The next big revolution may be technology glasses. And Snapchat Spectacles could be leading the way as consumer demand for the product soars.
“I was blown away by the thought that went into every aspect of the packaging -- from the ghost shaped cleaning cloth, to the quality of the self-charging case,” said Josh Decker, CEO of Tagboard, a social search and display platform and one of the first Spectacles owners in Seattle. “I'm blown away by the quality. They are simply astonishing value for the money.” (See also: How Snapchat Makes Money.)
Priced at $130, Snapchat's Spectacles aren’t available just anywhere and to anyone. Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, is selling them in moving vending machines around the country in what amounts a controlled sales release. So far, they’ve been in Santa Monica and Big Sur in California, and also in Tulsa, Oklahoma, not exactly tech hotbeds.
“I'd say they could easily sell hundreds of thousands of these in the first year,” said Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson, noting it’s really up to Snap on what approach they want to take. “If Snap really puts its foot on the gas, it could sell over a million by the end of next year."
$2,000 on EBay
It’s unclear exactly how many units have been sold, but early estimates have them around 2,000 units so far. A strong sign of the enormous demand is that Spectacles are going for as much as $2,000 on eBay, highlighting the consumer interest, different marketing technique and scarcity value of the picture/video-taking sunglasses, akin to the Tickle Me Elmo craze of the 1990’s.
“Artificial scarcity does a couple of things – it builds interest, buzz, and ultimately desire to own the device,” said Dawson. “Exclusivity makes people want things. The other thing is that it allows Snap to have a small number of users at first and work out any bugs or other issues before they go mass market. So it serves at least those two purposes.”
The Cool Factor
Spectacles are one-size-fits all and come in three colors -- black, teal or coral. They let you tape the rim to take a 10-second video or three taps for up to 30 seconds. There’s a light on the front that lets people around you know you’re filming.
By building a product that’s cool looking, can pass for a normal pair of sunglasses, is easy to set up and is inexpensive, Snap and CEO Evan Spiegel have been able to capture the minds and attention of all onlookers, not just the tech elite, something Google wasn’t able to do with Glass. Snap has not yet responded for comment on how many units it has sold.
The augmented reality market is going to be huge, perhaps to the tune of $120 billion by 2020, according to Digi-Capital. Of that $120 billion, a good portion of it will be hardware, with competition coming from all angles, including from companies with bigger checkbooks than Snap.
Why Google Glass Faded
“Google Glass was the first to hit the consumer space,” said Creative Strategies President Tim Bajarin. “They sold less than 20,000 units.” While Glass was more geared towards augmented reality -- layering information on top of real world items -- it was geeky looking, people were scared of the lack of privacy and it never appealed to a mass market. Though Bajarin cautions that Snapchat's Spectacles right now are more like GoPro and other wearable cameras, the company could be positioning them in the future as augmented reality. “Snapchat’s vision is to be wearable augmented reality, but they’re not delivering on that just yet.”
Apple's Possible Plans
Glass is making a bit of a rebound in medicine and Apple is reported to be working on its own augmented reality glasses, as well as giving the camera app in the iPhone augmented reality capabilities. Apple CEO Tim Cook has talked extensively about augmented reality, leading observers to speculate Apple is going to go after that market in a big way.
It’s still early for Spectacles, but early buzz suggests this isn’t going to be just a marketing stunt for the company. It’s an actual product that generates real revenue that is likely just starting to ramp up and will further the push of augmented reality into the daily lexicon.
Augmented reality is coming and will impact the lives of millions, if not billions, the way the smartphone has. For the technology, Spectacles might just be the rose-colored glasses investors and consumers have been looking for.