Unboxing Google Glass; Now what?

I’ve got Google Glass.

Now what?

I’m anxious to learn because this is the year Google Glass gets released to the general public. I’m not sure when, though most of  those who have been invited into the Explorer program made up of so-called tech influencers are guessing by spring.

Google Glass costs $1,500. It is not cheap. But it is much more than a Sci-Fi-looking pair of spectacles. It’s a small computer with its own trackpad, wi-fi, Bluetooth and apps that just happens to rest on your face instead of your desktop or lap. As such, it’s the first major wave of wearable computers. I’ll have a series of reports on my experience with in in the coming weeks. Right now, I’m just setting it up and becoming familiar with its features and apps, which Google calls “glassware.”

Here is the unboxing:

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Google Glass ships to Explorers by next day air at Google’s expense. This is the box that it comes in.

dollars

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Opened up, this is the inside packaging. The note on the left says “It’s here… to set up Glass, you’ll need an Android phone or iPhone” and it links to a special website and a way to talk to one of the Glass Guides if you have issues.

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Inside the bigger box is the Glass itself, mounted snugly in cut out cardboard with a legend and a line pointing to the five minimalist controls

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The charger and a single mono earbud are beneath the Glass and that is atop a rather large felt-like carrying pouch meant to store the Glass when you’re carrying it around

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I ordered two accessories: A paid of stereo earbuds, which come with end caps in the various colors. I also bought a shaded shield, like sunglasses, that can be attached to Glass.

I have only just begun to explore Glass. But two hours after unboxing, it became apparent to me that to utilize it the best, I need to get an Android smartphone. While there is now an iPhone app, the Glass on the iPhone lacks some important functionality – like being able to send and receive text messages and get turn-by-turn navigation. So while I’m able to slowly get used to it with Wi-Fi, I’m waiting for a new Android smartphone to put it to the full test.

I have five quick impressions, though:

  1. There is no glass with glass. Funny, but in all the publicity and photos of it in use, I thought there was some sort of clear plastic lens. Nope. Its just a headset  that fits on top of your ears and rests on pads at the bridge of your nose. I did get the extra shaded glass that will help me see the display better when used outdoors in sunlight but the little block of plastic that is the Glass display just sits an inch or so in front of your right eye.
  2. Wearing Glass in public is going to take some nerve. It’s pretty nerdy and way too conspicuous to NOT  be noticed. As I have talked with other Glass Explorers, this is a common shyness most have. Some report pretty negative reactions from the public. Google is pretty upfront about this in the scant amount of documentation that accompanies Glass. “Like everything,” says Google, “there is a time and a place,” noting you may be in certain places “where those around you don’t feel comfortable being photographed or captured on video… be considerate.”
  3. Battery life is clearly an issue.  I went from 100% percent charged to 60% percent in about an hour. That’s from just playing around with it, learning how to use the trackpad, move between the “cards” or home screen for the various apps. A check of the Explorer community shows this to be the major complaint. Using Google Glass all day long does not seem like it is going to be a reality. I hesitate to fully take Google to task for this until I have more hands-on experience but poor battery performance seems most certainly to be an issue I will have to struggle with.
  4. Like Apple did with the Mac platform and the iPhone, Google has throughly integrated its own proprietary apps, services and platforms throughout the product. That means I will be using Gmail much more than before. I have added some of my Pop e-mail accounts to my Gmail account but IMAP accounts, like those used by Apple, do not play well with POP or Gmail. Same with my contacts and calendar. I am now moving them as best as possible off my various Mac accounts and into Gmail and its sister apps. Google Glass, I believe, will be the gadget that brings about our next major tech war – between Apple and Google. Google is clearly much more of a rival to Apple than a search engine that just happened to develop some cool apps. Every major function on Glass is optimized to work with Google services. So if I am going to really use this, I’m going to largely have to say goodbye to my Apple apps and services.
  5. Finally, I’m wondering how this will be received by the public once it becomes widely available. There are some very cool apps coming, not the least is one rumored to be ready very soon – facial recognition, which will identify faces just like Facebook can help you tag the people in the photos you post there. The first fun thing I’ve tried with Glass is a setting that lets me snap a photo of what I’m seeing in front of me my just “winking” my right eye. That said, $1,500 is a lot of money for any sort of personal technology, wearable or not. Such, I suppose, is the price paid by early adopters. But to really take off, I’m thinking Glass is going to have to offer more things and come at a cheaper price.

All this, I caution, is subject to change as I use Google Glass more. I’ll be picking up the Android phone – A Moto X – later this week and get it set up. Motorola is a recent Google acquisition and this phone, far from the most glitzy out there, is made in America and boasts some pretty spectacular battery life. That’s what drew me to it, along with some suggestions by other Glass Explorers.

If Glass has the poor battery life I’m fearing, at least my phone will last.

Stay tuned… I’ll be back in a few days with more about by experience with Glass.

Mike is a veteran journalist whose video "PC Mike" reports have been distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations since 1994, making him one of the most experienced tech reporters in the country. His tech stories and videos have appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, the Today Show, The New York Times, USA Today and in numerous national newspapers and magazines. In addition to the PC Mike tech blog, he also publishes the Roadtreking.com RV Travel Blog in which he travels North America in an RV reporting about interesting people and places.

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