Snapchat. You know, the yellow app with the ghost. The social network where teens send pictures of their private parts to each other. It’s so not. Not anymore at least. In fact, more than 25% of the UK’s smartphone users are on Snapchat and with 70% of those under the age of 34, 30% are, well, old folk like me.
Ok, quick crash course. Snapchat posts delete themselves after 10 seconds or less. You can send videos or images, you can add captions, scribble on them, make stickers and generally lark about before you send them. There are a bunch of other features like Snapchat Lenses and Geofilters but at its heart, it’s a really a platform for creating and sharing content.
But it disappears after 10 seconds. Boo! That’s clearly an issue if you want to use Snapchat to document your day. That’s where the final feature, Snapchat Stories come in. It kind of breaks the 4th wall a little but, in essence, it’s a rolling archive of your favourite Snaps from the last 24 hours. It allows friends to see what you’re up to, it allows you to curate your public persona and it allows brands to create a narrative or story where a single post can’t.
Snapchat, for me, was firmly on the second screen on my home screen, next to WhatsApp, Periscope and Crossy Roads. Then they did what nobody expected, they released hardware in the form of Snapchat Spectacles. A way to record video directly from your glasses and post it to Snapchat. Not even Facebook or Twitter has consumer hardware ferchristsakes! Ballsy move. And not only hardware but the same idea that Google tried 2 years ago and subsequently failed so hard they haven’t been near them since. Super ballsy move.
While I didn’t exactly predict Spectacles’ demise, I was sceptical they would be accepted once people realised they were pretty much Google Glass with funky colours. Perfect for perverts in public toilets and invading your privacy in restaurants up and down the country.
Then the vending machine landed. Near me. Holy snap! Grab your coat, we’re off…
Snapchat did that smart thing we wish we could all do and released their product with almost irritating randomness by dropping vending machines around the US with no prior warning. It instantly created intrigue. I didn’t want a pair of Spectacle until that damn vending machine landed not half a mile away while I was in SXSW. 8 minutes 37 seconds later, I was in the queue, credit card in hand.
The machine is hard to miss – bright yellow with bright yellow balloons on top. Just insert credit card (no PIN required, this is the USA), select a colour and out pops a pair of Spectacles, ready to go.
We left for breakfast in the hire car. I wore my Specs and essentially recorded my hands on a steering wheel. Riveting. We entered the diner. I took off my Specs. This was Texas, I didn’t want to get punched. And that was how my day progressed. Sneaking dull 10-second videos in-between longer bouts of feeling deeply inappropriate. Meeting with friends, drinks in a bar, meetings, public transport all felt too awkward to press that little button and start the forward-facing record light flashing.
Day two was sunny. I actually needed sunglasses. Everyone was wearing sunglasses. This was my moment. And nobody noticed. I went inside, people started to notice. Well, of course they did, I was wearing sunglasses indoors.
Over the next day I learned that most people (like 80%) didn’t know what they were, so didn’t notice them anyway. The other 20% knew and could be split into “Cool glasses bro!” and quietly leaning into a friend, pointing at me and frowning. Not laughing. That was important.
Now, I have a confession at this point. I don’t use Snapchat. My 16-year-old daughter is pretty much glued to it so I’m avoiding it out of respect. However, these are glasses that record video and I’ve realised that’s all I really wanted. Cycling in this morning, I recorded a few moments. I’ve just taken up clay pigeon shooting, I’m looking forward to wearing these to capture the exact view I have as I miss each targets. I’m getting back into climbing, they will be awesome for those 10-second action sequences.
I’m sure dedicated Snapchatters are horrified I am one of the few people in the UK with Spectacles and I’m not using them properly. But, do you know what, my job is to misuse things and join dots that weren’t supposed to be joined. If / when Spectacles come to the UK, I only have two pieces of advice. First, if you can remotely afford them, buy them, they are worth it. Secondly, get the black ones.