Snap Inc.’s Spectacles sunglasses made their European debut last Friday. These wearables, which let users record 10-second videos and upload them to the Snapchat mobile app, cost $129.99 in the U.S. They sell for 129.99 pounds in Britain and 149.99 euros elsewhere in Europe, the Verge reported. CNBC reported the high-tech camera glasses now can be purchased online in 14 European countries, in addition to being sold from vending machines in Berlin, London, Paris, Barcelona, Spain, and Venice, Italy. This is the first time Spectacles officially are being sold outside the U.S. since the product launched in November 2016.
Spectacles’ commercial success has sparked speculation about the future of Snap products. The tech company that owns Spectacles and Snapchat filed a patent for augmented reality glasses in May. Snap already offers augmented reality features through mobile Snapchat apps and advertising campaigns, imposing digital graphics on top of real photos. Snapchat’s World Lens feature lets users experience AR directly through their smartphones' cameras, instead of needing to upload the image to Snapchat before layering it with AR graphics. How will the next version of Snap Spectacles shape the future of wearables?
TechCrunch reported the next version of Spectacles is clouded in such zealously guarded secrecy that few employees know the details of this second-generation product. If the AR patent has anything to do with Spectacles, it could catapult wearables from products that monitor user experiences to accessories that actually shape how users experience their surroundings. Thanks to Snapchat’s AR features, Snap is already poised to become one of the dominant companies in the burgeoning AR industry. Spectacles, in particular, also proved how fashion will play into the market for high-tech glasses.
Spectacles repeatedly have sold out and are considered high-tech fashion unlike similar products like Google Glass, which cost around $1,500. “Aesthetically, Snapchat has nailed it with very cool frames that are comparable to the big-name, high-fashion brands,” Andrew Bilinsky, co-founder of the online prescription lens company Lensabl, told WWD. “Google Glass was too techie the way it was marketed and promoted.” Time magazine also referred to Google Glass as “ visually dorky.” Spectacles proved tech companies can play ball in the complex world of fashion where even successful retail giants still struggle to establish artistic credibility with stylish consumers.
Now Apple and Microsoft both reportedly are working on their own Google Glass-style wearables with slightly different features. Google denies rumors future versions of Google Glass could include augmented reality while Microsoft’s version will definitely include AR. Despite Google’s pitfalls, so far only Snap’s wearables appear to prioritize style. Affordability and a stylish design are driving factors behind Spectacles’ success. Since Spectacles look a lot like regular sunglasses, fashionistas are more inclined to wear them in everyday life.
Fashion critics and techies alike have pointed out Spectacles’ potential for use at fashion shows and capturing street style faster than a phone. Spectacles could offer a trendsetting model for how wearables can merge social media, high-tech fashion and online retail. Snapchat board member Joanna Coles told Recode in 2016 the social media network eventually will develop an e-commerce platform, where Snapchat users could shop directly through the mobile app. Regardless of what features the next version of Spectacles will have, including AR, it’s clear these high-tech glasses will continue to set the tone for mainstream wearables.