Google Glass review

Explorer Edition has ceased production, but its legacy lives on

Google Glass review
Google Glass review

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Google Glass Explorer Edition is one of the most expensive gadgets from the Mountain View company, beating out its premium Chromebook Pixel laptop with an LTE chip included. You could buy five HP Chromebook 11 laptops instead and still have money left over.

Google Glass price

Google Glass costs HOW MUCH?

It costs $1,500 (£1,000, AU$1,593) plus tax for this imperfect prototype. But that's not the total price for most beta testers. In California, the with-tax price equates to an especially painful $1,635. The Google Glass UK price includes the VAT, just like other items the Google Play Store sells.

Even though Explorers are paying top dollar, the specs are remarkably limited. Its has a dual-core OMAP 4430 chip that's really a 2011-era mobile processor designed by Texas Instruments. Most Google Glass models have 1GB of RAM, though the specs have been upgraded to 2GB of RAM for new orders

Analysts have pegged the bill of materials to be under $200 (about £120, AU$212), meaning the gross margin is $1,300 (£880, about AU$1,381) on each Google Glass sale. That doesn't take into account Google's expenses like R&D and marketing, so the actual profit is likely a lot less. After all, someone has to pay all of those Glass guides running through the one-on-one fitting appointments every day and the free domestic or imported beer that they offer you during the visit.

Google Glass warranty

Google Glass handed to me in pristine condition


Some of that money also goes to shore up the Google Glass warranty. Meant to cover defects in materials and workmanship, this limited one-year warranty is surprisingly long and reassuring given Glass' prototype nature.

Of course, the warranty doesn't include accidents, fires, software modifications and just about every other your-fault incident you can think of. Reselling Google Glass voids this guarantee just the same.

Google Glass consumer version price

Each Google Glass comes with a limited one-year warranty

The high price of Google Glass didn't just have an impact on my Google Wallet, it made me constantly afraid of losing it or, worse, having it stolen. I'm always more anxious when wearing it in public due to its value. Not-so-funny comments like "Hey, is that Google Glass? Meet me in the back alley. Ha!" made me think twice about taking it everywhere.

As much as I wanted to capture New Year's Eve fireworks a few months ago in the city of Philadelphia, I decided against wearing Google Glass downtown. It actually helps that a majority of people I run into don't know what Glass is right now, but you can never be too careful.

There are ways to try to recover a lost or stolen Google Glass. The MyGlass website and app reports the last device location every few minutes, but it needs to either be logged into WiFi or be paired with a Bluetooth phone to do so. That makes it ineffective compared to Find my iPhone and Android Device Manager.

Price drop theories

Price is the biggest hurdle for beta-only Google Glass right now, as the Explorer Edition costs more than seven times as much as an iPhone 5S and five times as much as a Galaxy Note 3 with a two-year contract in the US. It doesn't adequately replace these devices either. In fact, it can't. It's a slave to their shared Bluetooth data when you're away from a WiFi connection.

Google Glass consumer price

Google Glass for consumers could roll out with a significantly cheaper

There could be a price drop in the future, as the parts don't actually cost Google anywhere near what it's charging. The Google Glass consumer price could be dramatically cheaper, spurring everyone to get one even if they're unsure of its feasibility. Google's decision to make Chromecast inexpensive had that same "add to shopping cart" effect.

Existing beta testers are paying through the nose pads right now, but that could be because Google doesn't want everyone to own Glass just yet. It needs developers to make great apps first. Without apps, if the price as low as it could be, the general public would pick up the device and immediately put it down. It would instantly be ahead of its time.

Explorer Edition owners, who paid a premium and helped develop the foundation of Glass, have floated the idea of receiving the likely more affordable Google Glass consumer edition for free. The idea is that their theoretical free Google Glass explains the steep price. It's built in. But that may just be Explorers' hopeful thinking.

Everyone may find out the final price of the consumer version come this week when Google IO 2014 is expected to host an on-stage update about Google's other wearable that isn't Android Wear.

Matt Swider