Innovation

Snapchat Spectacles: A cheat sheet

Are Snap Inc.'s Spectacles more than just a gimmick? Here's a look at how the wearables can be a practical benefit to an organization's social media strategy.

Snapchat has been a newsmaker since its release in 2011, and Snap Inc. made another big splash in 2017 with its video recording Spectacles. Looking like a pair of slightly clunky sunglasses, Spectacles house a video camera and microphone that allow the wearer to create first-person, hands-free videos with minimal effort.

Spectacles seem like a gimmick, but first impressions may be misleading—especially for businesses and organizations that include Snapchat as part of their social media strategy.

Snap Inc. has launched a new, improved Spectacles model that the company hopes won't suffer from disappointing sales and a reputation for being a fad like the original. The new Spectacles have several improvements that may make them even more practical for businesses hoping to improve their Snapchat strategy.

TechRepublic's cheat sheet about Snapchat Spectacles is a quick introduction to this wearable tech product. This guide will be updated periodically as new versions of hardware and software are released.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's cheat sheets and smart person's guides

Executive summary

  • What are Snap's Spectacles, and what improvements come with the second generation Spectacles? Spectacles are sunglasses built by Snapchat's parent company, Snap Inc. The second generation Spectacles can record video, take still photos, have smaller electronics, and are even water resistant.
  • Why do Snap's Spectacles matter? It's easy to dismiss Spectacles as novelty glasses, but businesses can use Spectacles to show off new products, and they're also conceptual proof of the possible evolution of wearable tech.
  • Are Snap's Spectacles really practical for businesses? Businesses that use Snapchat can improve their social media response time with Spectacles. Businesses selling a lifestyle product or service can make great use of Spectacles because they can be worn while using a product or performing a service, giving customers a first-person look at what they do.
  • How can I buy Snap's Spectacles? Second-generation Spectacles are available on the Spectacles website and from select retail partners. There won't be any pop-up vending machines to generate hype this time—just go online and buy them.
  • How do I use Snap's Spectacles? You pair Spectacles inside the Snapchat app and then start snapping photos and videos.

SEE: Photos of cracking open the Snapchat Spectacles (TechRepublic)

What are Snap's Spectacles, and what improvements come with the second generation Spectacles?

Snap Inc.'s Spectacles look like a pair of sunglasses, albeit with a couple of brightly colored circles at the base of the arms. Those circles are what makes Spectacles the latest in wearable tech—LEDs, a camera, two microphones, and all the stuff needed to power them.

Spectacles are wearable camera glasses with a catch: They take still photos and videos, but videos can only be 10- or 30-second clips. Pressing a button on the top of the arm once takes a 10-second video, and pressing it again extends the recording to 30 seconds.

As soon as a video is taken, it's synced to the connected Snapchat account. The video isn't auto posted, though—the app gives you a chance to edit it before making it live. If the Spectacles are out of range of their paired phone, don't worry—the glasses can store videos and then sync them once the phone is back in range.

If you're worried about capacity, don't be: Photographs of the internal components of the first generation Spectacles and our own research leads us to be confident that there are 4 GB of ePoP flash storage, which should be more than enough to snap to your heart's content when you forget your phone. Second generation Spectacles are able to store 150 videos or 3,000 photos before getting full.

The second generation of Spectacles, released in April 2018, contain numerous upgrades to the original hardware. TechRepublic sister site CNET lists those improvements, which include:

  • A reduction in electronics size by one third, making the bulky temples a bit smaller;
  • Dual microphones to decrease noise and increase audio quality;
  • Still photo capabilities;
  • A field-of-view reduction to 105 degrees compared to 115 in the original, which reduces fish eye lensing of photos and videos;
  • Water resistance, which Snapchat advertises as being enough to handle splashing or light swimming in shallow water—no IP rating was given, however;
  • HD video transfer;
  • Prescription lens options; and
  • Faster data transfer speeds from Spectacles to phone.

Those tech improvements come with a price increase as well: The new Spectacles cost $149.99, up from $129.99.

Spectacles (second generation) tech specs

  • Weight: 45.4 grams
  • Memory: 4 GB flash storage
  • Audio: dual microphone array
  • Camera: f 2.2, 105 degree FOV
  • Photo resolution: 1642 x 1642
  • Video resolution: 1216 x 1216 at 60FPS

Additional resources

Why do Snap's Spectacles matter?

It's easy to dismiss Spectacles as a tech toy that will get limited use before being forgotten in a desk drawer. While that will likely be the case for plenty of pairs, that doesn't mean the wearables don't have practical uses.

Promotional shots of Spectacles in use by sports teams and other organizations show off great use cases for the wearables: First-person perspectives of product demos, events, and a behind-the-scenes look at daily operations.

Beyond being a great way to reach more customers on social media, Spectacles are also a preview of the future of wearable tech. Yes, the limitations on them (being locked into Snapchat and not being able to record longer videos) force them into a very small niche, but similar products are likely to come out in the future that look and feel like Spectacles with an added openness.

Like it or not, the kind of instant media that Spectacles allow the average person to create is the new norm. The quicker an organization learns to take advantage of this form of content creation, the better off it will be.

Additional resources

Are Snap's Spectacles practical for businesses?

Businesses that use Spectacles as part of their social media campaigns are giving their followers a new way to look at their world, and it's intimate in a way that typical photos and videos simply can't be. If that kind of close connection to customers could benefit your business, there's no reason not to try Spectacles as part of your social media strategy.

Spectacles can show customers products and services in action from the perspective of a user. Sure, you could get the same thing with a GoPro, but not nearly as fast, or in nearly as easily digestible as a 30-second Snapchat video that's ready to be posted almost immediately after being captured.

A quick glance at the most in-demand skills for freelancers shows that video is an important part of many businesses strategies. In many cases that's professional quality, edited, and formally shot video, but not always—social media hits can be short, quick, and informal.

Now imagine being able to rapidly publish short clips to Snapchat without needing anything more than a $150 pair of glasses.

Additional resources

When can I buy Snap's Spectacles?

Spectacles have been available since November 2016, and were originally available exclusively through pop-up vending machines that Snap Inc. set up temporarily (and at short notice) in major cities.

This latest generation of Spectacles can be purchased on Spectacles.com. The glasses sell for $149.99 USD and are available in three colors: Onyx, Ruby, and Sapphire.

For specifics about availability and cost of the glasses outside the US, check out the Spectacles site.

Additional resources

How do I use Snap's Spectacles?

All you need are a pair of Spectacles, a Snapchat account and the latest version of the Snapchat App, and a smartphone running iOS 10 on an iPhone 5 or later, or above or an Android device running Android 4.4 or above. Setting them up is incredibly easy inside the Snapchat app.

Once paired, you press the button on the left side to start taking video or hold it to take a photo, and then open Snapchat to share it or add it to your story. Spectacles charge in their case, which can get them from empty to full four times before it needs to be recharged using a cable as well.

Additional resources


spectacles-sapphire-with-twilight.jpg

Snap's Spectacles

Image: Snap Inc.

About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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