Snapchat Spectacles and Making MemoriesReading Time: 4 minutes
I recently acquired a pair of the elusive Spectacles by Snap Inc. the parent company of Snapchat. While not the most stylish design, the best way to describe them is whimsical, playful, fun, and entertaining. Phrases which I also believe are the best way to understand Snapchat and Snap Inc. as a whole. Strategically, Snapchat is positioning themselves as a camera company. However, it really is not as simple as that when you dig into what Snap Inc is up to.
An important element to understanding a typical Snapchat user is the vast majority of its user base is equally both a content consumer and content producer. This dynamic is somewhat similar to Instagram but quite different from Facebook where more users are consumers than producers. A highly engaged producer of content, both in videos and photos in Snapchat, is key to the services future. In this light, Spectacles make a great deal of sense. Your smartphone is no doubt an amazing capture device. However, your smartphone is not always handy. The value of having a camera on your face, in this case in sunglasses, is the ease and convenience of instant capture. While not the biggest Snapchat user (certainly not like my teenage daughter), my contribution of video to stories on Snapchat has dramatically increased thanks to Spectacles. Increasing the amount of video created by users lies at the center of where Snap Inc. is going as a camera company.
Part of the clear upside with Snapchat is the number of hours its users spend consuming video content. This remains a clear benchmark Snap’s management uses and is, amazingly, on par with Facebook’s number of video views but with roughly a tenth of the daily active users. Video is central to Snapchat’s upside. The playful, whimsical, and entertaining nature of the videos created by its user base is also key to its differentiation. While I don’t expect Snap Inc. or Snapchat the service to break from this fun and entertaining focus, there is a broader point about Spectacles and my experience with them that I think is worth making. The camera in your smartphone remains one of the most important features year over year consumers gravitate to. I’d argue this is not because of the picture taking capabilities and but more subtly about the memory making capabilities.
I was an early adopter of GoPro cameras. I live a relatively active lifestyle and being able to create video underwater, snowboarding, biking, etc., was extremely appealing to me. Most of those use cases don’t make it convenient to hold your smartphone while you take video of yourself plunging down a mountain. So, the ability to strap a capture device to your body, turn it on, and go have fun made a lot of sense and still does today. The side benefit of the GoPro I did not realize until I owned one was the role it would take in making memories, not just of some crazy stuff I did but of my family.
I was that guy. The dude who strapped a GoPro to his head and walked around Disneyland with his family.
Yes, I got strange looks from people but I didn’t care. Getting great memories of my girls’ first time on a roller coaster or skiing or ice skating for the first time was, and still is, worth it. When you have a first person capture device on you, you realize something profound when you use it in the memory-making context. In my experience, when using it for birthday parties, Disneyland, and other key moments I want to remember, a device like a GoPro and Spectacles (in concept) allows you to remain present when the moment is unfolding. Who wants to watch all of their kid’s firsts through the screen of your smartphone camera? With a GoPro and now, with Spectacles, you can watch the moment as it happens and be totally present in it but still capture it on video for all of eternity. This is the broader opportunity for a less invasive camera that we have in our glasses, on our head, or wherever it may end up in the future.
What has gotten better over the years, as GoPro has evolved and even more with Spectacles + Snapchat, is the ease to go straight from memory capture to sharing/saving. I’d argue the experience with Spectacles + Snapchat is the most seamless I’ve used yet with a device that isn’t a smartphone. With a GoPro, it could take me several minutes to get a video I just took, add some slight editing, and share it, With Spectacles, it takes seconds since the video is quickly synced with your smartphone and available in the app to edit and share. The great thing about Spectacles is they truly function like an extension of your smartphone camera that seamlessly integrates back into the software. This is an area where I feel there is a broader opportunity for companies, Apple and Facebook in particular, and perhaps Google to continue to explore.
While the smartphone will remain a primary capture device for some time, capture accessories that become extensions of our smartphone camera, like a GoPro or Spectacles, make a great deal of sense when done right. Particularly with things like virtual and augmented reality experiences in the future where we can relive memories in virtual reality or simulate being present at a sports game or event in another town without having to be physically present. In most cases, these capture devices will not be your smartphone and will most likely come from companies perfecting the optics, silicon/sensors, design, and software today. Which is a key reason, Snap Inc., in making their key mission to be a camera company, is so interesting.