12 Things to Love and Hate About Google Glass

CIO.com contributor James A. Martin wore Google's mobile computing device off and on for six weeks. Here's what he loved and hated about the Google Glass experience.

Add & Sort Slides 12 Things to Love and Hate About Google Glass
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Glass, Google's head-mounted mobile computing device, is still available only to early adopters, or "Explorers," willing to pay $1,500 for hardware not yet ready for prime time. While the world waits to see how a commercial version of Glass will look and feel, the device already elicits strong reactions — from curiosity to privacy concerns to downright disgust.

After writing blog posts and articles about Glass, I finally tried it. Six weeks later, here are the top 12 Google Glass feature I love or hate (and sometimes both). Some you might expect; others might surprise you.

James A. Martin writes the CIO.com Martin on Mobile Apps blog. Follow him on Twitter @james_a_martin and on Google+.

Hands-Free Video Recording
Google

Love: Hands-Free Video Recording

My favorite Google Glass feature by far is the capability to record a video without having to hold a camera or smartphone. You start a video by saying, "OK, Glass, record a video" or navigating to the video recording feature by tapping the Glass touchpad. It's like having a GoPro Hero camera attached to your face — though Glass' video quality (720p) doesn't compare favorably to, say, the GoPro Hero3+ (up to 4K video resolution). Still, Glass video is awesome because of what you can capture. Not only is Glass video recording ideal for sightseeing, cyclists and runners, there are practical business applications, too. (See 8 Ways to Use Google Glass on the Job for more info.)

Wink to Snap a Photo
Google

Love: Wink to Snap a Photo

The recent XE12 Glass software update lets you take a picture by just winking your right eye — no doubt creeping out everyone but diehard "Glassholes." It's an "exploratory" new feature, meaning it might not make into the final product, and, yes, it raises privacy concerns. In the past, to snap a photo with Glass, you'd tap a button or speak the command, "OK, Glass, take a picture," both of which are obvious gestures to others. Winking? Not so much, especially from a distance. At any rate, the wink makes Glass handy as a hands-free camera. The only problem: The winking trigger is super-sensitive. I took a lot of pictures unintentionally.

[ Review: Busting the 7 Worst Google Glass Myths ]

All-Too-Brief Battery Life

Hate: All-Too-Brief Battery Life

Google's Glass tech specs say the device should last for one day of typical use. Perhaps Google meant to say Glass' battery lasts for one hour of typical use. One example (of far too many): I went for a 45-minute walk, during which I probably spent a total of 10 minutes using Glass, such as recording a one-minute video. The Glass battery was fully charged when I left home; it was at 44 percent when I returned. What's more, Glass uses your iPhone or Android device for its Internet connection, so it can strain your smartphone battery, too. (A company called PWRglass says its Glass accessory "nearly triples" Glass' battery life.)

GPS Navigation

Love/Hate: GPS Navigation

I have mixed feelings about using Glass for turn-by-turn directions while driving. Initially, I was dead-set against any drivers using Glass. To paraphrase President Barack Obama, my thinking on this subject has "evolved." I took Glass for a drive a few times in San Francisco and came to agree with its defenders: Using Glass for directions can be less distracting than relying upon an iPhone app or dedicated GPS device. You can keep both hands on the wheel and eyes mostly straight ahead, except for a quick upward glance occasionally at the Glass screen. But there's serious potential for drivers to use Glass irresponsibly for, say, checking email, and that's worrisome.

[ Analysis: How Safe is Google Glass for Driving? ]

Glass Gets Warm Too Easily

Hate: Glass Gets Warm Too Easily

Glass is hot. Literally. If I don't completely power down Glass after using it, the device will be noticeably warm when I pick it up later. This happens even though I've enabled the "On-Head Detection" feature, which puts Glass into sleep mode when you're not wearing or using it. When Glass gets too warm, it displays a warning message: "Glass must cool down to run smoothly." You may get this message when recording video or while simultaneously charging and using the device — something I often had to do several times, given Glass's short battery life. Also, it takes as much as 45 minutes for Glass to cool down.

