Snapchat has released its new “Spectacles” sunglasses as a disruptive creator of much more personal video sharing experiences.
CEO Evan Spiegel, leading the renamed Snap Inc., calls his new video-sharing sunglasses “a toy,” but “Spectacles” represent a potentially disruptive way for the company to become more deeply entrenched in its youth demographic.
Virtually every smartphone now offers sophisticated video recording capabilities. But Spiegel told the Wall Street Journal that when holding the device at arms length to record or forward real-time video, the experience is “like a wall in front of your face.”
Snapchat’s disruptive social media business innovation was allowing users to share words and images that disappeared after a short period or the first opening. That addressed the prime risk to its precocious teenage users of “PAW,” kid-speak for “parents are watching.”
In the 2016 battle among the social networks to attract new users, Snapchat is again stomping all competition with a 27 percent growth rate, passing Twitter’s daily users by 15 million.
According to Cathy Boyle, eMarketer.com’s principal analyst, Snapchat’s “highly visual interface and the features that enable users to get creative with the images they share, and tailor them to specific locations or events.” She adds, “The fun aspect of Snapchat should also be credited for its success. In a world in which there is an app for nearly everything, Snapchat has cut through the clutter by injecting fun back into social sharing.”
It should not be surprising that Snapchat’s short-lived messages and fun features are especially attractive to users in the 12-to-34-year old age group, the exact youth demographic to which marketers crave access. About a third of Snapchat’s U.S. user base is between 18 and 24, followed by 27 percent for Americans between 25 and 34. But the company’s fastest growing age group segment is people under 12, which is estimated to grow at a stunning 42.9 percent this year.
Snapchat engages in more intimate one-to-one or one-to-few communication, as opposed to Facebook’s broadcast-style sharing across an entire network, according to Boyle. She suggests, “This desire is particularly strong among millennials and younger consumers who don’t have strong ties to the traditional social networks.”
Several years ago, Google tried to introduce Google Glass. Although the glasses had a camera, the product failed because it was more like offering a “heads-up-display” to geeky 40 year-old engineers who want continuous access to their desktops for data.
Although Spiegel says he has been working for the last two years to develop a more true-to-life experience to record and transmit video, Spectacles priced at $129.99 are, most importantly, hip sunglasses that come in the fashion colors of black, coral and teal.
By taping on the side of the sunglasses, Spectacles record up to 10 seconds of video from the wearer’s perspective. Each additional tap adds another clip, but each recording starts with a ring of tiny lights around the camera that lets other people know from a privacy perspective that they are potentially being recorded.
The front-corner camera uses a 115-degree-angle lens that creates a picture field-of-view that is more like the human eye’s natural lens. That, in turn, creates video experiences that are more like circular human vision than traditional square camera pics, which use square formatting for printed images. The hands-free design allows users to pet dogs, hug babies, or dance around at concerts. Spiegel says that allows users to reach their arms out to people they are filming, rather than extending a camera.
Snapchat Spectacles were initially panned, with lots of nasty comments after a review by the Wall Street Journal blog, probably reflecting the older age of readers. But comments on viral youth sites like marysue.com and thenextweb.com indicate that Snapchat’s first hardware product is going viral, and could generate huge demand from Snapchat’s prime demographic.