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October 26, 2016

Can Snapchat’s Spectacles Succeed Where Google Glass Failed?


Snapchat already changed how we share pictures, now it wants to change how we take them.

Snapchat – or Snap Inc. as the company just rebranded to – surprised the world last month by unveiling its prized new product: Spectacles

Spectacles are camera-equipped glasses that allow users to record 10-second videos by simply clicking a button on the hinge of the frame. The glasses connect to Wi-Fi, so once the video is captured it automatically saves to the user’s Snapchat app where they can choose to share it with friends.

If this rings a bell, it’s because Snapch–I mean Snap, isn’t the first tech company to release a wearable camera. We all remember Google Glass, which embarrassingly flopped after the search engine giant promised a breakthrough for wearables. Google stopped selling the product in January 2015, less than a year after its launch.

The question is: with the stench of Glass still lingering, can Snap succeed where Google failed?

Here are the biggest challenges Spectacles will face:

Angst About Privacy
The launch of Google Glass was doomed by immediate and serious privacy concerns. It’s no secret that Google collects more data about us than we’re probably comfortable knowing, so the facial recognition capability of Glass was a major privacy red flag.

Imagine encountering a Glass-wearing stranger on the metro. The thought of them recording you without your knowledge is creepy enough, but then you mix in their ability to identify who you are and pull up your personal information? It’s no surprise restaurants and other businesses quickly put up signs banning Google Glass.

In order to minimize privacy concerns, Snap must emphasize the simplicity of Spectacles function and distinguish their product from Google Glass. Unlike Glass, Spectacles are not $1,500 mini-computers with endless capabilities for gathering and analyzing data. They’re $130 toys with the sole function of taking pictures and videos. To avoid being labeled as intrusive, Spectacles need to be placed in the same bucket as the harmless selfie-stick.

Another Camera, Really?
Thanks to smartphones, we all have a powerful camera in our pockets. So why do we need a second one to serve the same purpose?

The theory is that Spectacles allow you to record things that look and feel more like human-vision. The camera uses a wider lens and captures images from a circular, first-person view. It also frees up your hands, so instead of holding a block in front of your face while you record, you can do things like swing a golf club or play with a dog.

This all sounds good in theory, but to get people to reach for their wallets, Snap needs to advertise example recordings that demonstrate Spectacles can capture uniquely different perspectives of the events and activities we’re all used to seeing on smartphones.

Shaking the “Glasshole” Look
To be candid, Google Glass looked dorky and awkward. So much so that “glasshole” became a mainstream term to describe its wearers. The nickname crushed Glass from a branding perspective and piled onto the increasingly negative perception of its users.

Snap wisely chose a simple and fun design for its glasses that well suits its younger target-audience. Rather than futuristic and techy, Spectacles look like something you would find in a Warby Parker store. They are oversized and come in three colors: black, teal, or coral.

The design is sharp, but it’s only half the battle when it comes to shaking the “glasshole” look. What will ultimately determine the success of spectacles is whether or not people are ready to embrace the social image that comes with wearing a pair of camera-equipped glasses.

All Snapchat users love putting together a great story, but nobody wants to be seen as the “over-snapper.” So what does it say when you show up to a bar-b-que wearing a pair of Spectacles? Will Spectacle users be mocked like “glassholes”? Or will they trend from goofy to cool with the help of a few key celebrity endorsements and a reasonable price point?

How Spectacles Can Succeed
Snap has several factors working in its favor for the launch of Spectacles. The most important of those is that millennials are crazy about its app, Snapchat, which now has 150 million users. More than 60 percent of 13-to-34-year-old smartphone users are on Snapchat, and on any given day, Snapchat reaches 41 percent of all 18-to-34-year-olds in the U.S.

Targeting this audience is critical to the success of any new technology, and not many brands have a more favorable view among millennials right now than Snap. The company is in a prime position to leverage its brand loyalty among millennials to help get Spectacles off the ground.

Another reason Spectacles may catch on is the movement towards virtual reality. Snapchat’s creative filters and location tags have gained a tremendous amount of momentum; will Spectacles have an innovative feature that brings these elements to life? Keep in mind that earlier this year Snap acquired a 3-D capture company called Seene.

If Snap can effectively market the simplicity of Spectacles and the uniqueness of its recordings, it has a chance to achieve the wearables vision that Google infamously fell short of.

The Spectacles concept may seem silly, but so did Snapchat when it was launched. And, at the end of the day, all that silliness did was transform a small photo-sharing app into a $25 billion company.

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