Over the past week there's been quite a dramatic number of wearable type additions to the phone industry. The two biggest hitters are Google Glass and glanceable watches. Before we even look closely at these two different types of devices I can tell you immediately, Google Glass is fundamental step ahead of watches. A comparison of their aims will quickly confirm my suspicions.
Wearable Products: Glasses or Watches?
Let's look at the watch first. It's designed to be an addition to the current smartphone, to balance out some of its current issues. Nowadays the best selling phone has the most amazing screen, and they tend to be quite large (most getting to or exceeding 5-inches). It's gotten to the point where I need to choose my pants based on how large and convenient the pockets are, just so I don't need to stand up whenever I want to check the time. Here's where the watch comes in.
Apart from telling you the time (haha, see what I did there?) the watches are designed to be glanced at whenever you receive a notification. So you can use the watch for all the basic things you need to do, and only need to take out your huge phone when you want to use it for something. The watch certainly has the potential to be an amazing product.
So what about Google Glasses then? When I was in junior school (a huge 10 years ago) it was incredibly uncool to have glasses. Luckily for Google, glasses are no longer something to be ashamed of (perhaps due to the hipster thing). The entire basis of Glass is to remove the element of the phone completely. Instead have all your notifications and apps linked to your visual interface, a true heads up display (HUD). This makes Glass, if implemented correctly, a far more innovative step in mobile technology.
Google has already taken three main initiatives to make Glass successful before it has even been released.
Firstly: Google has handed out many Glasses to competition winners for the sake of testing. These 'Glass Explorers' are going to give Google insight into how consumers will use and react to the Glass initiative.
Secondly: One of the issues with starting a new technology such as Glass is the apps and accessorial merchandise. To prevent the sluggish start and response to Glass. Google has funded (via Google Ventures) people to create apps and accessories for the Glass when it's released.
Thirdly: Perhaps the most important initiative of them all, Google are going to place large restrictions on the apps and uses of Glass when it's first released.
Google's Third Initiative:
As such an important factor to Glass, Google's third initiative deserves its own section. Google are planning on placing large restrictions onto the apps allowed onto Glass to increase the user experience. This includes stopping:
- Any form of advertising
- Access to any sensors on the device
- Access to the location of the person, unless required by the app (navigation applications would be pointless without a GPS connection)
- Frequent updates
- Doing something without getting explicit consent from the user
I reckon this is a very good idea from Google. The concept of wearing your phone will already take some getting used to. If at first we are bombarded with advertising in our actual field of view, the consumers are going to be far less responsive to it.
Google Glass: The Next Innovation in Mobile Technology?
There are a few downsides to the concept of Glass, mostly from a social perspective. The greatest issue for this device is breaking through the social norms. There are going to be a lot of people who will run for un-surveillanced cover, a lot that just wont like the look of Glass, or that they need to wear glasses (not really an issue for me). It also doesn't help that they're going to cost $1500 per device.
Despite all of these risks to the products success, Google are still deciding to back it. Google are a smart bunch. If they decide to support it, they probably have a very good reason to do so.
To conclude then. If Glass can overcome the initial fear factor, it will be a dramatic innovation to mobile technology. However, the presence of less 'out there' wearable alternatives (namely the watches) pose a significant threat to its success.