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Reg man looks through a Glass, darkly: Google's toy ploy or killer tech specs?

Tip: Put the shades on and you'll look less of a spanner

Google can help you become a Glasshole Bluetooth headset chump

El Reg in Glass - not exactly HD

Hands-free Google Glass

So, apart from shoot video and take snaps, what can you do with Glass? Well, as a handsfree Bluetooth headset, it excels. You can call or text 20 favourite contacts directly via voice control and thanks to a recent update, you can now also swipe through all your other Google contacts.

The Star Chart is the shiniest of all the Google Glassware

Glass will also read Gmail messages and texts and let you reply by dictation. And you can use it to run Google Maps Navigation, something it does extremely well. And play music from your Google Play Music account, post updates, pictures and video to YouTube and your Google+, Facebook and Twitter feeds and get news and weather updates. The last few assuming you have the relevant apps installed.

Apps? Well, it's "Glassware" to use the official nomenclature.

El Reg in Glass - not exactly HD

There’s a full list of Google-approved apps here. The ones I tried – all the Google apps, The Guardian, Foursquare, Livestream, Twitter and Facebook – worked exactly as advertised. The poster child for third-party Glassware is undoubtedly Star Chart, which shows the constellations as you look up at the heavens and reads out information about what it is you are looking at. It’s of questionable practical value but a good party trick.

Pictures and video

In due course I’d expect Glass to officially support video streaming from Google+ and YouTube, but right now it doesn’t – unless you want to start sideloading third-party apps. Who knows, maybe an iPlayer app will appear at some point.

Other tricks you can perform with Glass include casting what it sees to your Android smartphone and – assuming you have a Chromecast dongle and one of a handful of currently supported Android phones – to your telly too. I can’t actually think of a reason to do that, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

I have a slight concern over the quality of the photographs and video shot with Glass, considering taking pictures is what many users will probably use Glass for the most. The quality is very much akin to what you get from a Motorola Moto G – in other words: pretty darned average. I wasn’t expecting the sort of images generated by the likes of the Galaxy S5 or Nokia Lumia 930, but I was hoping for something rather more impressive than what I ended up with.

Too hot to handle

Other drawbacks? Well, battery life is pretty poor. I never managed to get more than six hours of light-to-medium use from a charge and intensive video recording can easily cut that figure in half and then some. This is probably the single biggest restriction on the Glass concept. More battery life means a bigger battery and that means a device that is heavier and sillier to wear. Glass also has a tendency to get a wee bit hot under intensive use. My Glass never shut down due to heat issues but I’ve heard of it happening to users on warm days.

As for the potential for getting punched on the nose if you walk into a bar wearing Glass... well, idiots get thumped all the time for lesser reasons and anyone who shows such a staggering lack of social grace will get no sympathy from me. Using Glass does not make you a socially incompetent cretin, but there’s nothing Google can do to ensure that some of the people who buy it aren’t socially incompetent cretins to begin with.

Local info on Google Glass

Just for grins I spent an afternoon wandering around the Trafford Centre wearing Glass, and nobody so much as raised an eyebrow bar a chirpy lass in the Apple Store who asked what I thought of it. I’m beginning to suspect this whole "glasshole" brouhaha is little more than a media invention.

The Reg Verdict

Is Glass worth £1,000? Of course it’s not. But that’s not the same as saying that it is a developmental dead end. Get the price down to less than £500, up the display resolution to 720p, give it folding legs and increase the battery life by at least 30 per cent and Glass would certainly be something I’d consider buying – even though I have to admit I don’t have a dedicated, killer use for it in mind beyond it being Android for the bonce. As it stands, it’s a very interesting beta product, but fair play to Google, that is exactly how the firm is pitching it. ®

Thanks to Viking Direct for the loan of our review sample.

Alun Taylor dons Google tech specs Google Glass

Reg man looks through a Glass, darkly: Google's toy ploy or killer tech specs?

A just-for-grins purchase that doesn't have a single killer use.
Price: £1,000 RRP

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