In November of 2013, I became a Google Glass Explorer. Part of this endeavor involved forking over $1,500 and tax for a technology device that was still in beta. The hardware was beyond prototype, but not in the mass production scale that would be necessary for worldwide distribution.
Just a few years ago, smart watches such as those made by Sony and Pebble were very limited in their functionality, battery life and technical specifications. When Project Glass was announced in 2012, it was seen as a revolutionary technology. It was wearable computing to the next level. Google Glass enabled people to have the information they “needed” in the corner of their eye and gave them instant access to the world wide web with just a simple voice command.
In theory, the technology is great. However, in practice, it’s a different story.
I have been a Glass Explorer for just shy of six months and I have to admit that I (like many other Glass Explorers) use the technology much less than I ever thought I would and here’s why:
Battery Life: Most of the applications for Google Glass can be a battery hog. However, with “regular” use throughout the day, I can usually squeeze a good 6-8 hours of casual use before the battery is depleted. Many of the augmented reality applications such as World Lens, require a lot of battery use because they involve the use of the camera, display, wireless data and heavy processor use. Doing something as simple as taking a video can deplete the device’s battery in just 20-30 minutes. Granted, Glass isn’t designed or intended to record long form content, but more or less “moments” which is why the device records 10 second video clips by default.
Security “Issues”: Many workplaces will not allow the use of Google Glass because of exposure to sensitive information and PII (Personally Identifiable Information). I would not be surprised to see if the PCI standards change to ban the use of wearable cameras in areas where employees are able to see credit card numbers. Sadly, most of the concerns about Glass are around it’s camera, which brings me to my next point.
Social Acceptance: Wearing a computer on your face is about as acceptable as riding a Segway around your office. The simple truth is that we aren’t there yet. The fact that we recently learned about the largest government surveillance scandal in recorded history doesn’t help either. People feel that their privacy has been invaded enough by companies reading their e-mail, governments listening to their phone calls and more surveillance cameras than we realize. Until these fears are settled, wearing around a camera on your face will remain a faux pas in many settings.
Reliability: Google Glass is not reliable. Plain and simple. Switching between Bluetooth and Wifi data is never seamless. The device is incapable of connecting to Wifi networks that require TOS agreements or have any sort of splash page login method. If you leave the device turned off and unplugged for a period of time, the battery mysteriously depletes itself. The most frustrating reliability issue is related to connectivity. You can have Google Glass successfully paired to an LTE device with great signal strength and still see the dreaded “can’t reach Google right now” message.
Moto 360 Won’t Have These Problems
The most exciting thing about the Moto 360 is that it won’t have most of the problems that I encounter on a daily basis with Google Glass. First of all, it’s on my wrist, so it’s much less conspicuous than a face-mounted computer. This definitely helps us in the social acceptance arena, and makes it a wearable that I’m comfortable wearing everywhere (except maybe not the shower). Battery life may be a problem, but not in a way that it is for Glass. I expect overnight charging for my smart watch and would love to see wireless Qi charging integration to make that process just a little bit easier.
Better App Development
I don’t think I’m alone in assuming that there will be more and better apps designed for wrist-mounted wearables. Although the Android Wear platform may look completely analogous to Glassware, it’s a much more practical form factor which means more users and more potential for success of any certain app. Also, apps can be designed to work on a number of devices, not just Motorola’s upcoming offering. Developing for a multi-device platform is a no-brainer when compared to developing for a single device on a different framework.
Men love watches. It’s really the only jewelry that most guys wear, and a lot can be inferred by the watch someone wears. For example, during the work week, I wear a Seiko stainless steel watch with a black face and very minimalist design. It shows that I am polished, responsible and punctual. On the weekends I like to wear a leather-banded “easy read” by Timex that is reminiscent of a standard GI watch from decades before.
With the ability to instantly change the face of your watch and select a stylish band, this wearable becomes less of a computer and more of an accessory.
With Moto 360, you don’t have to brag to the world that you’re wearing a computer. A fringe benefit of this design is safety, as we recently learned from the woman wearing Google Glass that was allegedly mugged inside of a San Francisco bar.
Affordability & Luxury
$1,500 was a lot of money to thrown down on a prototype. Especially something that won’t get daily wear. I don’t expect that Google Glass will dip below $800 any time soon, either. Moto 360, on the other hand, is likely to come to the market with a sub-$500 price tag. The competition in the market will surely help keep prices down as other manufacturers continue to innovate.
However, as in the world of watches, history tells us that consumers will spend thousands of dollars for a rare timepiece. If any of the major watch makers join the game, we might see an emergency of luxury smart watches which will only drive more consumers in the middle class to pick up a lower priced model.
I wanted Glass when it was announced. It was new, it was fresh and it was unexplored territory in the real world. Now that I’ve seen Moto 360, I see elements some elements of Glass that I love that will fit much better into my daily life.
*Image ©2014 Motorola Mobility LLC