by Walker Smith
I sent back my Google Glass. Why? No killer app.
On tax day, I learned that Google had a one-day window for ordinary Joes like me to buy a Glass and become an early adopter Explorer. With great excitement, I ordered one right away. So began my month with Google Glass.
Opening the box a week later was like Christmas day. I put my Glass on, registered it, logged in and voilà! I was an Explorer! I scrolled through the menu looking for an app to play around with, but quickly discovered there wasn’t much there. Still, I was undaunted. I figured that with time and practice, I’d discover something killer.
After a few days, I realized there was no such thing. Glass apps don’t measure up. For starters, they’re mostly apps optimized for Google platforms. Worse, no app available in Glass is uniquely suited for Glass. All are harder to use with Glass than with a smartphone. So why wear a Glass?
With Glass, pictures are harder to aim, focus, take, post and manage. Glass Search is laborious, and the display of sites is significantly truncated and compromised by the tiny display window. Voice recognition is spotty (as it is for all such systems these days), which makes Glass inefficient and frustrating. And I couldn’t master the swiping or the heads up display, which suggests that as it stands now Glass is more for aficionados than for ordinary Joes with fat fingers like me.
The most surprising thing to me about Glass is that when you take it on the go it must be tethered to a smartphone. I confess that this is an obvious sign of my witless tech awareness, but, frankly, it had never occurred to me that Glass is not a stand-alone technology for users on the go. Instead, as a mobile device, Glass is little more than a hardware plug-in to a smartphone. Unless you are stationary in a location with wifi, every Glass app requiring an Internet connection, like Search or Maps or Google+, has to get online through a Bluetooth link to a smartphone. Imagine if your tablet could connect to the Internet only through a Bluetooth link with your smartphone. That’s Glass when you’re on the move. Unsurprisingly, this works more easily with an Android phone than with an iPhone. In the end, I concluded I had misspent my money, so I dug up the customer service number to arrange a return.
What’s the takeaway for brand marketing to consumers? It is the basic imperative that no matter the category a new product must have a killer app – a unique, compelling reason for being. Otherwise, what’s the point? Consumers don’t want new for the sake of new. Consumers only want new for the benefit of better. Consumers want better solutions for real needs that are unmet and important. These three criteria are the classic elements of problem-detection research.
If your brand is not solving a problem like this, then it’s not a brand worth buying, and that’s the challenge for all wearables these days not just Glass. They’re just not essential, which is why it is such a problem to keep people like me engaged with them. (This is also a driving factor in the ongoing “pivot to passive.”)
As it stands today, Glass has no killer app for consumers. There may be one in the works, but there is nothing Glass does right now that is not done better with a smartphone or tablet. The very innovative Glass hardware lacks any unique, compelling software that gives it a reason for being. By contrast, such “pairing of hardware and software” has long been an Apple “tradition” that has played a critical role in the stratospheric takeoff of its new product introductions.
This is not to say that there is no market for Glass. As Business Insider editor Jim Edwards has written, there are many professional and business applications for Glass that could make it a big success regardless of the mass consumer market. But these are not killer apps for consumers, and that’s why I sent back my Google Glass.
This blog post originally appeared on Branding Strategy Insider.