In the world of wearables, Google Glass has had a pretty torrid time of it over the last year. One of the first devices to hit the wearables market, its many positives simply couldn't outweigh the laundry list of problems which meant that, for $1,500, it just didn't offer enough to capture the attention of tech-savvy consumers. And thus, Google Glass Explorer Edition suffered the ignominy of a high-profile withdrawal.
Since then, Apple has debuted its long-awaited Watch to a broadly enthusiastic audience. Sure, the initial reviews have been far from universal in their praise, but it's patently clear that Apple has succeeded in generating the type of hype and sales orders that eluded Google Glass. But just why have the reactions been so different? And given that the withdrawal of Google Glass is a temporary one, what will Google have learned from Tim Cook and Co?
As is often the case, image is key here. And while Google Glass was no doubt a great step forward in technology, there can be little dispute that it suffered from a major image problem. 'Glasshole' quickly became a meme and there was no way to hide the fact that users were wearing Google Glass, leading to many feeling uncomfortable sporting the smart glasses while out and about. In short, Google spent too much time trying to make Glass useful, without making it fashionable.
This is a problem that the Apple Watch has tackled head on. In typical style, much of Apple's marketing for its first wearable focused on the fashionable aspects of its products - the numerous straps available, the different styles and the $17,000 gold-plated version. Apple's decision to restrict physical sales of wearables to a select number of high-end fashion stores also says a lot about how they want consumers to view the Apple Watch. This one is not just for techies, it's a fashion accessory that should be worn proudly. And this approach has been working: GlobalWebIndex's Q1 2015 data shows that fashion-conscious internet users are more likely to be interested in the Apple Watch than even their tech-obsessed counterparts.
This is a strategy that Google seems to have taken to heart. After the first 'Explorer' edition of Google Glass was officially retired, the search giant announced that new iterations of Glass will be spun out of Google X, its experimental lab, and that Glass would become a fully-fledged division under current Nest CEO Tony Fadell. But the most important announcement was that Glass will now be developed in partnership with Luxxotica, a premium Italian eyewear manufacturer who make glasses for Ray-Ban, Oakley and Prada, among others.
The re-launch of Google Glass is expected to come in Spring 2016 and, if Google can fix its image problem, the opportunity for success is there. GWI's current data shows that a quarter of internet users in the UK and US are still interested in using Glass, with figures reaching 40% among 16-34s. These numbers might be a little behind those for Apple Watch but they do show that Google Glass is far from dead and buried.
In fact, by playing the long-game, Google might find itself in quite an advantageous situation. In the world of tech, there's little doubt that v2 of a product is nearly always significantly better than v1. So, when a new-and-improved Glass eventually arrives, lots of people will be pretty pleased that they held off from purchasing the Explorer version. And that's food-for-thought for the millions of people currently ordering Apple Watches - few of whom will be thrilled when a shinier, slimmer and longer-living v2 of the watch suddenly appears a few months down the line. In the world of smart devices, the smartest money of all is always reserved for the second edition.Suggest a correction