Last year, Snap, parent company of the app Snapchat, introduced a whimsical single-purpose product. Its Spectacles, originally available only from vending machines in a few major cities, cost $130 and record 10-second video clips to be posted on Snapchat. That’s it. Somehow, the company claims to have sold 150,000 of these devices.
The company’s CEO shared that number this week at a Vanity Fair event, and the important question is whether that’s a lot for a seemingly pointless device, or not very many, considering some 173 million people use the Snapchat app each day.
CEO Evan Spiegel looked at it from a different point of view, arguing that the Snap Spectacles have outsold the first-generation iPod. That was an early version of the device that only worked with Macintosh computers and had a crude version of the click wheel, but led to the development of improved products that would later sell hundreds of millions of units.
“Our view is that hardware is going to be an important vehicle for delivering our customer experience maybe in a decade,” CEO Evan Spiegel told the crowd, according to TechCrunch. “But if we believe it’s going to be important in a decade, we don’t want to be starting a decade from now.”
Yet there were recent cutbacks in Snap’s hardware division, with a new person in charge of the lab, and around a dozen people working on the project, mostly marketers, laid off.
What could be next for future versions of Snap Spectacles that would make people want to actually buy them? Snap’s patent applications hint that augmented reality could be next, giving users a non-creepy reason to wear the sunglasses by placing digital objects in the world around users.