I brought Snapchat’s new $380 smart glasses on a trip to London, and their biggest selling point was a major letdown

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Crystal Cox/Business Insider

  • Snapchat has released the newest iteration of its smart sunglasses, called Spectacles 3, designed to let you record pictures and videos from a first-person point of view.
  • The new model is equipped with two high-res cameras to better capture depth and dimension, which allow for the introduction of 3D filters and effects.
  • However, these 3D effects – Snapchat’s major selling point – are subpar, don’t enhance the Spectacles experience, and can only be added later in the Snapchat app after you’re done recording.
  • Snapchat says the Spectacles 3 are essentially just a next step toward AR hardware in the future, a bet that ensures not many users will want to shell out a sky-high $380 for this model.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Snapchat is betting big on a future when augmented reality hardware reigns supreme, but that wager comes at the cost of its newest pair of smart sunglasses, Spectacles 3.

Spectacles 3 were made available to the public on November 12. These new Spectacles come with two cameras and a trendier design, while also costing $380 – $220 more than the previous model released in 2018.

Spectacles design lead Lauryn Morris told Business Insider that the new glasses are designed to be more “premium and sophisticated,” meant for the “mid-20s consumer who cares about that style and wants to explore technology.” It’s a risky move for a company whose first pair of Spectacles amassed a lot of early hype, but failed to deliver and resulted in $40 million worth of unsold inventory.

With a vacation to London scheduled right after Spectacles 3 launched, I decided to take the sunglasses across the pond to try them out in a city know for its cloudy skies and rainy days.


At first glance, the Spectacles 3 have an overhauled design that does make them stylish.

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Crystal Cox/Business Insider

I received a pair of the glasses in “monochromatic black” (though they also come in a carbon color and a lighter “mineral” tone). The black matte finish and circular lenses put them in line with the vintage style that is popular today.


Compared with the oversized look of the first two models of Spectacles, the design of the new pair is a big step up.

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Snapchat Spectacles 2.
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Snap

“Form is just as important as function,” Spectacles design lead Lauryn Morris told Business Insider. “You choose the clothes you wear because they reflect your style and values.”


The biggest change with Spectacles 3 is the addition of a second camera to the glasses. This is intended to “capture the world the way your eyes do,” Morris says — that is, the new glasses are designed to capture design and dimension.

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Crystal Cox/Business Insider

While the symmetrical appearance of previous Spectacles models may have made it seem as if there was two cameras, Spectacles 3 are the first Snapchat glasses to have dual-camera recording capabilities.


By adding two high-res cameras, Snapchat is opening the doors to a world of capturing 3D. That enables some filters and lenses, which are already popular in the Snapchat app itself, to be applied to Spectacles videos.

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Two of the lenses and filters used in the Snapchat app.
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Snapchat

To be clear, the filters available in Snapchat are not catered for Spectacles – there are Spectacles-specific lenses and filters that Snapchat’s community of creators have been working on, the company said.


One Spectacles feature I’m happy has lasted through the three different models is the wireless charging case.

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Crystal Cox/Business Insider

The charging case is essentially a blown-up version of headphones cases for Apple AirPods and other wireless earbuds. They work in the same way: place the Spectacles in the case and they’ll charge up to four times before you’ll need to recharge the case via USB-C. Snapchat says the Spectacles can charge 50% in 15 minutes.

Additionally, the charging case nicely folds flat, allowing you to tuck it into a jacket pocket or bag when you’re wearing your Spectacles.


One of the first bothersome things about using the Spectacles was the location of the buttons, one on each sunglasses arm, which are used for recording pictures and videos.

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Crystal Cox/Business Insider

The locations of the buttons, right on the top of each arm, are where I would normally grasp onto when putting on and removing my Spectacles. The result: A ton of videos I accidentally recorded, with no ability to halt the recording.

Since the second version of Spectacles, users have had the ability to capture both videos and still images. With Spectacles 3, it takes a long press to take a picture, and a short tap to record a video. You can record up to six 60-second-long Spectacles videos.


As with previous models, an LED light blinks when your Spectacles are recording, and I found it easy to see the light while wearing my glasses. With Spectacles 3, you can also configure that LED light to blink when you receive Snapchats from specific users.

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Crystal Cox/Business Insider

However, I did find it a bit odd that the LED light signaling that you’re recording only flashes on one side of the glasses, although both cameras are recording. If both LED lights went off, it would make it a whole lot easier to ensure you don’t remove your glasses prematurely before your recording is finished.


