On tax day, April 15th 2014, Google is making its Glass project available for purchase to everyone. While it sounds exciting and tempting event at $1,500, I’d caution you to reconsider before taking the leap.
We’ve had a pair of Glass at our office for nearly 6 months now as part of the Glass Explorer program. We’re a software development company that has expertise in Android development, so it makes a lot of sense for us to have a pair. For the majority of that time however, they’ve been collecting dust. Here’s why.
The battery life, at least on the model we have, is terrible. Using it for anything beyond looking at the time causes it to heat up quickly and drain the battery rapidly. We’re lucky to get more than a couple hours of actual use out of it when taking pictures or video, or using the GPS or other apps. For something that’s intended to be on your face all day feeding you information, that’s not great. If you’re careful, I’ve heard you can make it about 6 hours with light use but we haven’t been able to achieve that.
The first time you put these on and try to use them, you’re going to be frustrated. The screen is not what you imagine or what it’s portrayed to be in commercials or in web advertisements. In actual use, it’s very difficult and rather uncomfortable to see the display. You’ll have to strain your eyes awkwardly to the upper right, and even when perfectly positioned, it’s hardly more than a ghost of an image. Equally frustrating is the voice and touch activation. You’re going to be saying ‘OK Glass’ with no response a lot. This is partly due to the fact that it’s not always listening to you, it must be awake and waiting for that command. The screen goes to sleep quickly and must be turned back on by either tapping the side of it or tilting your head upward (adding to the awkwardness). The touch pad on the side has some good features and gesture recognition once you get used to it, but it takes some time to master.
The combination of how you work with Glass and how they look on you make them embarrassing to wear in public for many people. I say many people because I’ve also seen some who love the attention they draw and routinely wear them when it doesn’t make sense, just to show them off (for example, tipped up on their head like sunglasses). You’ll attract stares, sometimes scowls, as others are unsure of what you’re doing with them. Using them in public will also make you look ridiculous until you’ve mastered them. You’ll be standing alone shouting to yourself while looking at the sky and banging the side of your head.
Limited Use Cases
It’s fun to think of all the cool things you could do with Glass, but in real world use, there isn’t much you’ll actually do. When I first tried them I was excited to use the GPS navigation while driving and get alerts and messages as well. Yes, I know you’re not supposed to drive with them but whatever, that’s what I wanted them for. On my first attempt driving I found out why you’re not supposed to do that. It was super dangerous! More so than using my phone while driving. Then I thought I could get some cool apps but there are only a few available and some I couldn’t even get to work. The most useful case I had was cooking a turkey on Thanksgiving, i followed a recipe while using both hands to make a brine.
$1,500 is a lot of money for a prototype. It is not even close to ready as a product for the average person. If you’ve got cash to burn and don’t mind a poor user experience, I’d say go for it. If you’re just excited about the future of wearables and are saving your pennies to buy them, I’d urge you to hold off. Everyone is excited about them because they want the device they’re imagining in their heads to be real. Unfortunately this is not that device and you will be disappointed.