The ghost of Google Glass lingers on as Snapchat works to market its new Snapchat Spectacles. Google Glass debuted in 2013 to much interest, but quickly faded as privacy concerns and a poor marketing campaign doomed the hardware. When Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel showed the world Snapchat Spectacles, commentators were quick to compare it to Google Glass.
But while both devices can record people and are worn on your face, the similarities end there. Spiegel and Snapchat have learned from Google Glass's failure. The spectacles are better than the glasses, and Snapchat's superior marketing approach will give their hardware a much better chance of success.
Utility trumps Technology
The first difference between the two hardware is that the spectacles actually serve a purpose. Google talked a great deal about Google Glass's recording and search capabilities, but it was never clear why people needed these things. Why wear a device which can search the Internet when you can pull out your smartphone?
As Google Glass struggled to define why people should use it, others quickly defined why people should not. Businesses and individuals became concerned about whether Google Glass could violate privacy as "Glassholes" could record data surreptitiously. Then there was just the fact that Google Glass looked dorky.
Snapchat Spectacles avoids all of these problems. The spectacles look like ordinary sunglasses. Then in order to limit concerns about surreptitious recording, the spectacles contain LEDs which light up whenever it is recording.
But perhaps the biggest difference is the differing natures of Snapchat and Google. Snapchat is explicitly about sending pictures or short recordings that are not saved but merely viewed for short periods of time. That creates a reason to wear the spectacles, as you may miss your chance to record surprising events if you have to take the time to fumble for your phone. Snapchat has provided a reason to buy their product, a challenge which Google never figured out.
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing
While Google seemed to promulgate the idea that Google Glass was for weird techies, Snapchat is doing everything they can to market their spectacles as cool for everyone.
Rather than sell them to certain groups of exclusive customers or give them to developers like Google did, Snapchat is dropping cute-looking vending machines at random spots where anyone can buy a pair. The vending machines are removed after a short period, which is similar to how Snapchat's recording do not stay for long. This sort of operation creates an air of exclusivity yet normalcy around the spectacles – while they are hard to get, they are available to anyone who can get to a vending machine.
Even the spectacles' price is a symbol of this normalization, as Snap is charging $130 for its spectacles compared to the $1,500 price tag for Google Glass. Snap's price is less than a pair of regular fashionable sunglasses. This lower price means that Snapchat is more accessible, especially to its core teenage demographic. Teenagers, as we know, are hugely influential on social media platforms, with many earning a sizable passive income from their efforts. Snapchat has used its vending machines and low prices to show that its spectacles are for everyone, a direct contrast to what Google tried.
Good News for Snapchat
Google Glass was interesting. It was a symbol of the future. But it was never cool. Instead, it became a symbol of rich, white creepy people and failed to take off as a result.
There will undoubtedly be jerks who try to use Snapchat Spectacles inappropriately, and it could be that Spectacle users end up being viewed as "Glassholes". But Snapchat is doing everything they can to market their hardware as a fun and normal toy for everyone.
The Snapchat Spectacles are off to a strong start and are already better received than Google Glass. Even if they do not become the latest fashion tech item, Snap's approach towards marketing and its product means that these spectacles will avoid the same ignominious end as Google Glass.