The elite of the tech world have decided that Google Glass is the future.
And perhaps they’re right! But, Google Glass is clearly not the present. It’s not even the near-future, if the early reviews that are rolling in turn out to be accurate.
I haven’t worn Glass, myself. While I think it looks neat, I don’t see a killer application that makes them worth it.
After reading all the reviews, and talking to people that actually wore Glass, I just see a product plagued by bugs, and of questionable use, that’s generating a lot of buzz because people want so desperately to have some new gadget to latch onto, and fear being wrong about the next major technology trend.
Let’s run through the ugly truth about Glass.
- The battery life is terrible. Engadget estimated battery life is at 5 hours. Our own Kevin Smith says the battery life is actually closer to 3 hours. For a gadget that’s supposed to be on your face all day, providing push notifications and alerts, this is not good.
- It’s disorienting, and gives you a headache. Our own Alyson Shontell said of Glass, ” It’s disorienting. You’re unable to focus on people or things around you… Glass is headache-inducing too; you’re more or less cross-eyed when focusing on something so close to your face.” Hedge fund manager Eric Jackson also tweeted that he heard the same thing: “VC told me this week — who’d tried it and knows many people who have — Google Glass actually is not very good at the moment, gives big headaches.”
- The screen is hard to see in bright light. Here’s Engadget: “seeing the display in bright sunlight can be a problem.”
- You can’t tweak any settings in Glass. Engadget, again: “You can’t adjust volume levels or display brightness, can’t disable WiFi or Bluetooth (both appear to be always on), can’t re-arrange the application cards in the interface or set their priority, can’t modify the default screen timeout length and you can’t enable a silent or do not disturb mode.”
- The voice controls for Glass are buggy. There are two ways to control Glass. One is a touch panel on the side of Glass, the other is through voice. You say, “OK Glass,” then give it a command. Our own Megan Rose Dickey said that when she tested the voice commands there were problems: “While wearing Glass, my colleague Alyson Shontell was nearby having a conversation with someone else in the room. Without anyone saying, ‘Ok, Glass…,’ Glass picked up on what Alyson said, and then proceeded to do a Google search for ‘running.'”
- You still need a smartphone to use Glass outdoors. Google Glass doesn’t have a built-in cellular data connection. So, you have to have to pair it with a smartphone that has a data connection when you leave your home. This will add to your data plan costs and drain your smartphone’s battery.
- It’s hard to take off Glass. Unlike glasses, which actually fold up, Glass is one piece that can’t be made smaller. Here’s Engadget: “That unbroken titanium band looks nice and provides flexibility, but it also means that Glass doesn’t fold up like a traditional pair of glasses, so it won’t dangle from the front of a shirt or slide easily into a pocket. That’s made worse by the seeming fragility of the exposed refractive display, which we were told shouldn’t be touched. Google thoughtfully includes a microfiber carrying case with a hard plastic insert to protect everything sensitive, but the resulting package is hugely bulky. Better bring your big purse.”
- Responding to messages is tough. It’s not easy to edit your responses, it seems: “If you speak slowly, clearly and avoid grammatical contractions you have a chance of sending a correct email. Should Glass hear you incorrectly, you have to cancel the entire message and start again.”
Much of these things can be fixed over time by Google. These are hardware and software tweaks.
But even when these things are fixed, we still haven’t heard a single compelling use case for Glass.
After reading the most enthusiastic review of Glass on the web from early adopter Robert Scoble, the biggest reason for owning Glass is that you can take photos more quickly.
The photo quality, it should be noted is worse than that of your iPhone or the latest Android.
His other reason for buying Glass is, “They are much more social than looking at a cell phone. Why? I don’t need to look away from you to use Google, or get directions, or do other things.”
That’s actually not true. You have to look up to activate Glass, or lift your eye to see the display. The person you’re with will see you checking email, or whatever you’re trying to do.
Plus, these things are going to cause a lot of social angst early on. It’s hard to imagine going out to dinner with your wife and not getting heat for wearing Glass. Or hanging with your friends at a bar, and having them believe you’re fully committed to the conversation.
Looking at your phone in front of friends sends a direct, honest signal that you are tuning them out. With Google Glass, you’re doing the exact same thing, just in a more surreptitious way.
There’s a lot of excitement around Google Glass right now because it’s new, shiny, and exciting.
The iPad was the last new, shiny, exciting tech gadget. And that was three years ago.
Three years may not sound like a long time to you, but imagine if your entire livelihood is built around writing about new gadgets, or selling applications for new gadgets? Of course you’re going to get excited about the next new thing.
Thus, the tech press, and the tech investment community, is thrilled with Google Glass.
Plus, Google has brilliantly limited the roll out of the product. Early on, a few Googlers had them. Naturally, they were enthusiastic about the potential of Glass.
Then, Google held a contest to win Glass, giving people the privilege of paying $1,500 to be beta testers for its new gadget.
(By the way, why is it so expensive? It’s not using top of the line processing, according to leaked specs. It’s about as powerful as the original Kindle, which cost $159 right now. Is miniaturization and a metal headband a $1,341 cost?)
The people that won the right to pay $1,500 for Glass are inherently disposed to like Glass, no matter what. Would you tell your friends you blew $1,500 on something that’s totally useless?
There’s another reason people are irrationally excited about Glass, despite seeing a long list of problems — Nobody wants to be the person that was wrong about the future.
The tech elite have decided that Glass is the future, dammit. If you say otherwise you’re a short sighted luddite who can’t accept how the world is about to change. You will be ridiculed in five years when everyone and their grandmother is walking the streets will creepy pieces of glass floating over their right eyes.
If you don’t say something nice now, people will remember it, they will mock you, and you will be a fool. It’s better to be safe and say something like, “it is undoubtedly a game-changer,” despite the fact that you only see problems with Glass.
There is a lot of excitement around Glass, but the early reviews are making it clear that this is very much a first generation product that’s very buggy, and will probably fail to revolutionise the tech industry as currently built.