Frustrating Video Calls
Google

Hate: Frustrating Video Calls

Imagine yourself standing atop San Francisco's Twin Peaks. You want to share the amazing view with a friend. Since you're wearing Glass, you start a video call. He'll see what you see, as you're seeing it. How cool is that?

In reality, this rarely worked for me. Video calls go through Google Hangouts, so your friend must have a Google account to participate. It helps if he knows Google Hangouts and is sitting at his computer, as this offers the best view of your video. (Google Hangouts does work on Android and iOS mobile devices.) Even so, my video feed often froze. Finally, talking to your friends in a loud or windy area makes the experience even more frustrating for everyone.

Trying to Read the Screen in Sunlight

Hate: Trying to Read the Screen in Sunlight

Part of the Google Glass allure is having a hands-free "computer" that's easily accessible, especially when you're out and about. Unfortunately, the tiny display can be extremely difficult to read outdoors on a sunny day (though this screenshot doesn't capture that experience very well). You may need to step under a shady tree or into a doorway to read what's on the screen. Tip: When using Glass outside on a sunny day, wear a visor or baseball cap; this helps make the screen more legible.

[ News: Google Demos Play Up the Gaming Potential of Glass ]

Headaches
McNEIL-PPC Inc.

Hate: The Headaches

The Glass display sits above your right eye — not, as some people assume, directly in your field of vision. This makes sense from a safety perspective, but it requires your eyes to stretch upward into an unnatural position. The result: I frequently found myself reaching for the Tylenol, especially during the first few days of using the device. While the headaches seemed to lessen over time, they never went away completely. For this and other reasons, such as the short battery life, I rarely use Glass for more than 20 minutes at a time.

The Geeky Look
Google

Hate: The Geeky Look

Maybe it's my Southern upbringing, but I always feel self-conscious wearing Glass in public. (Though, in full disclosure, I don't even like wearing prescription glasses in public, much less Google Glass. But that's another story.) Simply put, in my opinion, Google Glass would make even Justin Timberlake look like a super geek.

Plus, I'm aware that many people see Glass as creepy or intrusive, and it makes them uncomfortable. You could argue that this is because they don't understand Glass and that, eventually, they'll get used to it. Even so, as with any mobile device, consideration for others should play a role in when and where you wear Glass.

[ Related: Unique Uses for Google Glass, Demonstrated by Celebrities ]

The Sunglass Clip

Love: The Sunglass Clip

Your Google Glass comes with a custom sunglass clip (the Extra Active Shade), which makes Glass look less geeky, especially if you buy the shale-colored Glass. The sunglass clip does a good job of blocking glare while still letting you read the Glass screen.

Two caveats: One, don't even think of losing the clip, as it costs $150 to replace. Two, you have to twist the clip into place on Glass, which isn't easy to do, and you'll probably smudge the edges with fingerprints in the process. But it's worth it: The shale Glass coupled with the sunglass clip (pictured here) is the least geeky-looking way to wear Glass.

[ News: Google Glass Now Available with Designer Frames, Prescription Lenses ]

Google Now Cards

Love: Google Now Cards

I'm a big fan of Google Now, the feature that serves up relevant cards of information based on time and location. Google Now is a particularly nice feature on Glass. If you're, say, arriving at the airport to catch a flight, Glass will automatically display your flight's gate and current boarding time. It would do the same on an Android or iOS device, but not having to dig out your phone as you zip through the airport is convenient.

[ Related: Google Glass Users Will Get Their Own App Store ]

Flipping Through All the Cards

Hate: Flipping Through All the Cards

The Glass interface consists of a row of cards that you flick past with your finger on the device's touchpad (basically, Glass' right "arm"). You swipe forward to see recent activities, such as photos snapped and calls made. Swiping backward takes you to real-time info alerts: Current weather conditions in your area, calendar events, and Google Now-related info such as flight info, if you're about to travel. Flicking through a bunch of emails, each on its own card, is tedious. To minimize flicking through cards, I don't have many apps loaded onto Glass at any given time. One saving grace: The faster you swipe, the faster the cards will zoom by. But it's still a pain.