Oh, snap: Next-gen Snapchat Spectacles are here, and they're faster, sleeker, and 100% more water resistant than the originals.
When Snapchat first released Spectacles in November 2016, it pulled a Beyoncé: The video-enabled shades popped up in seemingly random cities overnight, available through giant, yellow vending-machines called Snapbots. They came in playful, if slightly unwearable colours, including teal, coral, and black. The glasses had a whimsical touch (users were told Snapbots traveled via balloons), but one that couldn't sustain sales past the initial hype.
With its new Spectacles, Snap is making another big gamble on the camera-centric device — and hoping it can win over more of its everyday users. Ahead, our thoughts after 24 hours with the latest lenses.
With the original Spectacles, you were limited to taking videos, and not very high-quality ones at that. With the new Spectacles, you can still record 10-second clips (and up to 30 seconds continuously), but each video is transferred to your phone in HD-only. There's also an added option to take photos in HD.
Despite early rumours of two cameras, there is still just one — located in the upper corner of the lens on the right — with an LED light above the left-hand lens that turns on to indicate when you're filming. Snapchat has, however, added an additional microphone to improve audio in video recordings.
Since these are sunglasses, you're probably not going to be wearing them at nighttime concerts or parties. This means you're limited to taking shots during the daytime, and you'll want to maximise using them during those hours. To facilitate this, Snapchat has made the glasses water resistant (the case is splash-proof), and says you can wear them for up to one meter in depth for up to 30 minutes at a time.
A (Slightly) Updated Look
In terms of their basic shape, the new Spectacles look almost identical to the originals, with round lenses and a shallow arch. The new version is sleeker and smaller in the right spots: They are more comfortable to wear, since the temple area of the frame, where the camera technology is housed, is about one-third smaller than it was in the first generation (in the photos above, the Spectacles on the left are the 2016 version, while the ones on the right are the 2018 version). The yellow charging case is also significantly smaller.
The new lineup of colours emphasises rich, jewel tones over the loud, pops of colour of the previous generation. There's ruby, a deep red; sapphire, a dark blue; and onyx, a classic black. There are no more yellow circles around the camera and LED light — the rim of each is tonal, blending in with the rest of the frame. Each colour is also available in two lens shades: one is transparent and the other is mirrored.
These design elements make the new Spectacles look less like a gimmick, and more like a legitimate pair of quality sunglasses. To that end, they're slightly more expensive (£149), and you can pay extra to order a polarised version, as well as a prescription pair through Snapchat's partnership with Lensabl.
As for how to buy a pair, Snapchat has abandoned its Snapbots in favour of a more traditional and — as evidenced by the first run — smarter sales approach: Everyone can buy the shades online starting today.
The new Spectacles look less like a gimmick, and more like a legitimate pair of quality sunglasses.
Compared to the grainy video recorded with the original Spectacles, the new Specs are a major improvement. Although there are some moments, especially in low-light conditions, where the recording looks slightly noisy, it is much better than before.
The main benefit of using Spectacles over your iPhone camera still holds true: After pressing the record button, both hands are free, whether you want to sort through a rack of clothes or eat an ice cream cone.
Mind The Camera
It is important to remember that because these are glasses, they move with your face. So, if you're filming yourself doing something — such as putting on lipstick, like R29's beauty editor Samantha Sasso is here — the video can look slightly jumpy.
Turns out, the Spectacles really shine under water. Although wearing them while swimming feels a bit odd — they're glasses, after all, not goggles — watching the content afterwards is a surprisingly fun experience. They're definitely better suited to a beach vacation than your local, indoor pool, but, come summer, they could prove a must-have adventure asset.
Snap & Share
To use Spectacles, you need to have a Snapchat account. That's how you pair the glasses initially — tap Settings and select "Spectacles" to start the process — and upload content. The shades are much easier to pair over Bluetooth this time around (it took me about two minutes to set them up), and transfer your photos and videos in three seconds compared to the average 9 seconds it took with the originals. Whenever you shoot something new with your Spectacles, you'll get a Snapchat notification letting you know you have new Snaps to import.
I did experience a few small annoyances when importing images. Spectacles have their own Wi-Fi network for syncing content, but, on iOS, I was asked to agree to join that network every time. I also needed to re-pair my glasses twice after they mysteriously unpaired. These are small hiccups, but ones that could get frustrating over time.
The sharing options are the same as they were before: Imported Snaps save to your Memories, and you can share them in the app as Stories, or export them to Instagram, Facebook, and your camera roll. However, the exported version will only appear as a circular visual, instead of the full-screen one that shows up in Snapchat.
The Final Take
Spectacles won't be for everyone, especially people who don't have — and don't want to create — a Snapchat account. However, the improvements the company has made since 2016 show that it is listening to its users and making smart tweaks. If Snap really is a camera company, having a device on the market that speaks to that branding is key, and Spectacles do just that.
Getting comfortable with having a camera on your face is another matter altogether. But this one blends in so seamlessly, it's hard not to want to give it chance. The question is, will people buy in to using them to snap, splash, and share?