Instant print cameras? Drones? Phones? 3D printers? You might think I went all over the CES show floor to find these things, but all I had to do was walk up to the Polaroid booth. The instant-print camera maker has pulled-off one heck of a comeback. A few years ago, I thought they were done. Outdated. Old. Kaput. Instead, the company reimagined itself for the digital age, targeting nostalgia-seekers (like me) as well as teens and millennials with gadgets that are high-tech, user-friendly, and feature iconic Polaroid designs. And the best part? They’re affordable, which makes it easy to get your hands on them.
I took a booth tour with Polaroid CEO Scott Hardy, who made it easy to see why the brand is having so much success. He’s one of the most down-to-earth, straight-shooting, fun-loving CEO’s I’ve run across in my 23 years as a reporter. He’s the kind of guy you want to challenge to a race down the ski slopes — loser buys the beer at the lodge. (Be sure to catch the outtakes from our interview to see just what a good sport he is.)
Okay, back to the cool gadgets.
The new Snap+ digital camera is an upgrade to Polaroid’s current Snap with an improved camera, a 3.5” touchscreen, and the ability to capture 1080p HD video. A self-timer and a pop-up selfie mirror make it the best way to capture perfect selfies, too.
If you want to go deep in tech spec’s, the Snap+ isn’t terribly impressive on digital camera front the — it takes snapshots at 13 megapixels — which is only a bit better than the camera on your iPhone. But the killer feature here is that the Snap and Snap+ instantly print physical 2x3 photos, either as a photo or a sticker. The Snap+ goes a step further: anyone with an Android or iPhone can connect to the Snap+ via Bluetooth and use it as a portable photo printer. Busy parents like me, and our kids, love this. Printing is quick and easy too: A tiny printer creates glossy, smudge-free prints in about a minute. Instead of using ink, the printer needs special paper — available for about 50 cents a sheet — which it heats up to create the colors.
You can pick up the Snap right now for $100, but the Snap+ won’t be available until later this year — likely at a slightly higher price.
Another updated product that impressed me is the Cube+, an action camera that’s a lot like the GoPro. This tiny camera — just 1.4” square — takes 8-megapixel photos, but it’s really designed for video, which it captures at 1440p. With image stabilization and a wide-angle lens, it’s the perfect companion for adventures from skiing to skateboarding. But the big addition to the Cube+ is Wi-Fi. While the size of the camera makes a viewfinder or screen impossible, you can now connect it to your smartphone or tablet to see your footage live — or easily grab your photos and videos to edit or share.
Like the Snap, the original Cube is available now for $100, while the Cube+ will be coming this summer for $150.
Polaroid is even getting into the drone business too. Polaroid-branded drones feature HD cameras as well as the ability to stream live video to your smartphone or tablet. They’re only available in Europe right now, but we may soon be seeing Polaroid drones in the skies alongside the more familiar Parrot — or any of the other amazing drones we’ve seen at CES this year.
Another Europe exclusive — for now — is Polaroid’s 3D printer, the ModelSmart 250S. Polaroid is the first big consumer brand to jump into 3D printing, and the ModelSmart looks poised to bring 3D printing to the masses. You need some serious tech savvy to use most 3D printers on the market right now, but the ModelSmart will be entirely plug and play, handling many adjustments necessary for proper printing on its own. It comes software that works on Windows or Mac plus a library of things to print — and you can start printing your own cool, 3D objects in wood or plastic with just three clicks.
The finished products look great — on the CES floor, CEO Hardy showed off a 3D printed octopus with long, dangling legs made of interlocking pieces in Polaroid’s trademark rainbow colors. Again, it’s not available in the United States now, but we may see it on store shelves in the future.
Another surprise addition to Polaroid’s product lineup is two new Android smartphones — and the biggest draw here is affordability. These unlocked phones — the Snap and the Power — mean you can take them to any carrier and sign up for a plan without a contract. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
The low-end Snap, which comes in 5”, 5.5”, and 6” styles, focuses on camera features with a 13-megapixel rear camera with dual LED flash and a 5MP front-facing camera with its own flash. As the name suggests, the 6” Power is the more powerful of the two, with a 64-bit oct-core processor and 3GB of memory — perfect for powering high-end games on the go. Both of these phones are available now, with the Snap starting at $130 and the Power starting at $250. While Polaroid isn’t known for its phones, those prices are appealing, especially if you’re looking for a phone for your teen or tween.
With all of these surprises, what are we going to see from Polaroid next? I suggested an instant camera that prints in 3D next year. I think it should be named: Polaroid’s Next-Jenn. Stay-tuned for that big product announcement, and remember, you read it here first.