After the advent of smartphones, people were waiting for the next big thing. Many speculated probably a smartwatch might replace, others reckoned smart-glass might be an ideal replacement. According to the Bently university case-study on google glass, among big tech firms – Google was the first to take a bold step forward. The first prototype of google glass was created, through Google X, a specialized unit of Google to bring cutting-edge innovative products. The initiative was also known as project moonshot. As they did not try to bring not 10 percent improvement, rather they aimed at 10 fold. This project was led by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. According to the website computerhistory.org, In 1960 Ivan Sutherland had the first short at a wearable glass device, which he named The sword of Damocles. It was a virtual reality unit, which changed the display depending on where the user was looking. The google glass came a long way from the first attempt at a smart wearable device. However, Google might have failed as they could not make the product have everyday use, or were there more major reasons? Let’s dive deeper and explore what caused the failure of this revolutionary piece of tech, which could have become the next big thing.
The Release of Google Glass
The first prototype of google glass was unveiled in mid-2011 which weighed around a little over 3.5 pounds. It was trimmed down to a great extent in the google glass explorer edition that was manufactured for the masses. Google glass rather had an uncommon release of the explorer edition. It was priced at $1500 dollars and during the early days, it was only available to a selected few celebrities and influencers. According to Statista, around 21 million Google glass explorer editions were sold between 2014-2018. Few experts are skeptical about these numbers, however, according to google’s standard – the explorer edition could not be labeled as a successful product. Google had high expectations from google glass. After smartphones, they believed this particular gadget could change the way we interact with the world.
The explorer edition had many attractive offerings. According to The Times magazine, google glass was the most innovative product of 2012. It had a voice command feature, a universal translator, GPS tracking, and an app called refresh – that enabled users to identify people and get instant information about them. Probably the most important and controversial component was the built-in 5-megapixel camera – which enabled to take pictures and record videos on the go. Despite, so many attractive features google glass had a few problems such as the high price, battery capacity, design, etc. But what was the main reason for its failure?
Reasons Behind the Failure of Google Glass
- Expensive: Google glass was an expensive gadget with a $1500 dollar price tag. Few people were willing to spend that large of an amount to buy this product, which could only do things that a smartphone already does. In 2014, with $1500 as a smartphone budget, one could decide to buy 2 iPhone 6 and still end up having $200 in his/her pocket. According to the website called teardown.com, google glass’s cost was around $80/unit. Even though a lot of money was invested in research and customer support, experts believe it was priced too high given the value it is providing to the users.
- Lack of practical features: Without the smartphone, the google glass could be deemed as normal eyewear with a camera. It does not avail cellular network service nor it can connect without the internet. The device had low battery capacity, which lasted around 3 hours after regular use. Having such low battery backup could prove to be a lot of hassle specifically for regular users. From the first google has been delivering excellent service in terms of software experience. However, since the start, Google has been failing to make a name for itself for a physical product. Moreover, they are bad at innovation. According to Android Authority, google failed over 50 different products within the last decade alone. This clearly shows google’s weakness in this spectrum.
- Poor Branding and Positioning: The promotional campaigns and other marketing efforts clearly failed to communicate the main purpose of the device. Google did not organize any launching event nor there was any mainstream advertising campaign. Worst still was the distribution channel of the product during the early months was not properly set. Moreover, google failed to position them in the customer’s mind. There wasn’t any standout feature of google glass that would help determine customers why they should be buying it.
- Developer community woes: On the developer side of things, Google also made a grave mistake. They made it mandatory for all apps developed for google glass to be free. This was very discouraging for the developer community. (Testimonial)
- Safety and security: There was a safety & security concern as it had a camera. Many public places like bars, restaurants, strip clubs banned the use of google glass. Moreover, it also raised privacy concerns amongst the general public as “are you recording me?” was a frequently asked question to the wearer. This problem could have been very easily resolved in a later version by inserting a recording light indicator or a shutter for the camera. Frustrated Britain’s government along with many others banned driving while wearing the glass citing safety concerns.
- Ugly design: The google glass did not look like a normal sleek glass rather the design was not welcomed by the masses. Many even went as far as to label it as “ugly” because of bulky frames without any glass. Reviewers were not backward in their condemnation. Google Glass was described as “the worst product of all time”, “plagued by bugs”, “of questionable use” and “overpriced” and with abysmal battery life. (TheDrum, 2017)
- Lack of collaboration: Lastly, when the big techs collaborate and work on bringing in new innovations it usually results in successful innovation. This solo attempt by Google could not live up to the expectations. In the smartphone world, a fair share of collaboration could be seen among the top manufacturers like Samsung, Apple, and other leading brands. However, google’s solo shot at the glass wearable was a disaster like the other products they previously attempted.
However, it was not the end of the journey for google glass. Rather the product made a pivot and released an enterprise edition seeing the growing demand of the various type of companies, according to Forbes. Ranging from the automotive to the aviation to logistics industries. According to Wired magazine google glass enterprise edition which was released on the year 2015, quickly became popular amongst companies like Volkswagen, DHL, Boeing. General Electric reported 46% less time is required by warehouse pickers to complete their tas s. As the glass enables real-time data about the packaging, thus the workers’ time dramatically decreased by half. According to Wired magazine, Google did not share a plan to bring the explorer edition back to the market. However, in 2019 google introduced the 2nd version of the google glass enterprise edition with improved processing capability and camera. The last update for the google glass app was on Feb 25, 2020, which marked the end of the Google Glass explorer edition.
It is still unsure whether google will take another shot at the smart glass category. The greatest leak about Apple’s potential glass wearable went ahead May 18, 2020. Jon Prosser said that the “Apple Glass” would be $499 in addition to the expense of prescription lenses. It is likely those lenses should be custom made too, so depending upon insurance, could undoubtedly pay $1500 on the whole gadget. Ming-Chi Kuo says that “Apple Glass” will be delivered after an Apple VR headset. The VR headset is expected at some point in 2022 with the glasses coming a year after that or more. Kuo additionally expressed that Apple will deliver contact lenses with AR capacities at some point in 2030 or later. However, it is rumored that Apple could release a smart glass as early as 2021, which might entice google to rethink and further assess the smart glass product category.