Summary:

Sometimes more is less. Google Glass can now be a music player but various reports echo my initial concerns: Listening to tunes on the wearable display quickly chews up the diminutive battery.

glass earbuds

After using Google Glass on a limited basis, I’m convinced it’s an amazing product. Is it the best device for multimedia entertainment though? I had my doubts last week when Google Glass got its own Play Music app, mainly because the wearable device has a relatively small battery for its radios and display.

A few recent reports on Tuesday suggest my concern was well-founded, even if the audio quality for music on Glass is solid.

Phil Nickinson says this on Android Central:

“Finally, there’s the issue of battery. Google doesn’t specifically list battery capacity on Glass — it says one day, which is generous — so you definitely feel any continuous use. I listened to Pearl Jam’s latest from front to back (ask your parents what that means, kids). The 46 minutes of tunes took about 23 percentage points of battery off my Glass. Maybe not as much as I’d feared — not having the display on certainly helps — but that’s still almost a quarter of the device’s lifespace before recharging.”

And on ReadWrite, Taylor Hatmaker suggests this the fatal flaw:

“From the start, my main objection to Google’s plan to turn Glass into the ultimate iPod replacement was battery life. Battery life is abysmal on the first edition of Google Glass (XE-B) and the second edition (XE-C) barely seems to have improved matters, at least in my initial testing. Unfortunately, my fears were confirmed. I started playing music over Glass with 40% battery life. Ten minutes later, I was down to 27%. After 20 minutes, about five songs in, I was in the red at 15% remaining battery. Weak.”

For occasional audio use, Glass in its current iteration might be fine. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the sound quality of playback. For any extended audio time, however, I think too much is being asked of the device.

glass earbuds

I can see why Google has added playback support, as well as an optional $85 stereo earbud accessory for Glass. The idea of Glass is to wear it all the time: More usage means greater engagement with Google and its services. Unless the final consumer version brings a big boost in battery life though, usage could actually drop on Glass as people will have to recharge their devices more often.

It’s also worth noting the challenge Google faces with Glass: There seem to be competing design requirements. One the one hand, Glass needs to be light enough to wear comfortably for hours at a time. It also can’t be too bulky. On the other hand, smaller, lighter devices by default tend to have smaller batteries. Unless there’s a battery breakthrough in the works, Glass might be better without entertainment style features that will use up juice that could be better used for features more unique to a wearable computer with display.

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