Are Snapchat Spectacles Worth The Hype? We Put Them To The Test

Photo: Madeline Buxton.
The iPhone 7 might have been the most hyped product launch heading into 2017, but Snapchat Spectacles are quickly emerging as one of the most mysteriously cool releases of the year.

Unlike Apple's big September event, Snapchat's announcement of its new product, a pair of glasses that records short videos, came with little fanfare and even fewer details. There was just a blog post — put up on a Saturday, no less — offering a brief summary of how Spectacles work. There was no for-sale date and no mention of price. With that one post, Spectacles were quickly on their way to becoming one of the weirdest, most whimsical tech releases ever.

That status was confirmed earlier this month, when they suddenly became available from a single Snapbot vending machine in L.A. That bot has been followed by ones in select other locations and the exclusivity has spawned Snapbot locator apps and numerous articles guessing at future spots. Thanks to rental company Lumoid, we got to spend Thanksgiving break with a pair of the hardest-to-get shades in the world.

Are Spectacles worth the insane lines and speculation? Here's everything you need to know about them.
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Photo: Courtesy Snapchat.
Hot Topic

Right now, your only options for getting Spectacles are to join Lumoid's rental waitlist, wait in line for hours at Snapchat's New York pop-up store, or, constantly check here in the hope that they will be coming to your city next.

The yellow box you see here is called a Snapbot and it is one of the most adorably strange ways a cool, new tech product has ever been sold. Each Snapbot is sleeping when it lands in a new city — traveling via balloons (à la Up) is tiring, after all — and will only awaken for 24 hours in that location. When you step into the bot's line of sight, it stirs from its slumber and dispenses Spectacles of your choice (they come in coral, black, and teal) from its mouth.
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Photo: Madeline Buxton.
Vend Me

Like other vending machine products, Spectacles come in a cheap plastic container. Inside is a cloth to clean them and the glasses case itself, which is much sturdier.
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Photo: Madeline Buxton.
Power Up

Inside their case, the Spectacles magnetically connect to a charger. Snap them in and a circle lights up to indicate how full your battery is — a complete circle means your battery is completely charged.

On one full charge, Spectacles are supposed to last for a day. Of course, this depends on how often you're using them. After taking 20 10-second videos over the course of and hour and a half, my battery was only at 50%. But I didn't find this to be an issue, since I could just place them back in the case when I wasn't using them and they charged up completely again in about 30 minutes.
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Photo: Madeline Buxton.
Out In The Wild

Here's where the fun begins. As soon as I put my spectacles on for the first time, I wanted to wear them everywhere and record everything. There's something so novel and exciting about putting on an ordinary product — a pair of sunglasses — and being able to secretly record what's happening around you. (Of course, this can raise some security issues. But, then again, so could your smartphone if you're recording someone without them knowing.)

The best part of Spectacles is that the camera portion is completely unobtrusive. When your glasses are on, you press the button in the top left-hand corner and the glasses will begin recording for 10 seconds at a time (they can record up to 30 seconds continuously). An outward-facing circular light lets others know that you're filming and a inner light that's barely noticeable (you can only see it peripherally) lets you know when your clip is done.
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Photo: Madeline Buxton.
I Can See Clearly Now

If you're connected to Wi-Fi, the video taken by your Specs will begin uploading to Snapchat. From here you can edit it, adding Snapchat filters, text, and stickers, and send to friends, put in your Story, or save to your Memories.

The video quality isn't always incredible: Screens and reflective surfaces don't show up very well and there's no image stabilization. This means that any of your shaky head movements will be reflected in the film captured by Spectacles. This might bother someone who's a camera perfectionist, but it didn't trouble me. I had so much fun re-watching what I had recorded — and seeing things in a slightly different light — that I didn't care about a little blurriness here and there.
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Photo: Madeline Buxton.
Leaf Peeping

The main benefit of recording with Spectacles versus your iPhone camera is that you can use both hands to do things. Just press your recording button and you're good to go. This is a nice change from holding your iPhone in one hand to try to capture video.

Plus, with Spectacles I wasn't taking the time to check my clips after they were shot. This meant I could actually enjoy what I was doing and not worry about the angle, color, or other details. I looked forward to checking out the more spontaneous images later.
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Photo: Madeline Buxton.
Going Under

Another benefit to Spectacles: Anything you record when not connected to Wi-Fi will be saved. If you're using iOS, clips will automatically transfer to your phone via Bluetooth. But if you want the highest-quality Snaps, it's best to transfer over Wi-Fi.
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Photo: Madeline Buxton.
Unforeseen Obstacles

One important thing to note: whatever is in front of your Spectacles will show up on screen. So, if your hair tends to fall in your face, as mine does, you'll want to pin it back so that it doesn't interfere with your recording.
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Photo: Madeline Buxton.
Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

To check the battery without putting Spectacles in the case, you're supposed to be able to double tap the right-hand side of the glasses (near the charging circle). This worked sporadically. I found myself repeatedly tapping with no response from my Spectacles, which got frustrating.
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Photo: Madeline Buxton.
Cost Factor

So, are Spectacles worth $129.99? Absolutely.

It's been awhile since I found a tech product that wasn't a smartphone that really excited me. Spectacles did. They made me feel like a kid again with a new toy — albeit, a toy that actually looks stylish and has a touch of whimsy.

Even though the video I captured wasn't perfect, I didn't need it to be. I still had more fun watching my clips and sharing them with friends than I usually do with photos. As for the outside world? Only one woman, who was ringing me up at the corner grocery store, noticed that there was a camera built into my sunglasses. Her reaction was nothing but joyful. "That is so cool," she said, reaching out to touch them. "Do those record?"

Spectacles might not be the most advanced tech product of 2016, but they are the most fun. Now, go in search of a Snapbot.
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