. They’re surprisingly stylish, but pretty much eliminate the possibility of capturing any footage indoors. Plenty of memories happen inside that you might not want to hold your phone for. Keep that in mind when you purchase these — they’re pretty much outdoors only. In fact, more specifically they’re outdoors in the sun only.
Are Spectacles a Gimmick?
At $130, these aren’t cheap sunglasses. They aren’t a cheap accessory to Snapchat either. But for all intents and purposes, are they really just a total gimmick?
It feels like Snap is onto something with Spectacles, but frankly they’re mediocre as they are right now. It seems rather silly to spend 130 bucks on something that can only record 10 seconds of video at a time. Even worse, it can then only go to Snapchat before you do anything else with it.
A lot of people probably have the question “Why should I buy these if I can just film with Snapchat on my phone?” Spectacles doesn’t have a good answer. Even videos filmed on Spectacles require using the app to post. Most Snapchat memories are easy enough to capture with a phone already. When they take place indoors or on a cloudy day, the phone isn’t optional.
That said, Spectacles aren’t bad at what they claim to do. It’s pretty cool to be able to see exactly what another person is seeing. But this technology ought to extend far beyond the measly ten seconds of footage Snapchat offers. Plus, here’s some irony: Spectacles are a permanent accessory to shoot video not meant to stay relevant longer than 24 hours.
I’m more excited about how Spectacles, Snapchat and this technology evolve over the years. Until then, Spectacles don’t serve much practical purpose.