Polaroid Holding Co, the brand that has been an integral part of the photography industry since 1937, sees its future in music.
On Wednesday, the instant camera maker unveiled four Bluetooth music players and an internet radio streaming service, Polaroid Radio.
Although stepping into the world of music seems like quite a dawn, Polaroid has long had music genes in its creation, Oskar Smolokowski, Polaroid CEO, said in an interview on Wednesday. Shortly after joining the company in 2012, he spotted a concept sketch from the 1970s showing the idea of incorporating music into Polaroid photos. Now the 30-year-old has finally taken a step towards implementation.
“We need to be open to new frontiers in this world of creativity,” Smolokowski said at Wednesday’s launch event in Manhattan, where dozens of speakers of various shapes, sizes and colors sat atop a pyramid of red and pink plastic crates. “We felt like we had a little foothold with instant photography. We know what we’re doing. But we wanted to go beyond that.”
Music, like photography, is at the intersection of art and science — the core of Polaroid’s product design, he said.
The new line includes four speakers, ranging from the more portable P1 and P2 to the larger P3 and P4, and an online music service called Polaroid Radio, which the company describes as an “FM nostalgia” radio station.
About the size of an apple, with the weight of two balls, the P1 is the smallest and most portable music player the company offers. Priced at $59.99, the square model fits easily in a purse or attaches to a backpack via a snap hook. It’s IPX5 waterproof, which means it’s splash and splash resistant. P1 has a battery life of up to 10 hours and is available in black, red, yellow and blue. It’s also the only Polaroid speaker that doesn’t work with Polaroid Radio.
For $129.99, P2 works with all features of the Polaroid Music app and comes with an additional gray color. At just over twice the size of the P1, the pill-shaped P2 is still a portable player that can be wrapped around your wrist or clipped to bags. All players have a red “Play” button which is a hat tip to the classic red shutter button on Polaroid cameras. Like P3 and P4, P2 has a battery life of up to 15 hours.
With a top-mounted handle, the Polaroid P3 ($189.99) most closely resembles a boombox and comes in the same colors as the P2. The largest speaker, P4, is one for the party as it can fill the whole room with music. You can place the speaker on a table with the handle up, or attach a separate stand to the right side so it stands vertically. It’s about the size of a flattened watermelon. P4 speakers are available in black and yellow for $289.99.
All four players feature Bluetooth connections and stereo pairing, allowing listeners to connect them to their phone or computer. What is unique, however, is a vintage analog dial on the top of the P2, P3 and P4 that allows users to choose between five Polaroid radio stations and change the volume. P1 also has a scrollable dial on the corner, but it’s for volume control only.
Polaroid Radio is accessible through the Polaroid Music app and on the web. It’s like free Spotify or Pandora, with no ads – the only price is that listeners have to relinquish control over what music they’re listening to. A traditional radio station! How retro – like you have a separate camera next to your phone.
“We’ve created something that sits somewhere between a real radio station and a playlist where we’re live streaming FM-like (music) so you can tune into that,” Smolokowski said. “We work on curation offline with these incredible DJs and curators.” (Polaroid Radio doesn’t actually work on electromagnetic waves; it needs to be connected via Bluetooth to a “brain” like a phone or a computer.)
Press the “Music” button and you’ll be tuned into one of five channels curated by Polaroid.
By scrolling the dial, you can check out the heatwave station, featuring hip-pop, Latin-pop and Afrobeats from artists like Nigerian singer Burna Boy and Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalia. There’s poly chrome, techno from acts like Kraftwerk and Northern Irish duo Bicep. The station Iris offers R&B, jazz and funk by Erykah Badu or Cleo Sol. Royal Pine carries rock, folk and soul music from the likes of Joni Mitchell and Maggie Rogers. And Itchy Teeth plays alternative pop and alternative indie songs from bands like Talking Heads and Tyler the Creator.
If you like a song, you can press the Like button on top of the speaker to have the song saved to your Polaroid Music app or an Apple Music account that you link to the app. Spotify support is coming soon.
At launch, Polaroid Radio is available in the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal and Austria.
More areas are expected to be added.Polaroid doesn’t leave the camera world either. The company plans to launch its first continuous focus camera in 2023, which will detect a subject’s movement, refocus accordingly and show better depth of field in photos compared to the previous fixed focus models.