Now that Snapchat Spectacles are available online, the sheen of vending machine-related exclusivity is now off. That makes this the perfect time to post a long term review of my own pair.
Because I was one of many writers at CES 2017, to sprint towards the T-Mobile arena – once the Snapbot location was announced on their website. Yes, I was caught up in the hype built through airport security marketing, the TV reporter who interviewed me outside the machine and what was an extreme scarcity of spectacles at the time.
It was the ‘Wonka Bar Golden Ticket’ version of a gadget release, and it got me hook, line, and sinker…
With that inescapable excitement, once I got to actually try them out, my experience was not a great one. The shine wore off with the realisation that $129.99 (roughly £105) bought you a pair of camera-enabled sunglasses, with stylistic inspirations drawn from Dame Edna-esque and a lack of understanding about what HD video actually is.
Allow me to just leave you lingering on this comparative picture of the Dame herself and this pair of Spectacles. The winged tips, the under-designed-yet-overstated presence, and those damn winged tips! Maybe this is part of a fashion trend that as a tech reviewer, I am unable to understand. But to me (and many of my friends), this is the most obvious comparison.
As for the technology built into the Spectacles, the camera is of a good quality for Snapchat. Tap the shutter button and you’re recording for ten seconds - tap again during this time and it will continue for a full thirty seconds.
Record with good light in the day, and the picture will be fine with a surprisingly decent microphone for crisp audio. But the debate starts when you tap ‘Get HD’ and are forced to connect to wi-fi, to transfer the bigger file. Put simply, the quality is improved only marginally and the frame rate is increased to 60fps.
A higher frame rate does not equal a higher definition.
Plus, the case is bulky and un-pocketable - meaning you’re going without a battery or a bag to carry the case in - and the long-term usability was brought into question, given the fact you won’t be wearing sunglasses 90% of the time due to British inclement weather and not wanting to look like a complete tosser by wearing them indoors.
But after a while, my attitude changed.
Without the insurmountable initial hype behind them, I stopped nitpicking the sum of its parts and began to look at Spectacles through a new lens (pardon the pun), as the whole.
I started enjoying the renewed creativity that circular, first-person video afforded me - being both orientation-agnostic on Snapchat and a fresh new way of presenting video content on any other social network.
The charging case became a God send - excusing the bulkiness for extra snapping time, as the 135 mAh battery doesn’t last long when transferring higher quality snaps.
Even the design started to grow on me, with cushions on the nose bridge to provide comfort and grip, so they will not fall off. And you can’t deny the feeling of superficial superiority when someone “in the know” notices what you actually have.
As for Spectacles’ implementation with the app, transfer of videos is much faster and automatic than I ever expected - sometimes already finishing before I got the chance to wake my phone and open Snapchat. But, the snaps are stored as daily stories, making the task of finding a specific video amongst a sea of snaps quite a pain!
So is Snapchat’s first piece of hardware worth buying? If you asked me when I first bought these, that would have been a resounding no. Spectacles are not worth the hype they were given, through such a genius way of marketing through rarity.
But now the rose tinted specs (I just can’t help myself now) have been taken off, and we are able to see Spectacles for their true value, I’ve managed to flip/reverse my opinion.
If you are quite the Snapchat addict, then these are essential. If you don’t, then these might just end up being an expensive pair of sunglasses (stick to the £3 pairs from Primark).
But if you’re like me - the occasional Snapchat user who posts across other networks too, likes to get inventive with video creation and has some money to burn, then give Spectacles a go.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.