Snapchat brings its hip round Spectacles to Europe

Snapchat is bringing its Spectacles to Europe, placing five “snapbot” vending machines in London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and Venice to begin selling the £129.99 wearable cameras.

It is the first time the glasses have been available outside the US, where they led to hundreds of people queueing throughout the winter in a bid to secure the coveted gadgets. But for those who don’t fancy joining the queues – or can’t get down to the London Eye, where Britain’s vending machine will be placed – the glasses are also available at Spectacles.com, for shipping across Europe.

The Spectacles are Snap Inc’s first foray into dedicated hardware. They arrived on the scene alongside the firm changing its name from Snapchat and announcing that it no longer thought of itself as an app developer, but as a camera company. “We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate,” Snap says about itself today. “Our products empower people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together.”

Putting that rhetoric into practice, the Spectacles are a pair of sunglasses with a video camera in an arm, which connect to Snapchat over Bluetooth or wifi. The camera takes 10-second snaps in an extremely wide-angle circular format, to better reflect what the wearer is seeing.

Snapchat advert showing woman wearing spectacles
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‘It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it’ … CEO Evan Spiegel. Photograph: Snapchat

On Snapchat itself, the circular videos are displayed in a full-screen format, letting viewers rotate their phone to change what they see. If the images are exported to another service, like Twitter or Instagram, then the whole circle is visible, with the corners of the square clipped off.

Announcing the product in September, Snapchat chief executive Evan Spiegel said: “It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.”

He tested a prototype while on holiday with his supermodel fiancee, now wife, Miranda Kerr. “It was our first vacation, and we went to Big Sur for a day or two. We were walking through the woods, stepping over logs, looking up at the beautiful trees. And when I got the footage back and watched it, I could see my own memory, through my own eyes. It was unbelievable,” he told the Wall Street Journal in a rare interview.

“It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience. It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again.”

The Spectacles also served to prove the scope of Snap’s ambition in the run-up to its IPO in March. Since then, the company has had run-ins with investors over whether it should be seen as a straightforward Facebook competitor, or a more unique media/technology hybrid company.

If the former, the company’s baseline stats could be seen as concerning: it has 166 million daily active users globally, and its user growth has reportedly stalled. But Snap argues that its disproportionately wealthy, young and female user base renders it different from other technology companies in ways the raw figures mask.

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