The comparison and analysis of these products is of course premature since neither Google Glass nor Apple's smart watch (iWatch) hit the shelves yet. While we have seen what Google Glass looks like, the iWatch is not even an announced product by Apple. This whole blog post is based on my best guesses and a general idea on the category of wearable computing.
We can also speculate about what the iWatch will look like if it is ever released. The smart watch is not a new idea. Various iterations have been around for decades and lately Pebble and various iPod nano wrist bands gave us a preview of what a smart phone in 2013-14 could look like.
Both products are rumoured to be available for consumers late this year, perhaps around end of October or early November ready for this years's holiday season.
I believe wearable devices are the next step in computing which will bring about a big change that we can't even yet realize fully at this stage of development. Once these devices will be opened up for software developers we will see amazing creative ideas that make the most out of the hardware. Accessories and improved hardware will open up more and more possibilities making the devices smaller and more powerful. Wearable computing will make us more productive and surprisingly more aware of our environment and ourselves. 2013 will be a turning point like 2007 was when the first iPhone was released. Wearable devices will truly revolutionize how we work and play.
What can both Google Glass and iWatch do?
- Tell time
- Perform basic search
- Get notifications/alerts
- Send updates/messages
- Voice and touch input
- Audio and visual output
- Essentially hands free
Google Glass is mostly a push device, while the iWatch is mostly an on-demand device, so the use cases will be very different. You would wear Google Glass when you're trying to accomplish a task that can be helped with the device, but probably not all the time. iWatch on the other hand will probably be worn almost allways providing a more passive connectivity device throughout the day.
Google with Google Now, Gmail, Google+, the history of searches and other information about you can offer personlized information that is truly integrated into your daily life. It's confirmed that Google Glass will work with both and Android or iOS device at least in terms of internet connectivity. And given Google's excellent track record of integration of it's Google services with iOS we can be confident that Glass will work well regardless whether you're using Google's or Apple's ecosystem.
What can Google Glass do that iWatch can't?
- Take pictures/video
- Augmented reality
- Control other devices
With Google Glass I have hard time imagining how will I be able to focus on something so close to my eye. Just think of trying to read the details on a business card that is 2-3 centimenters away from your eye balls, but apparently people can do it without effort, so I don't think this is an issue. I think wearing glasses is acceptable in most scenarios as many people wear them anyway for medical reasons or just as a fashion accessory. Glass will come with various head gear for various activities and hopefully it will be fairly durable. GoPro offers something similar to Glass that can be mounted on your helmet or on your various sport equipment and people feel fairly comfortable using them. I think getting used to wearing Glass will take only minutes and it will become an essential part of our lives within days.
Glass will surely attract lots of stares and questions in the first year after the release as people get used to seeing it. It will be especially ackward when people will stop to talk to their glasses giving short commands. Many will feel their privacy is invaded by a device that can take a picture, record voice or video. There is a led that indicates recording, but it can probably be switched off by the user. Perhaps a new term will emerge, some people will say "I don't like being glassed". I can see many places banning Glass like gyms, government offices, banks and even some shops.
Will Glass give you enough benefits in your daily life to warrant the inconvenience of having to deal with another device? I believe not in its first iteration. Currently our phones can do most of what Glass can do and better. It's not a big deal to pull out a phone to take a picture or a video. Same goes for searches. The areas where Glass is better than a smart phone are navigation and future uses of augmented reality. Once we have those features worked out well Glass will suddenly become a must have device. However I think Glass will be a commercial success regardless of how useful it is in its first iteration because of its coolness factor.
Apple also has a great user friendly ecosystem. With the help of Siri and iCloud I can envision the smart watch to be extremely useful especially if you have other Apple devices. Apple will also probably take advantage of Google's services (especially Search and Gmail) and other companie's services by opening up the watch version of iOS to all developers like they did with the iPhone and iPad. The watch will probably be tightly integrated with the other rumoured new Apple device the 3rd generation Apple TV that will probably allow apps too.
What can iWatch do that Google Glass can't?
- Worn all the time (including restaurants, gym, even sleep and shower, etc.)
- Record daily activity
- Silent vibrating alerts
- Kinetic battery charging
- Pinch, two finger gestures
The iWatch will be totally inconspicious. You won't have to get used to wearing it as most of us wore one at one point in our life. People don't wear watches nowadays because their smart phones can tell the time and have alerts. Those who still use watches nowadays mostly wear them as fashion accessories. However a well designed smart watch can change all that. If the watch can perform basic functions of the smart phone such as giving alerts and accepting basic commands it can become a new must have item because of its portability and ease of use. If Apple's smart watch had Siri built in we could ask it to send a text message or set up an appointment. It will feel a bit like being David Hasselhoff calling for Kit in Knight Rider but without the talking car unfortunately.
The most interesting capability of an iWatch would be the vibration that can gently alert us to phone calls, text messages and other notifications. While I don't expect anyone to learn morse code just to read text messages though vibration I can totally see people learning different patterns of vibration telling them more specific information than just a general alert.. For example it can give you a special kind of vibration when your loved one is calling and a different one when your boss is. Such a feature is already available on iPhones and other smart phones, but the information is much harder to interpret in a pocket compared to your wrist.
The question is what can as smart watch give you above a smart phone? Not much really. It's only a minor annoyance to pull out your smart phone to get anything done. The only advantage of a watch over a phone is its extreme portability. If the iWatch had cellular connection it could replace the phone for many people. I can see people using a smart wrist watch, carry a 7" tablet and not use a phone anymore. If the iWatch could reveive calls and be connected over a cellular network besides wifi and can hold a charge for at least a day or more on average use I can totally see it take off in a relatively big way replacing smart phones for many who are less dependent on voice calls and mostly consume their data on tablets or desktops but still need a portable device to keep them in touch when the the larger devices are inconvenient.
Will you buy Google Glass or an iWatch? Perhaps both?