In October, it was revealed that Snap Inc. had overestimated the popularity of its Spectacles, sunglasses with an embedded camera that shoots circular video, and had hundreds of thousands of units left over. Ian, a friend of mine who was gifted a pair of the glasses, which sold for $130 when they were released in November 2016 at “Snapbot” vending machines, was not surprised. “I haven’t used them since a Run The Jewels show in March,” he said.
Turns out quite a few people feel the same way. Early adopters waited in line and paid up to $5,000 on eBay for Spectacles last year, but the fervor didn’t last. Snap is selling the overstocked Spectacles for $129.99 a pair on its website, but they are available used for far less on e-commerce sites like Poshmark, Tradesy, eBay, and even Craigslist. On Friday, we found four at $80, two at $85, six $100, three at $120 and one “final sale” pair for $70. One listing that claimed the Spectacles were “new with tags” wanted $100. As of Monday morning, most new pairs on eBay were selling for $95 or more, but one “BRAND NEW” pair was listed with the bid at $15.50.
“I initially bought them for events my company ran but rarely even thought about using it after the first two events,” said Kashem Miah of Manhattan, who listed his black “gently used” pair on Craigslist for $80. He then directed me to his tweet about why he’d stopped using them, in which he noted that the charge doesn’t last long, the Spectacles “stopped recording unless regularly reset,” and that the “novelty factor wore off since they're not great sunglasses.”
Over at Poshmark, a popular social e-commerce marketplace for fashion and beauty, Spectacles listings are abundant. User Courtann20 told me she used her pair only twice. “Didn’t use them as much as I thought,” she told me in a message. “They have been sitting in my closet.” She’s now hoping to get $91 for them. Poshmark user stylebyange listed a brand new coral pair for $85. “I got it as a gift but I don’t see myself using it and figured someone else would put it to better use!” she told me.
Spectacles were introduced in fall of 2016 and billed as the “Sunglasses that Snap!” The company encouraged its users to “capture and share the moment” from their perspective by using the frames, but in fact, the process was a bit more involved than that: Spectacles save video to the “Memories” folder on Snapchat, which is private, and then users can share the videos with their friends from there.
When Spectacles came out, they were compared favorably to Google Glass. Spectacles looked like Raybans with bright colors, while Glass looked like drugstore reading glasses with an obvious camera sticking out awkwardly from one side. “Spectacles aren’t as ‘loud’ and obvious as Glass so when you’re wearing a pair, you won’t stick out as a sore thumb as they are not marketing towards the tech crowd,” one reviewer said, predicting a more practical use for the glasses by non-techie crowds. So much for that theory.
The Spectacles backlog comes as Snapchat’s user growth has stalled, causing the company to announce a redesign during its Q3 earnings call. During the call, CEO Evan Spiegel admitted they overestimated the demand for the camera-equipped frames and have lost over $40 million trying to sell them. A second version of Spectacles that supposedly integrated augmented reality was reportedly in the works last summer, but there has been no mention of a Spectacles 2.0 by the company.
The fatal flaw seemed to be that Spectacles aren’t a significant improvement over the camera we all carry in our pocket — and in some ways, they were worse. The glasses couldn’t take photos, only video, and the camera only worked in daylight. “They were so basic and didn't have any unique features” besides saving a few seconds on the seamless experience of taking videos at Kanye West shows, Ian said, “which doesn't really move the needle for me.”
The specs also only work with one social network. “There's probably a strong correlation between lack of growth on Snapchat and actual usage of the Spectacles,” Miah said.
Ian offered to hand his Spectacles down to me. While I’m tempted to take them off his hands to “elevate my Snapchat experience,” my guess is I’ll also be trying to resell them in the near future.