A Staggering Share of Americans Would Use Google Glass if They Could

Brian Fung
May 15, 2013

The common knock against Google Glass, Google's next-generation augmented reality device that you wear like a pair of glasses,  is that it brings together all the enlightened self-indulgence of Silicon Valley in a single pretentious, awkward package. Perhaps thanks to a heavy dose of Internet mockery, the mobile software company BiTE interactive concludes that "only" 1 in 10 U.S. adults who own a smartphone would also consider wearing Glass:

Hold on. Glass might still be restricted to the elite once it arrives on the market, but a 10-percent adoption rate is hardly a pessimistic outlook. We're talking about 31 million Americans walking around with video cameras strapped to their faces. For some perspective, it might help to consider an actual historical example. Take a similarly genre-smashing product: the iPhone. How long was it before Apple's signature iDevice reached 31 million people?

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In the first quarter of its existence, the iPhone made just 270,000 sales. It took another two years for it to break the 31-million mark.

But that figure accounts for all worldwide sales, not just domestic ones--meaning that it probably took even longer for Apple to sell enough iPhones to reach 10 percent penetration in the U.S. market. Luckily, we have a way to narrow down these numbers. As part of the lawsuit between Samsung and Apple, the public has unfettered access to Apple's U.S.-specific sales documents.

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It wasn't until the fourth quarter of 2010 that Apple managed to sell an iPhone to 31 million Americans. By that point, the device had been on the market for over three years. Now compare that to Google Glass--a product that isn't even in the wild yet. The fact that 10 percent of American adults have said they'd use it is a testament to the country's hate-fascination with wearable tech. It also suggests a major opportunity for Google's would-be competitors in this space.

There are reasons to doubt the 10-percent figure. The study asked people whether they'd use Glass "regardless of cost." I'm pretty sure most people would at least try it for free. And by only asking smartphone owners, who account for just a little over half of the broader population, BiTE interactive likely captured a subset of people who are predisposed to use Glass. Still, given that we don't have many other numbers to work with regarding people's expectations of Glass, this at least provides a reasonable ballpark.

Update: I'll just leave this right here.

Yes, that's Rep @michelebachmann trying on Google Glass in US Capitol. Searched for Drudge, says brought up "Dredge" twitter.com/MichaelMathes/…

— MichaelMathes (@MichaelMathes) May 15, 2013