Consumer Reports spent months using Google Glass on a near-daily basis. Here’s what the device lets you do and how it stacks up as a consumer-electronics product in real-world and lab testing.
Take photos and videos
It’s no exaggeration to say it’s as easy as winking an eye to take a photo with Glass because you can set the device up to do just that. Once you get your shot, you can share it to Facebook or your Google Plus circles. Photos are also backed up automatically to your Google Plus album when you are on Wi-Fi. You can dictate captions—Google Glass’ voice recognition worked quite well for us. Taking a video is equally simple. Glass records just 10 seconds by default, but you can extend that by tapping the touchpad near your temple— the device has 12 gigabytes of onboard storage.
Make a phone call
Using Glass to make a call isn’t that different from using a Bluetooth headset. The device comes with an optional earpiece that connects with micro USB; remove it and you can listen with the device’s built-in bone-conduction transducer, or BCT. The technology, which is used in a number of headphones already on the market, transmits vibrations to your inner ear through your skull. We found that BCT worked adequately for phone calls in a quiet setting but was hard to hear in noisy environments.
Listen to music
If you have a Google Play Music account, you can tap into it to listen to music through Glass. As with any streaming service accessed through a phone, if you’re not on a Wi-Fi network you’ll be burning through your cellular data plan. (You can’t directly access music stored on your phone.) If you do plan to listen to music through Glass, consider paying extra for the company’s stereo earbuds. Neither the bone-conduction technology nor the single earbud that comes with the device provides a good listening experience.
Use mobile apps
At press time, there were more than 100 apps for Glass, including versions of Facebook, Foursquare, OpenTable, and other mainstays of the mobile life. You can have weather alerts pop up on Glass, check stock listings, and play blackjack or other games. You can also browse ordinary websites with the device, but we found navigation to be clumsy, and it was uncomfortable to read more than snippets of information using the device.
Improve your golf game
The most intriguing apps may be those that go to work when you’re doing something active. Getting driving directions is the most obvious example. A more novel one is GolfSight, which combines GPS data with a database of golf courses to flash the distance remaining to the green. An app called Star Chart identifies stars, planets, and constellations as you gaze at the night sky. Word Lens will automatically translate printed words on road signs or menus by using the Glass camera and Google Translate.