Snap Inc. — The New Snapchat and What That Means for UX / by Gavin Lau

As soon as I saw the news, I knew this would be the next greatest advancement in casual technology and User Experience.

For those unaware, on September 24th, Snapchat just released a complete re-branding of their company. They are now known as Snap Inc. — a camera company — according to their revamped Twitter page. This is a big changefrom their previously branded social media company, and means big things for both the camera and the social media industries.

Snap Inc. followed along their big rebranding with the release of their first ever hardware — a set of glasses known as Spectacles. These glasses pair up with Snapchat via Wi-fi or Bluetooth (or both if you’re so inclined), and enable their users to record 10 seconds of video from the built in, brand-new circular lens. This may not mean much to people, but the idea is that the field of vision is recorded in a circle with 115 degrees of view, so when viewed on a phone, there is no benefit or loss to watching via landscape (horizontally) or portrait (vertically) mode.

The setup of the cameras on the glasses mimic human vision, so users can record what they see and play it back as if it came from their own eyes. Videos are saved in the “Memories” section on Snapchat, which can then be distributed or watched at any time by the user.

I’m sure we’ve all expected something big to come from Snapchat, who’ve been quiet ever since their Memories feature was introduced.

But I don’t think we expected something quite like this.


From A User Experience Perspective

Snapchat, whose whole brand is based on the simplicity of hitting one button (and maybe conducting a few swipes afterward just for that wretched puppy filter), has continued down their line of careful UX production with Spectacles. The glasses are funky, different, and retro, but in the end only have a single button to push to have fun.

This one button method is crucial for users, because no one wants to be fiddling around with different dials or knobs on their glasses — they become far too awkward and clunky, ruining the style and the functionality of the piece. Instead, the elegance and intuitiveness of one cleverly placed button, accompanied with the glasses’ retro-chic personality basically scream “BUY ME” to Millennials. Click once, and have fun. Hands-free.

Spectacles can be worn anywhere; they’re not limited to sport or high-action use. The boldness and intuitive design make it very clear what the glasses are when walking in public, and yet are classy or cool enough to encourage others to try them out. Their case even charges them up, so you can have them ready wherever you go.

In the end, though, the Spectacles are exactly what CEO Evan Spiegel describes them as — a toy meant to be used with Snapchat. It makes sense that those without the app would never bother buying these glasses at all, since they can’t use them without the accompanying app. Is that a problem? I’d say not.

Snapchat has over 150 million daily users, and even if 0.1% of their user base bought a pair of Spectacles (running at $130 a pair), the company would still make $19.5 million in revenue. Put simply, Snapchat doesn’t need to grow its audience or expand its service anymore.

But the Spectacles suggest they are.


Spectacles As A Marketing Tool

Snapchat was purely software, and the only way you’d really notice the app would be by seeing it load up on someone else’s smartphone. Spectacles bring a new name to Snapchat, and encourage others with or without the app to do a double-take on the street when they see the glasses, thinking “What are those?”

Spectacles have been explained as a marketing experiment. Spiegel admits that he doesn’t know how the glasses will do, but by rolling them out slowly, he can adapt them to respond to user concerns. The glasses will use this feedback loop to make further iterations to the product line, and I’m sure a “Spectacles 2.0” is already in the works because of this.

Legitimizing the service, Spectacles give more credibility to its social media app, since older folks still view Snapchat as a place for “naughty behaviour”. The app is simple, fun, and easy, where the Spectacles are simple, fun, and bold. The boldness gives the company an air of seriousness, particularly with them rebranding as Snap Inc. This shift shows that they’re not just some viral app anymore, but a successful company with a product line, a viable means of income, and they aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

The best part of Spectacles is that they disrupt an industry that they themselves created.

Snapchat formed its own unique brand of social media, where the phone is used as a brief little diary of a user’s life. The personal phone became the personal lens into a personal perspective of a life that doesn’t get shown anywhere else. Despite having little competition in this field, Spectacles upped their own game by giving people a new, even more intimate and personal lens to look through. They essentially disrupted their own industry.

Advertising of the Spectacles is more or less free for Snap Inc. When people view their friends’ stories, and some start to be filmed through the Spectacles, users will notice the difference immediately, and think “Wow, I want those.” The difference in video quality and style itself will be enough to provoke more buyers, as it’s the latest, coolest, and best-looking experience they’ve ever encountered. The new circular video style will also inspire a new wave of creatives who will take advantage of this niche filming approach, thus boosting the popularity and appeal of the glasses.

The biggest question people are asking, though — will the Spectacles stop users from using Snapchat on their phones?

No. Quite simply, because the user still needs to open Snapchat to publish these videos. The greatest thing about Spectacles is that the videos don’t need to ever be public. Users can record video, automatically have it saved, and keep it for personal reflection if they so please.

Herein lies the crucial point of Spectacles as a marketing tool. Through their release, people now perceive Snapchat in a different, introspective way. Previously, Snapchat was only used to show other people the user’s simple, day-to-day life. Now, with Spectacles, users can record their experience for themselves. The audience grew from the user’s friends to include just the user. The glasses gave a new lens, a different perspective, an expanded audience, and a new purpose to Snapchat.

That, in itself, is enough reason to call these retro glasses disruptive.