Are Spectacles the Event Horizon for Wearable Tech?
Nathan Whipple | On 28, Sep 2016
A little over a year and a half ago, Google decided that their Glass, the darling of the wearable tech world for a few glorious moments, was going away. It’s easy to dismiss this news as underwhelming, but once upon a time, Google Glass was worth an entire episode of The Simpsons, a 12-page spread in the September issue of Vogue, and was deemed to be one of Time’s Inventions of the Year. What went from being a matter of “if” wearable tech would catch on to “when” fell the way of the Bluetooth headset: useful, but worth neither the price point (in Google’s case) nor the faux paux.
So what makes newly branded Snap Inc.’s Spectacles any different?
What the world waits to see, and what CEO Evan Spiegel hopes to deliver upon, is just how voracious the millennial appetite is for social status.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Spiegel himself has referred to his newest toy as just that, and plans to couple a lackadaisical rollout with a $129 price point. All of that leaves this writer wondering: who’s going to drop over a hundred dollars on what is being marketed as nothing more than a supplement to a backyard BBQ? As it turns out, it may be more than anyone is thinking.
The numbers are all there. Snapchat is home to 100 million active daily users, who in turn send over 8,500 photos per second and view 6 billion (with a “b”) videos daily. Fifty-four percent of all users check the app on a daily basis, with a whopping 86% of the user base pulling up the app at least twice a week. This last stat may not sound inherently impressive, but with screen time coming at a premium for the young consumers of today’s social-media-fueled environment, it’s a number worth taking close note of. Keeping all this mind, consider that 87% of “Snappers” have never purchased a product due to viewing it on the app, while more than half of all users claim to never watch the company’s Discover stories. This leads us to an interesting dichotomy: how do you convince those who love to chat to feel the same about Snap?
Spectacles may not be the answer, but it’s as good an approach as any.
For starters, their design plays off of current trends, and while a change in such is certainly possible, it at least confirms that Snap has their finger on the pulse of their target demographic: millennials. For your consideration, here are a comparable pair of RayBan and Michael Kors sunglasses, currently retailing for $20 more than Spectacles. Although a question of brand loyalty certainly plays into the conversation, certain styles seem to transcend (e.g., Wayfarer, Aviator), and if Snap plays their cards right, they could ride this wave all the way into the shopping carts of young adults across the nation.
Design alone won’t carry the Spectacles. Their strongest selling point is, of course, their integration into the Snapchat service, promising wireless uploads to your account and a day’s worth of battery life. While GoPros have dominated the first person POV camera market, the addition of a body harness or head mount has kept the experience on the cusp of pure, 1:1 recording to human visual. Now with Spectacles, videos truly come from how you viewed that moment, albeit in fleeting intervals. Make no mistake: this is awesome. The fallacy of memory has made us desire a device such as this since the introduction of the clunky camcorder of the 80s, one where you can view events just as they transpired.
Let me remind you. You’re now thinking of purchasing $130 sunglasses from the people behind Snapchat. Depending on how you felt about that last statement is going to shape the future of wearable tech forever.
From the ashes of Google Glass rose the phoenixes that are FitBit, the Apple Watch, Android Wear, and a host of other devices vying for your body’s real estate. They’re not nearly as intrusive as Glass, come in a variety of different styles and fun colors, and have slowly but surely crept their way into the lives of the consumer. Not keeping up with the step counts of your office mates has become (almost) akin to missing out on the newest Seinfeld. While FitBits have perhaps wriggled their way into the 18 and under demographic more so than the other two, there remains a core group of teens and pre-teens that prove untapped in the market of wearable tech (a market which may be more than volatile, considering the fact the 50% of users 18 and over who own wearables no longer use them).
Spectacles serve as the event horizon for the wearable tech market. If consumers opt to reject them, the world continues to turn, Snap takes a minor loss, and we’re all on to the next one. If they’re embraced with open arms by those intertwined within the app’s ecosystem, we’ll be on the forefront of a wearable tech revolution the likes of which we’ve never seen before. “Smart” sunglasses, “smart” necklaces, “smart” wallets and purses, and look at this, they’re not clunky or obtuse, but actually stylish. You saw your friends with a similar pair of glasses the other day, but does it have Snapchat built in? Weren’t you going to buy a pair of sunglasses in this style anyway? Why not enhance your experience that much more?
Of course, I could be totally wrong. Some people buy them, wear them for a party or two, and then they sit abandoned on a shelf with your iPod classic and flip phone from high school. For all we know, Snapchat could be dead and buried a year from now, and maybe the new hottest thing is underground drone fighting (™). Spectacles are a relic of Evan Spiegel’s flighty, millennial thought process.
But what if they’re not?
[Image Source: Snap Inc.]
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