Monday, July 1, 2013

A "But" Too Far: Gearing Up to Become a Google Glass Explorer

Good news! I got an invite to join the Google Glass Explorers program.

But I have to pay $1,500 for the privilege. And I have to fly to New York to pick them up and get fitted at Google's Chelsea Market office. And to get full functionality, I need to tether my Glass with an Android phone.

This is already turning out to be a rather expensive endeavor, but I'm still excited and ready to give life on the bleeding edge a try. And I'm planning to blog about my Glass experiences regularly, so watch this space. (And I plan on writing off all Glass related expenses on next year's taxes anyway.)

Me being me, I agonized / thrashed all weekend about the best solution for tethering my Glass. There are three major options:
  1. Use my current iPhone 4 (which I'm still quite happy with, and am invested in Apple ecosystem)
  2. Upgrade to an Android phone (I loose Messages and all my apps, and get locked in to new 2 year contract)
  3. Get a separate Android phone (best of both worlds, but also most expensive)
In the case of the first two options, I'll need to upgrade my AT&T account from the unlimited data plan to the DataPro 5Gb plan that supports tethering. That's an extra $20 bucks a month (for up 5Gb of data...which shouldn't be a problem for me).

But I'm too comfortable and happy with my iPhone to just walk away from iOS at this time (especially with the new goodies coming in iOS7), and I rely heavily on Messages to communicate with family members. But just to be open minded, I did a little analysis and came up with the following arguments / gross generalizations in favor of each platform:

  • Customizable - turn ringer back on after 3 hours, use volume rocker for paging, etc.
  • Google Now - sounds creepy to some, but I'm intrigued
  • Better information sharing between apps
  • Multiple user accounts - I can safely hand off my device to the Geeklings in a pinch
  • Battery life - not a huge deal, since I generally plug in my phone every night anyway
  • Messenger - synched up between iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro
  • Camera - Apple continues to outpace the competition here, but I'm no Ansel Adams
  • Stability of platform / availability of updates
  • Less malware / viruses - a big benefit of the "walled garden"
  • More / better apps - although most successful apps come to Android
  • Existing investment in ecosystem - our household has definitely drunk the Apple Kool-Aid
  • No bloatware / crapware - can be avoided by going with a Nexus device
So I decided to go with option three - a new Android phone..."in for a penny, in for a pound". 

But we're not through yet.

I wanted to avoid carrier and manufacturer bloatware, so was leaning toward a Google Nexus phone. This will get me the latest and greatest Android bits directly from Google as they are released. But the current Nexus 4 -- while it has gotten great reviews -- is almost a year old, and doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the current crop of Android phone champs like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. Google announced the Google Play versions of both the S4 and One at their recent I/O conference, which gets you the hardware with stock Android. But not only am I balking at the price tag ($600 and $650 respectively) for a device that I'm only planning to use for development, they won't start shipping until July 9th.

We have reached our "but" too far.

And since my Glass pickup appointment is for this Saturday, July 6th my decision was finally made. My new Nexus 4 is due to arrive in a couple of days, and I'll post my initial thoughts here soon.