As the shine wears off the first sparkling new Google Glass headsets out in the wild, the earliest of adopters have started to discover myriad problems with the wearable computers. Beyond aesthetics, professional Glass reviewers and amateur experimenters alike have reported some issues — bad battery life, a bad fit, vulnerability to hackers, and beyond — that might make future buyers reconsider the $1,500 investment when the glasses are available to the masses. Luckily, Google has said it will take "a while" before the headset is on sale for real, giving the company plenty of time to get the kinks out of these beta versions. Until then, though, Google has released a video teaching us the basics. That can only distract us from the following reported flaws for so long.
Terrible Battery Life
The company line is that the set will last a full day without a charge. But, with normal face-computer use, such as checking emails, taking some pictures, and recording short video, the "poor" battery life lasted five hours, before it "unceremoniously shut itself down," says Engadget's Tim Stevens. Not that a lot of people are going to want to walk around for more than five hours with a computer on their heads, but still: Google promised a full day of wearability, and with heavier use, other users saw way worse results. One six-minute video drained 20 percent of the battery for Glass enthusiast (and nudist) Robert Scoble. Another Glass reviewer said that a 30-minute video will suck the entire set dry.
Huge Security Flaws
One hacker has discovered an exploit that would allow anyone to take over Google Glass, which is about as scary as it sounds: It's like someone gaining access to your phone or computer, but even worse because they can see everything you do. The hacker, Jay Freeman (who goes by the name saurik), has a long technical explanation on his blog, but basically the upshot is as follows: "This means that if you leave your device in someone else's hands, and it has an unlocked bootloader, with just a minute alone they can access anything you have stored on it."
In addition, Google Glass doesn't have any PIN lock, like smartphones, which as Engadget's Stevens points out, makes the new gadget particularly vulnerable. "There's no way of setting any kind of protection on the thing itself, meaning if you should set it on your desk and walk away, anybody can pick it up, put it on and start sending uncouth emails and pictures to your contacts," Stevens writes.
Stevens said it took him a while to get Google's high-tech frames to sit well on his face. Shana Lynch, the managing editor of Silicon Valley Business Journal, said her pair only felt comfortable after Google specially fixed it to her face. Of course, not everyone will have that luxury — never mind the people who have to fit them over prescription glasses. Google has said that it will have a real-glasses compatible version of Glass, but for now the gadget will awkwardly sit itself over prescription glasses, taking that awkward 3D movie experience out in the open. "Depending on the size and shape of those glasses, the eyepiece may be partially blocked by the frame," Stevens writes. "After letting dozens of people briefly try these on, a few with eyesight difficulties were simply unable to focus on the display at all."
There is another design feature that Google may not have thought all the way through. The titanium band doesn't fold up, so Google Glass is more or less impossible to store. You can't fold it into your shirt, like a pair of sunglasses, or comfortably slip it in your purse.
From Stevens: "Colors, too, aren't exactly consistent and the whole thing similarly lacks the accuracy of a modern LCD or OLED panel. It almost has the look of an old-school, passive-matrix LCD, with its occasionally murky hues." But he is the only reviewer we could find on an extensive search these past few days who had this gripe.
Google Glass chimes whenever your face gets a new message, but users can only read the first few lines of text on the screen in front of their eyes. After that, the act of browsing texts involves a bunch of tapping. You can't compose full emails, and all message responses have to be performed with voices, meaning you might not want to say something too private to someone. The speech-to-text doesn't work that well so far, either, so you'd probably only want to dictate a short reply. In addition, none of this works with an iOS device. But, hey, it's still early. This is what beta's for — for now.