Last week, Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc. introduced its second-generation camera glasses, called Spectacles.
I actually tried the first-generation Snapchat Spectacles in November 2016, and I have to say, as much as I loved the concept behind the camera glasses, I wasn’t impressed with the overall design or execution of this particular vision.
Unfortunately, the new second-generation Spectacles don’t solve the biggest problems I had with the first model:
First, the pros: Snap did make some improvements in Spectacles 2.0.
The new Spectacles are slimmer, and so is the charging case it comes with.
Snap also removed those ugly yellow circles around each camera from the 1.0 model, which you can see below.
The new version also has a second microphone, which helps pick up audio better.
The new Spectacles can take photos now, in addition to videos, by pressing and holding the capture button for a second.
Photos and videos are also better-looking: Everything captured with Spectacles 2.0 is in high-definition by default — no more needing to convert to HD after the fact.
The glasses themselves are also better-looking. In addition to the updated form factor, Snap is offering the glasses in three new colours — essentially deeper shades of the original colours — plus the option to choose light or dark lenses for whichever colour your choose.
You can even get prescription lenses for your Spectacles for an additional $US125.
The new Spectacles have the same battery life and charging capabilities from the first model, even though the glasses and case are both now slimmer. Expect 70 or so video snaps before your Spectacles run out of battery, and the case can recharge your glasses about four times before it needs more juice.
That said, many things about Snapchat Spectacles 2.0 are the same as the first version — and that means some of the more awkward aspects of using the device are unfortunately sticking around.
For instance, everything you film with Spectacles still needs to go through the Snapchat app before it can go anywhere else. Snap didn’t make a separate app for Spectacles; everything you need for them to work lives in the Snapchat app. The glasses can physically store photos and videos, but none of it is actually usable until it reaches the Snapchat app.
Importing snaps from Spectacles to your phone is quicker than before, but the fact remains: You have to wait until your snaps reach your phone before you can do anything with them, which isn’t always convenient — and you’re going to need to transfer quite often.
In other words, taking and sharing videos with Spectacles isn’t as efficient as doing it with a smartphone — at least not yet.
Spectacles connect to your smartphone via both Bluetooth and WiFi; when your Spectacles are in Bluetooth range of your phone, your photos and videos will start transferring. But transferring high-definition videos over Bluetooth can take some time.
Thankfully, in the new version of Spectacles, Snap created a new speedy WiFi-only import option where photos and videos will transfer faster and show up in Snapchat’s Memories tab up to four times faster than before. That’s a nice feature, but that also requires you be in a WiFi area, which isn’t always feasible when you’re on the go.
As you could imagine, sharing Spectacles videos to other networks like Facebook is just as tedious. First your Spectacles have to transfer what you filmed to the Snapchat app. Then you have to visit that content in Snapchat’s Memories tab. Then, once you’ve tweaked everything to your liking, you can save those videos to your Camera Roll, or share them to other networks from there by pressing the share button on the screen. It’s one too many steps, which adds up given how often you’ll want to share your videos to sites like Instagram.
Another obvious downside is that Spectacles are more expensive than before. They used to cost $US130; the new version costs $US150. Given how the original price was already a hard pill to swallow, the new price doesn’t feel great, even if the glasses themselves are better than before.
In general, I still feel reluctant about wearing Spectacles in public. The new 2.0 version affords you more opportunities to film in more places, thanks to water-resistance — so you can film your pool party, or maybe even some light snorkelling for a brief period of time — but camera glasses are still limited in many public situations.
As long as Spectacles have been available, I only spotted them in the wild one time: in the New York City subway system, on a kid with a skateboard. He clearly had exciting things to showcase with Spectacles.
That’s the tradeoff with Spectacles: Hopefully, whatever you’re filming is worth it compared to the possible downsides of wearing these glasses in public. Despite this year’s design changes, people will still notice you’re wearing <em>glasses with cameras on them</em>. It very much looks like “a gadget.” To me, the compromise of wearing cameras on my face isn’t worth the potential public scrutiny, especially since I don’t have anything particularly exciting to film.
Also, be aware of perception: If people see you wearing camera glasses in certain situations, they may think you’re weird, or creepy, or have bad intentions. Simply, people still feel wary or downright uncomfortable around camera glasses, and for good reason. Some establishments may even ask you to remove them, even if there’s no wide ban on these types of devices.
I still love the concept of camera glasses, and wish I could film what I’m seeing from a first-person perspective sometimes, but Snapchat’s new Spectacles just don’t seem to answer some of these bigger questions, and spending $US150 on it feels a little risky. At least that’s how I’m feeling about it right now.
The $US150 price tag, plus the extra steps required to share your videos with other social networks outside of Snapchat, plus the fact you’re wearing glasses with two obvious cameras in them, to me, still turns me off to Spectacles. And unless you’re at a party where it’s clear you’re there to document all the fun, I’m not sure if there is a good way to wear camera glasses in public and not have people feel weird about it.
I really like the new additions of Spectacles 2.0, and think the device is certainly becoming closer to something I would want. The slimmer design is a step in the right direction, but I still think it looks better on some people compared to others, and would love to see Snap introduce more styles.
At the end of the day, I just don’t see myself using these glasses that often. To compare: I spent roughly the same amount of money ($US170) on Apple’s AirPods, and I use those almost every day. To that end, I could see this purchase making more sense if I could envision using Spectacles more often. I still plan on trying them; I’m hoping the positive qualities of Spectacles 2.0 outshine the question marks.
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