The spectacular failure of Spectacles – why did SnapChat lose out?


Connor James Ibbetson, Journalist

Snap Inc’s Spectacles have officially failed – costing the company a fair amount of money. But why?

The idea of wearable tech is certainly not something new. We’ve had excellent smartwatch technology for a couple of years now, that somewhat marked the beginning of the industry taking wearable tech much more seriously.

However, as Google Glass showed us back in 2013, the public just weren’t ready for such an intimate, in your face use of tech. The hidden camera element also sparked privacy concerns – could we ever get used to the idea of being filmed covertly?

Now Snapchat’s Spectacles has joined the ranks as another failed iteration of smart glasses. Simply not enough people wanted to buy them, and it cost the company $40 million.

But why didn’t they take off?

snap incs spectacles

Source: Snap Inc.

One reason behind the failure of Spectacles was the launch, with the first five months of their life only being available from the special ‘SnapBot’ vending machines. Perhaps the marketing strategy was to limit supply to build hype, but whatever the reasoning, this backfired.

SnapChat also failed to utilise heavy-weight social media influencers to build the Spectacles brand, allowing the brand to fizzle out because no big-name snapchatters were pushing the device. Josh Constine writing in TechCrunch likened this to Google’s mistake of allowing geekiness to control the Google Glass brand.


The two most glaring, and perhaps unforgivable mistakes however, relate to the usability of the Spectacles.

First off, the Spectacles only transmitted their video direct to the SnapChat app, not the phone’s camera roll. While this is clearly convenient for uploading to Snapchat (the glasses’ primary function), it makes the wearable perhaps a little too niche.

For people who want to share beyond the realms of Snapchat, they’d then have to save to camera roll and share the (circular) content from within other apps. It’s probably like this by design – why send Snapchat fans to other apps? But a gadget solely for one app may not be on the average consumer’s wishlist.

Secondly, they solve a problem that doesn’t exist. We can easily get video footage for Snapchat with our phones, with the added benefit of AR filters. The specs may allow hands free filming, and give videos a cool porthole, p.o.v. effect, but is that worth £139? Perhaps not.

Couple this with their online retail launch coming after holiday season, and it starts to become apparent why the Spectacles missed their mark.


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