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Google Glass and Apple Watch, compared


For the second time since 2013, I’m having the opportunity for a series of conversations with random strangers around a piece of consumer technology.

Owen Youngman at Google New York to pick up Google Glass, June 2013. Photo by Mark Skala.Back then, it was Google Glass, and the conversations usually went like this:

“Are those the Google glasses? . . . No way. Are you recording me? . . . Oh, okay. How do you like them?”

These days, it’s the Apple Watch, and the conversations are going like this:First look at the Apple Watch, April 2015. Photo by Linda Youngman.

“Is that the iWatch? . . . No way. It’s not that big! How do you like it?”

Regardless of the year and the device, the conversations with people I actually know generally are a little different, because they center on a declarative statement and not a question:

“Of course you have that. I’ll look for your review.”

In that spirit, takeaway number 1 about “wearable computing” from the above anecdotes:

No one feels threatened by a watch.

And takeaway 1A:

I don’t feel conspicuous wearing a watch.

But what else might I have to bring to the table among the welter of recent watch reviews?

Hmmm. How about an idiosyncratic feature comparison of both the above mentioned  devices?

You’ll find some summary thoughts after the table below, which admittedly omits a few features where comparison is less possible, like mobile commerce. Here goes.


Feature/ attribute/ functionalityGoogle GlassApple WatchAdvantage; if none, comment
Qualifying actionContest entry on Google+, 2/21/2013Staying up till 2 a.m. , 4/10/2015Owen meets Glass
AcquisitionMandatory trip to New York, 6/19/2013Mandatory signature at my front door, 4/24/2015image2
My purchase price$1,500$699Is less more, or vice versa?
Value proposition"Getting technology out of the way""Our most personal device yet"Hey, the marketers need a tagline
Setup / troubleshootingIndividual session with a "Glass Guide" while in New YorkIndividual session with an "Apple specialist" in Texas via the WebOwen meets Glass
Waking the deviceTilt head back or tap templeLift wrist or tap watch faceimage2
Initiating action"OK Glass ...""Hey Siri ..."Customization needed to stave off hijacking by passers-by
Searching / getting answers to questionsAsk Google anything; scroll through 10 results for the unusualAsk Siri many things; "handoff" to iPhone for the unusualOwen meets Glass
Appointments and calendar2 days available within 1 swipe. Google Now integration for traffic, flights, and moreNext event front and center, a week available by swiping. Reminders also pop upA close call, but
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NotificationsAudible chime; 5 seconds to view with one touch. "Haptic" tap on the wrist; red dot on watch face until dismissedimage2
Reading emailSeveral options, including good audio readbackShort ones fine, long ones on the iPhone. Inline photos look good.Owen meets Glass
Sending email Good voice-to-text for preselected favorites"Handoff" to iPhone requiredOwen meets Glass
Deleting emailEasy enough, but only within overall streamEasily done and giddily addictiveimage2
TextingNot with an iPhoneSiri seems to work better through the Watchimage2
TwitterCan overwhelm the device's stream; audio tweeting is OKLovely interface if you've time to scroll. "Handoff" to iPhone for tweetingNo winner here either
FacebookStatus updates possibleUpdates arrive, but can't be acted uponOh, just use your phone.
Sample news app: NY TimesTypically, the first published sentence and an image. Not great for anecdotal leads."One-sentence stories" (and sometimes 2). Little confusion possible.image2
In-app advertisingNot permittedI've seen some, fleetinglyNo loser at this point
Taking photosFabulousImpossibleOwen meets Glass
Viewing photosOK for user, no one elseThey look really good to anyoneimage2
Battery lifeCan't make it through a 3-hour classEasily makes it through a 16-hour dayimage2
Privacy, anyone?"Google will determine and use your location...""Apple Watch uses the Siri identifier from your iPhone. You can reset that identifier at any time..."Alternatives: bifocals and a Timex. Oh, and a thermostat that's connected only to your furnace.
User's self-imageFearless early adopterFortunate early adopterYour mileage may vary.
User's actual imageHopeless geekHopeless Apple fanboiYour mileage will certainly vary.
Preliminary score6 wins for Google9 wins for Apple9 "no-decisions"

So, fine, Owen, what’s the bottom line? I can’t buy Google Glass right now, even if I wanted to. Should I order a watch for, oh, June delivery? 

Candidly? Well, it’s much the same answer as for Google Glass in 2013. I’d say sure . . . if:

  • You want to imagine where technology might go next, or
  • You want to understand where technology hasn’t gone yet, or
  • You’re a professor of digital media strategy.

Persuaded? Send me a “digital touch” when your watch arrives.


About Owen Youngman

Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. Formerly senior vice president/strategy and development, Chicago Tribune.