Google Glass appears to be living up to its name. At least, the latter half of it.
The sexy prototype augmented reality devices are unexpectedly fragile, breaking down with some degree of regularity after just a few months of use.
“First, a few weeks ago the side of the prism started to delaminate,” Chris Barrett of PRserve told VentureBeat. “Then I wore Glass to Made in America festival two weekends ago and … the trackpad stopped working. You could still manually take photos, you could still use voice commands, but you couldn’t swipe.”
Barrett told me about the Glass issues about a week ago, but I didn’t think much of it until I saw on Facebook that the most famous Glasshole, Robert Scoble, also recently experienced a breakdown. He posted that the mirror on the prism of his Google Glass “totally disintegrated” due to a sticker he put on the end of it and bemoaned the fact that he was “contextless in New York” for a week while awaiting a replacement. And Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land fame alerted me to the fact that he too had issues with Google Glass due to water spray while kayaking.
“The prism problem seems to be happening to a other people … and this was only after about 70 days of daily use,” Barrett told me.
The question is: How long should Google Glass last out of the box? What might be acceptable for the “Explorer” edition that’s in the hands of a few thousand people is one thing, but what consumers who buy them in the millions expect is probably quite another.
Google seems to be pretty good about replacements — you send Glass back to Google in a box they mail you, and they’ll send you a new pair if the damage wasn’t self-inflicted — but the problems also seem to be fairly widespread. A quick Twitter search for “Google Glass broken” brings up dozens of recent results.
Most of them, of course, are self-inflicted:
That appears to be at least partially the fault of an inadequate case, which one broken Glass victim called “a cowboy accessory of gray flannel that is closer to a hard-toed sock than to the Bulgari satin-lined jewelry box that would seem to suit fancy Google Glass.”
But Barrett’s delamination and trackpad failures — which he attempted to treat with rice, wondering if it had gotten wet — and Scoble’s prism disintegration suggest that there are other issues at play, including ones of product quality. I supposed that’s not a big shock, given that this is a prototype device, as a Google representative mentioned as he gave me this statement:
“We’re in the Explorer phase of Glass’s development, so we’re eager to hear back from users about their experiences with both the hardware and software. The more feedback we get, the better we can make Glass ahead of our wider consumer launch in 2014.”
In addition, Google is replacing almost all nonfunctioning Glass devices for free — although the company will put a $1,500 hold on your credit card while you still have your old Glass in hand. The only occasions it won’t do that, the company says, is when the device was damaged deliberately or from lack of care.
Barrett agrees, saying that “Google customer service is top notch.”
However, Glassholes who don’t want to spend $1,500 on a new pair might want to invest in a more secure case than Google’s default version.
Like this story? Want to learn more? On April 14-15, our fourth annual VentureBeat Mobile Summit will tackle the eight biggest growth opportunities in mobile today. The invitation-only Summit will gather the top 180 executives at the scenic Cavallo Point Resort in Sausalito, Calif., to discuss issues like this. Request an invitation.