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Snapchat Spectacles review: Oh Snap, Spectacles are ridiculously fun

You don't need to be young to use Spectacles, just young at heart.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables, smartwatches, mobile phones, photography, health tech, assistive robotics Credentials
  • Webby Award honoree, 2x Gold Telly Award winner
Lexy Savvides
4 min read

I use Snapchat all the time but I still wasn't expecting to like Spectacles as much as I did.


Snapchat Spectacles

The Good

Do you use sunglasses? Do you like Snapchat? Then these are made for you. You actually film what you see and the battery lasts a loooong time.

The Bad

They only work with Snapchat. You can't really wear regular glasses with them.

The Bottom Line

If you use Snapchat, you're going to want a pair of these.

They do one thing -- record video for Snapchat -- but they do that one thing really well.

I took them to the beach, jumped on trampolines, dodged balls, climbed a pyramid play structure, watched the sunset and played tennis with them. A whole lot of fun captured from my point of view.

Regardless of age (or activity), if you use Snapchat a lot, Spectacles open up the possibility of capturing hands-free, phone-free moments.

Best of all, Spectacles are now available to buy for everyone -- in the US, at least. Previously, they were only available via pop-up vending machines that would periodically appear in random locations. As of today, however, Spectacles are finally available online. They cost $130 (that's about £105 or AU$170).

Before I go any further, here's a cheat sheet review in case you're already feeling the need for a TL;DR.

What I like

1. They feel like regular sunglasses and they look pretty good on just about everyone.

2. Video quality is great for Snapchat. If the light is good you're getting a pretty decent picture.

3. Spectacles record circular video. You can rotate your phone to see more of the image.

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Lexy Savvides/CNET

4. Filters, emojis and text. Once the video's in Snapchat, it's just like editing a regular snap.

5. They don't need to be connected to a phone to work, only when you want to view and post snaps.

6. They won't fall off your face if you jump around or play sport.

What I don't like

1. You look like an idiot wearing them indoors, at night or with prescription glasses underneath.

2. Spectacles only work with Snapchat.

3. No face filters (aka lenses) allowed. Sorry, those funny Snapchat face swaps and Bambi ears won't happen here.

4. The audio is good, but not great. It picks up sound pretty well from the wearer so narrating the action is what you'll end up doing most of the time.

5. Mirror selfies. Unless you take off the glasses or have a friend wear them to film you, selfies are hard.

6. Spectacles take video only. No still images.

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James Martin/CNET

Who would want Spectacles?

  • Athletic types: Unless you're going bungee-jumping or riding a roller coaster, they're probably not going to fall off your face. I wore them playing trampoline dodgeball and they didn't budge.
  • Parents: Being able to film your kids (or pets!) hands-free is probably worth the price of admission. I played fetch with a dog and captured 10 awkward seconds of him not returning the ball -- perfect Snapchat footage.
  • Someone who wants to be part of the action: They're on your face so they don't get in the way and other people are less likely to be weirded out when being filmed. (Try not to be such a creeper.)
  • Anyone who needs a point-of-view perspective: You can see what I see. Cooking, dancing, singing, hands and all.

How do they work?

Spectacles take 10-second bursts of video at a time.

Those two distinctive circles on the glasses are a video camera on one side and an LED light on the other. When you're snapping, the front light spins to let others know you're recording.

A smaller light faces inwards so you know you're recording. It's subtle in daylight hours but at night expect to feel your retina burn.

Transferring videos is a lot faster and more automatic than I expected

Once you've paired Spectacles and opened the app (iPhone or Android), snaps transfer across seamlessly. Videos live in a separate section of Snapchat Memories and they don't get sent out until you say so.

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When exported from Snapchat, this is what the video looks like.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Annoyingly, Spectacles snaps are automatically categorized by date and linked as one long story every day. If you want to break them out to view, edit or post individually, you can. But if you've taken hundreds of snaps in a day (which, let's face it, I did), flicking through to find the right video is frustrating.

... But good luck posting that video anywhere else

You can export video, but only from within Snapchat. It comes out as a 1080x1080 pixel square, with the circular video inside a white border.

Videos are transferred at a lower quality first

This is so you can get snaps out quickly. If you want higher-quality HD versions, you can tether to the Spectacles via its own Wi-Fi network and import them to Snapchat. (It's easier than it sounds: Head to Settings > Wi-Fi > join the Spectacles network. Boom.)

The battery life -- and charging case -- last a looooong time

When you need to recharge Spectacles, put them in the case. It has enough juice for four charges. The Spectacles can also charge away from the case with the included magnetic cable (it's USB on the other end).

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Charge in the case or on the glasses themselves.

James Martin/CNET

I took 130 snaps in a day (that's around 21 minutes of video) and still had four full charges left from the case after I was done.

Oh snap. OK, but are they worth $130?

If you're serious about Snapchat, the answer is yes. Otherwise, they might just end up being an expensive pair of sunglasses.

But even when I gave them to people who weren't big on Snapchat, they got it. Just press the button and you're recording.

The coolest part about them is that you're actually filming what you see. You don't miss the moment by pulling out a phone, opening up Snapchat and taking the video -- the camera is there on your face, ready to go. And that's a snap.

Editors' note: This review was originally published on November 22, 2016. It has been slightly updated to reflect the fact that Spectacles are now widely available.