The queues are gone, the vending machines are no more and the thousands of unsold, original Snap Spectacles likely rest in landfill in an undisclosed location.
But despite a rough first outing, the hardware dream for Snap Inc. isn't dead. With a new look, some new features and lessons learned, the company's smartglasses are back for a second hit (though still officially just called Snap Spectacles). And through their return, Snap will be looking to bounce back and steady itself on the road to more advanced iterations in the years to come ‚Äď after all, leaks and industry whispers suggest that more hardware is in the works for 2019 and beyond.
Such glasses would potentially expand the camera-enabled smarts of the current Specs out into the world of augmented reality, which Snapchat is beginning to explore itself, but, for now, we're dealing with the $149.99, refreshed Spectacles 2.
And there are some questions to resolve here, for those looking to pick up a pair of the fun-time sunglasses. Are they worth the lofty outlay, do they significantly improve on the original, and just how long are you actually likely to use them for? We've been living with the second-generation Snap Spectacles in order to find out. Read on below for our full review.
Snap Spectacles 2: Design
As you'll notice from the pictures below, this is a design that does differ from the original Spectacles ‚Äď but only slightly. Both arms now bring a solid-to-transparent gradient look, and the adjacent sections joining together the frames and housing the camera tech have been reduced slightly.
They're still plastic, and that camera still sits in the corner of the right lens with a button above to activate recording or photo-taking. Charging, too, again takes place wirelessly through the now-slimmer charging case, though this does come with a proprietary charger that fits into the back.
Like many follow-up iterations, the design here aims to be slimmer and lighter. And while it does achieve that to some degree, the difference isn't too stark in either category. They are slimmer, but this isn't some groundbreaking change ‚Äď it's not even enough to really affect how the glasses feel in use, and they still feel mightily different to a wearing regular pair of sunglasses. The weight, too, is slightly less, but you'd be hard-pressed to spot the difference when holding both pairs at the same time.
That's compounded by the fact that, generally, we didn't find the Snap Spectacles 2 to provide an overly comfortable fit. Especially over a prolonged period of time ‚Äď say, heading out with them for a couple of hours at the park ‚Äď we found the bridge caused our nose to ache and the fit behind the ear grated on us. And that's not necessarily due to a tight fit or a lack of experience wearing regular glasses, either. We'd go as far as to say that, for whatever reason, the originals feel more comfortable on the face.
Another change in the look is the lens itself, now coming with the option of a more reflective tint, rather than just the standard shade found in the original. If you're using these as your go-to sun-blockers, you'll also want to know that the Specs 2 offer protection from UVA and UVB rays.
It's different, and adds to the variation available through this generation (Ruby, Onyx and Sapphire, with two different lenses to choose from in each colourway). But, as we found with our unit, the Onyx model with the Moonlight lens, the reflection does make the whole look pop more. In short, these aren't sunglasses that will go unnoticed, and whether or not you want that from your Specs is down to personal preference.
In other minor tweaks, the yellow circles around both the camera and status indicator are also gone, though both work in the same way. When you hit the record/photo button, a light inside the left eye will shine and then flash when a recording is coming to an end, and friends will be able to see when you're snapping something.
One of the more tangible upgrades from the design is that it's now waterproof. Well, relatively speaking, anyway. The Specs can now survive submersion up to a couple of feet and the odd bit of wet weather, but Snap hasn't provided full details regarding the depth rating. As a result, we wouldn't recommend wearing these when diving deep into the ocean, for example.
We've seen and heard a lot about how this is a much better design, and while that's true in some respects, such as the waterproofing we've just mentioned, Snap Spectacles 2 are really just what the originals should have been. These are still glasses with a design aimed at a younger crowd, which is a no brainer considering Snapchat's user base, but it also means they're not for everyone. In our view, they're still far from sunglasses that you would pick up primarily for the look or fit, and that means there's a pressure on the features packed inside to make up for their shortcomings.
Snap Spectacles 2: Features
As everyone who picked up the first generation of Spectacles can attest, the most bizarre omission was the inability to take photos. Since this is such a core part of the Snapchat experience, it felt strange to only be given the option to record video.
That's now been rectified, thankfully, with a long-press of the button snapping a photo and a normal press still initiating a recording. As we say, you'll still get the same light cue within the lens, and this is a huge help in letting you know when you need to press again in order to roll a video on for up to 30 seconds.
It works just as seamlessly as before, and the uploading process has also been streamlined considerably. When your phone is nearby, the Spectacles will act as their own roving Wi-Fi network that your phone can connect to and allow you to export these as Stories or messages to friends. You can also save these to your camera roll, and now everything is automatically synced in HD, as opposed to SD with the rigmarole of enabling HD and uploading twice through Specs 1.
It generally works smoothly, and connecting the Specs over Bluetooth and linking them with your Snapchat account couldn't be simpler, but there are still some of the same hiccups we found in the first generation. Sometimes the glasses just refuse to connect, leaving you hitting the retry button over and over, but when they do work it's a much quicker sync than last time around.
And the slight bugs aren't the end of the world, either, unless you're looking for instant syncing, since you can capture around 70 videos on a single charge and take up to 150 videos or 3,000 photos before importing.
In terms of the actual camera specs, Snap has actually narrowed the field of view from 115 degrees to 105 degrees. When you do capture, it'll also be in 1126 x 1126 resolution, and this, combined with the dual microphones, make playback on your phone much stronger than with the first Spectacles.
That's unless you're capturing in low light conditions, which unfortunately bring some pretty shoddy quality. It's hard to kill Snap too much for this, since they are, you know, sunglasses, but anybody with a semblance of hope that these could act as a replacement for a smartphone's camera will be left disappointed.
Snap Spectacles 2: In use
As you can gather, both the design and features have improved here, even if it's only with slight changes here and there. But there's perhaps the more overarching question to address here, and that's whether the overall concept has actually been improved through the second generation.
The key question: did we feel any more compelled to keep wearing Snap Spectacles past our testing period? Well, the honest answer is no ‚Äď and we don't think we're alone. The fact remains that, even if they have improved, it's still not really enough to overcome what killed the first generation ‚Äď that around 50% of users dropped the product after a month.
That's not to say that Specs 2 doesn't achieve what they set out on paper, but we just still have our doubts over how many people will actually find this brand of smartglasses appealing, and how many will keep coming back to what is still a fairly acute feature set.
Add this to the price tag, which is $20 more than the original pair, and the fact that it doesn't exactly encourage syncing to other apps, and it means that Snap Specs 2 remain a nice addition to Snapchat, but also very much a gimmick wearable.