Beyond “early adopters” is the “mass market” — Snapchat’s testing with the earlies but will the MM buy in?
September 24, 2016
IN AN UNMARKED BUILDING on a quiet side street just off the beach in Venice, California, 26-year-old Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel stands in a small conference room. He’s draped a towel over a mysterious object sitting on a table. He is eager to the point of jitters.
“You wanna see it?” he asks, grinning widely. There’s drama in this reveal: I’m about to join an exceedingly small circle of people whom Spiegel has shown the object to. As he lifts the towel, he breaks into a delighted laugh. “Boom!”
What initially appears to be a normal pair of sunglasses turns out to be Spectacles, the first hardware product from Snap Inc., as the firm has been newly christened (Spiegel is refreshing the company name because its offerings now go beyond the Snapchat app). When you slip Spectacles on and tap a button near the hinge, it records up to 10 seconds of video from your first-person vantage. Each new tap records another clip.
For the moment, Spectacles appears to be a bit of a lark. At a price of $129.99 and with limited distribution, it won’t be relied upon for significant immediate revenue. Spiegel refers to it as a toy, to be worn for kicks at a barbecue or an outdoor concert—Spectacles video syncs wirelessly to a smartphone, making it easily shareable. “We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out,” says Spiegel. “It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.”
Why make this product, with its attendant risks, and why now? “Because it’s fun,” he says with another laugh. This looseness, this sense of confident experimentation, seems to encapsulate one aspect of Snapchat’s startling success.
Then there’s another side: Spiegel’s eye on what’s coming down the pike. Spectacles will allow Snap Inc. to at last control a physical camera, instead of making the app a slave to your smartphone’s built-in lens. He hints that there could be far-reaching implications if Snapchat can seize the means of image production. It’s not mere fun, it turns out. There are commerce gears clicking beneath the frivolous exterior of these glasses.