Ahead of putting my Spectacles to the test, Snapchat told me they had already given some of their Official Lens Creators (artists who work with Snapchat to create filters and effects) pairs of the new sunglasses to try out. You can see some of their Spectacles captures here:


However, I was crushed to discover, almost immediately, that the videos I captured with my Spectacles 3 weren’t as nice as these masterpieces. Sure, the resolution is high-quality — but you have to ensure your ability to record video is too.

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Paige Leskin/Business Insider

I quickly learned in using my Spectacles that you have to be extremely, extremely measured in your movements. It takes a while to figure out how to move your head super slowly while scanning a landscape, and you have to hold your head steady while walking to ensure the video doesn’t violently bounce with each step.

For the average user, this steep learning curve would be incredibly taxing, and I might have given up on Spectacles in favor of my iPhone pretty quickly.


And at night, Spectacles 3 have a lot of trouble. It depended on the color of the lights, but here — at a Christmas market in central London — many of the lights showed up over-saturated.

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Paige Leskin/Business Insider

Previous Spectacles models have not performed well in low-light scenarios. Although the video quality on Spectacles 3 is 1216 x 1216 pixels, the high resolution hasn’t drastically improved the glasses’ performance at night.


Now, onto the new types of content you can create with Spectacles 3. The pictures you can take be converted into 3D images and GIFs (like the one below). It’s cool I guess, but I honestly don’t see the use or point.

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Paige Leskin/Business Insider

Snapchat says that the point of these 3D images is to make your photos “more dynamic and lifelike” than a picture taken with a normal camera.


Then there are the 3D lenses and filters, effects that use augmented reality to make them reactive to the scene captured on your Spectacles. With only 10 filters at Spectacles 3’s launch — Snapchat says there are more coming — the effects are pretty disappointing.

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Paige Leskin/Business Insider

Some effects, like these “gradient blobs” in the above video, don’t do anything more than add several dark blue masses that float around your screen. To me, this effect did nothing to enhance the video I took with my Spectacles.


While I was less than impressed by the 3D filters currently available, they’re even less exciting when you consider you can only overlay them onto your video after importing them into the Snapchat app. You won’t see these effects in action until you’re done using your Spectacles.

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Paige Leskin/Business Insider

The AR effects and lenses become less exciting when you learn they only get applied to videos in-app, after you’re finished recording. Combined with my disappointment in the existing filters available on Spectacles, the new model’s AR capabilities don’t appeal to me.


Something that hasn’t changed with Spectacles 3 is a long-standing complaint: the cumbersome process of getting your videos and photos ready to share. All of this is done through the Snapchat app.

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Paige Leskin/Business Insider

Since the first Spectacles model, content captured with your Snapchat wearables are viewed, edited, and shared all through the Snapchat app. Importing content has gotten easier and faster, thanks to Spectacles’ built-in WiFi network that allows photos and videos to get transferred at any time.

However, Spectacles videos are still buried within your Memories, a section of the Snapchat app I do not use frequently. You can use the Snapchat app to export your videos in a variety of formats.

I was also frustrated to learn that if you record video for longer than 10 seconds, the video is broken down into 10-second segments anyways in the app.


Before Spectacles 3 even launched, Snapchat was already emphasizing that these glasses are meant to be just a small step toward a future where augmented reality hardware is widely adopted. It’s a risky move to put out $380 smart glasses when CEO Evan Spiegel still envisions that era 10 years away.

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Crystal Cox/Business Insider

When I first found out that Snapchat’s newest Spectacles would cost $380 – $220 more than the previous model – I was surprised. Initial hype around the first Spectacles model in 2016 led the company to order 800,000 units, resulting in $40 million worth of unsold inventory. By any measure, Spectacles were a flop.

This time around, Snapchat only planned to make around 24,000 units of Spectacles 3, according to Cheddar. Morris, Spectacles’ design lead, told Business Insider that Spectacles 3 are an “iterative approach” toward a future with widely adopted AR wearables.

That future, according to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, is still 10 years away.


While the sunglasses are indeed trendy and similar to a style I’d buy myself, there’s no situation in which I could justify spending $380 on a pair of wearables with cool filters. Since Snapchat is betting on the future, I recommend betting — and waiting — on it too.

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Crystal Cox/Business Insider

Essentially, Snapchat is expecting you the shell out an extra $220 for its new AR lenses and filters on Spectacles. But it’s apparent that Snapchat still has a long way to go: The filters don’t provide a clear benefit, and the learning curve for using the glasses means I couldn’t see myself using these regularly after the allure of a new gadget wears off.

Everyone at Snapchat, from Spectacles’ design lead to Snapchat’s CEO, are telling people that we’re still years away from widely adopted AR hardware. There’s no reason then to rush to get a pair of Spectacles 3, and you may as well wait to see what Snapchat’s next – and hopefully less pricey – next step is.