Snap today announced Spectacles 3, a redesigned version of its augmented reality sunglasses with a sleek new design and an added HD camera to create depth perception. The glasses, which the company has positioned as a limited release, represent Snap’s latest effort to build a new computing platform centered on the face. They will go on sale on Spectacles.com in November for $380.
That makes them more than twice as expensive as last year’s model, which cost $150. Snap executives say the higher-end version is meant to appeal to a smaller group of “fashion-forward” creative types. It may also be designed to recoup more of its manufacturing costs for the famously money-losing product; Snapchat wrote down nearly $40 million in costs associated with the first version of the glasses after wildly overestimating demand.
The high price of Spectacles 3 will likely limit their appeal, particularly among the high school and college-age students who make up Snapchat’s core user base. A Snap spokesperson said this year’s model represented a necessary investment in the platform. The company has to figure out a way to do AR computing right, the logic goes, before it can do it cheaply.
The glasses’ marquee feature is a second camera, which enables Spectacles to capture depth for the first time. Snap has built a suite of new 3D effects that take advantage of the device’s new depth perception ability. They will be exclusive to Spectacles, and the company plans to let third-party developers design depth effects starting later this year.
The glasses will be available in two colors: “carbon” (black) and “mineral” (somewhere in between beige and gold). They have a lightweight steel frame, adjustable tips, and tinted lenses for protection from the sun.
Like previous editions, Spectacles allow you to easily capture photos and videos by tapping a button on top of the glasses. (Indicator lights around each camera will light up when they’re recording.) After syncing them to your Android or iOS device, you can then edit them, send them to your friends on Snapchat, or export them for sharing on other platforms, including YouTube.
Battery life is unimproved from the previous edition, though the second camera creates an additional drain that the new Spectacles must compensate for. Snap says you’ll be able to capture 70 videos and more than 200 photos on a charge, and the 4GB of storage on the device can hold up to 100 videos or 1,200 photos. As before, Spectacles can be recharged by storing them in the included charging case. A full charge will take 75 minutes, and the case can be recharged with a USB-C cable.
Photos are stored at a resolution of 1,642 by 1,642 pixels; videos are stored at 1,216 by 1,216. This time around, Snap is offering a new way to view snaps taken through Spectacles: an included 3D viewer resembling Google Cardboard. (The Spectacles 3D viewer is made of cardboard as well.) Open Snapchat on your phone, snap it into the viewer, and you’ll be able to view more immersive versions of your photos and videos.
Unfortunately, snaps taken with Spectacles still don’t transfer automatically to your Snapchat account. Snap says that there are still technical hurdles preventing automatic transfer. In the meantime, you’ll connect to your phone over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and wait impatiently for your snaps to download to your account. (The exception is for iOS users who are at home, on Wi-Fi, and have their Spectacles charging. Spectacles can be set up to export your snaps to Snapchat automatically while in that state.)
I’ve abandoned my two generations of Spectacles in previous years within a few weeks, primarily for that reason: taking snaps on Spectacles, transferring them to my phone, and only then being able to edit and share them felt like too much work for too little reward. Introducing a new version of Spectacles that’s almost twice as expensive without addressing that flaw in the user experience looks, at least on the surface, like a missed opportunity.