Snapchat is launching an updated version of Spectacles, its glasses with an embedded camera, and says its first version of the smart glasses sold over 220,000 units.
That first version also caused the company to take a nearly $40 million write-down in the third quarter due to excess inventory. But instead of scrapping its hardware unit, the company is pressing ahead.
Snap "listened to our customers and our community and incorporated every part of their feedback," said Mark Randall, Snapchat's vice president of hardware.
The new version costs $150 — $20 more than the prior version. They come in three new colors (onyx, ruby, and sapphire), are water resistant and can take photos and videos in high definition. Plus the content can be uploaded to your phone to be shared on Snapchat much faster than the previous version.
"We think the colors are a little more approachable, we got rid of the yellow ring in the front," Randall said. "You're much more likely to use them as your primary sunglasses. If you do, you're likely to Snap more and use more great content." Consumers can also buy the glasses with a prescription and polarized lenses.
As for the financial shortfall of the first version, the company attributes that to the business model, rather than product popularity. To avoid inventory management issues that proved problematic with version 1.0, when the company sold through specialized vending machines, as well as a range of retailers and Amazon.com, these new glasses will be available only through Spectacles.com.
Randall said Snap is "very committed to hardware" over the long term. With nearly all of the 3.5 billion Snaps captured every day, taken on a phone, the company wants to take a leadership role as camera technology evolves, he said. The company won't share any forecasts for sales. Randall said it's about "learning and making changes from version one to version two."
There are still questions about whether investors will see profits in connected eyewear. While Google Glass failed as a consumer-facing endeavor, augmented reality glasses, which integrate computers into glasses, are now primarily for enterprise use such as factories.
Snap's product is focused entirely on a consumer audience — with a price point in line with a pair of RayBans — unlike the $1,500 Google Glasses that stopped consumer sales in 2015. Now for Snap, we'll see whether consumers can get used to wearing a camera on their face.